Stop over-analysing and get back to basics

Posted: 18 July, 2012 in motivation, writing
Tags: , , , ,

I love reading about tips and advice from successful writers but I have learned that I can sometimes do more damage than good by listening to others.

Reading Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World I came across a great piece of writing advice: “To be successful, writers must say something better, different or first.”

This is such an intriguing notion to me because I’ve always thought good writing was just about being a good writer. I’ve never really tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that makes some writing appeal to me more than other writing.

After reading this quote I thought back to all the great books, articles, blogs I’ve read and what has made them extra special – they have been better and more original than other writing. The author may have taken a unique point of view in their opinion or given a classic tale just enough of a twist to make it original.

Then I thought of the books that have made it to thebestseller lists over the years:

  • Twilight series – Stephenie Meyer
    A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
    Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
    The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
    Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
    The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
    The Road – Cormac McCarthy
    Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

While many of these stories are definitely not original – one of the first vampire stories dates back to the 18th century – the authors have somehow made their stories different enough to appeal to a whole new audience.

The topic covered in The Da Vinci Code wasn’t unique in non-fiction literature; it was, however, a new subject for contemporary fiction and, obviously, a popular one.

I remember reading an article that credited the Harry Potter series with getting kids reading again.  It was a subject – magic and fantasy – that had been covered before but what was the difference that made HP hit the big time? Was it because it addressed the age-old tale of good vs evil giving heroic status to a nerdy scholarly type instead of the stereotypical superhero? Was it because of the subtle (or not so subtle) allusions to topics that wouldn’t normally be found in children’s books – racial tensions, the corruption of power? Was it simply because these books created a world for children where they weren’t so powerless? Where they had power to fight back from being beaten, bullied and belittled by those in power?  Or were they just a bloody good read?

While I still wouldn’t discount the value of good writing, I do agree that having an original idea or an original way to write about it is a essential to my writing.

But my head had gotten into a mess thinking about this. I started wondering just how many original ideas there are left to explore. I have notebooks full of ideas but are they original? The ones that might have some originality to them could have been covered before but I just haven’t read about it. I could send myself crazy thinking about it all.

Instead, I realised it was time to take a step back and calm down. If I get too analytical about my writing I tend to lose the spontaneous creativity that I enjoy so much.  And this is when my writing gets as messy as my head.

For today, I decided to stop over-analysing and get back to basics: just write! It may not be the best and it may not be the most original. But it’s me, writing. And that’s all that matters to me today.


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