As writers, we often find ourselves collecting as many “how-to” articles and books on writing we can digest, and then some. My library is overflowing. Space won’t allow me to name them all, but Hooked, Structuring Your Novel, and Write that Book Already! are a few of my favorites.
Some of the books in my library I reference on a regular basis, The Emotion Thesaurus is one.
However, when we collect how-to-books to the point learning our craft becomes a distraction or another reason to procrastinate from completing your our own work in progress (WIP), we’ve stopped learning.
If you’ve ever done any of the following, you may be how-to obsessed, or second guessing your ability as a writer.
Have you ever:
- Red-inked a story, chapter or novel based on a particular books recommendations.
- Re-written a story, or chapter based on a books recommendations.
- Started your novel over completely.
- Attempted to be a plotter when you’re a panster at heart.
- Or, used tools that don’t fit your personality because they were recommended.
As a result, your WIP sits unfinished on your desk which leads to frustration and more procrastination.
I’ve loved self-help books, on any topic, for as long as I can remember. And my kids will tell you receiving my favorites as a gift are as inevitable as Christmas Day. But, quitting something has never been an option for me. It isn’t who I am. So it’s time for me to close the how-to’s, clean out my mail box and open my Scrivener file.
In 1908, John D. Swain novelist and screenwriter wrote a letter to his son who was beginning his student life at Yale. Here is what he told his son about quitting.
“…Finally, if you make any of the teams, never quit. That is all the secret of success. Never quit! Quitting, I like to believe, has not been a striking characteristic of our family, and it is not tolerated in our college.
If you can’t win the scholarship, fight it out to the end of the examination.
If you can’t win your race, at least finish—somewhere.
If your boat can’t win, at least keep pulling on your oar, even if your eye glazes and the taste of blood comes into your throat with every heave.
If you cannot make your five yards in football, keep bucking the line—never let up—if you can’t see, or hear, keep plugging ahead! Never quit! If you forget all else I have said, remember these two words, through all your life…”
(Source: The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood; Image: Yale football team, 1908, courtesy of Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.)
The past couple of years has given me any number of reasons to procrastinate, reevaluate my life, priorities and even put writing on the back burner permanently, but I’ve never been a quitter. All of the how-to-books I have are excellent resources. I’ll use them when necessary but for now, I’ll sit my butt down and write.