Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Defense of Non-Committal Writers

Today, I bring you a post that has been stewing in my mind for over a year: a defense of non-committal writers.

What do I mean by "non-committal writers"?

I mean those writers who jump from one WIP to another. They are the ones that have at least four-ten WIPs going on at once. Every month it seems, they come up with a new story or have little progress on their old ones. They are the epitome of a hobby writer.

There is a solid pressure from other bloggers to adopt tips from other writers, including the following:

Writing must be serious
You must work at it constantly
You must commit to one WIP.

Part of this is because many bloggers use blogging as a platform for a future professional career as a writer. And if a writer ever hopes to be a professional (that is, published) writer, it is good that the craft be taken seriously. After all, it's rather unfair to readers if they're teased about a story and then they find that it's tabled because of one dumb reason after another (a situation that I am very familiar with....).

However, I see a few problems with this sort of approach from an author's perspective. First, it leads to burnout and boredom - a sure death-knell of a creative spirit. Second, it is not forgiving towards other pressing obligations such as work or family. And third, it turns a hobby into an obligation which then turns the writer away from writing in the first place.

I'm not saying to be a lazy writer and put nothing into your craft. I encourage you writers to invest time in learning, and make a mistake or two. Have some structure to it and don't forget about your stories entirely.

What I am saying is, don't make it as structured as training for the Olympics at first. Maybe work up to that point if you are a person that needs structure. But employ moderation and self-knowledge when you are making your writing schedule. The latter is extremely key, especially as you battle the obstacles of writing a novel.

Overcoming Obstacles as a Non-Committal Writer

Keeping with the balance of life and sanity, it is important even for a non-committal writer to make progress on their spite of whatever obstacles they come across.

Understanding the obstacle is very important to overcoming it. This will require some reflection and extra time, but it's well worth it.

There are two common obstacles that non-committal writers will use as justification to switch WIPs or stop writing on their current project. And they are stuck plots and naughty characters. For this section, I'll give a simple explanation and then go into some strategies that have worked for me as a non-committal writer.

The Plot Is "Stuck"

This can happen quite often when writing. Sometimes this is a result of writers block or procrastination/lack of motivation.

There are plenty of times when I'm just simply stuck on where the story is going or what the characters are doing. So I'll just let it stew in my muse for a while. And quite often, an inspiration will come. It could be in a day or a year, but it does come.

Take for example Rose of Culmore. I was ridiculously stuck on Rose O'Neill's character and motivations for months. And then one day I was browsing through my Spotify suggestions and came on this one song and suddenly I was plunged into Rose's head, crystal clear.

Sometimes, you just need one research article or a physical reminder of one of your characters' struggles to get you writing again. You may not find this particular spark the first time you look, or the second, or the forty-fifth. But keep a weather eye out sailor, it will come...and often when you least expect it to.

Many writers will say to throw the unexpected at your characters. Be deliberate when using this - otherwise there will be a lot of editing that needs to be done. Remember, a slapped-together plot with lots of drama is about as bad as a bland plot.

Uncooperative Characters

Sometimes, a character's reaction won't make sense or will seem counter to what their character seemed to be. Often a writer will use tongue-in-cheek humor and say that the characters are not cooperating. To some, this can seem like reality.

As with all creative endeavors, not everything that is in the writer's head will translate correctly onto the page all the time. Quirks of the imagination often "control" many character's reactions and depending on what kind of muse you have.

As a parent of a rather rebellious muse, I find that I have to leave some leeway if I'm ever to get anywhere. Otherwise my imagination will be flooded with "that's not how it goes!" and other such annoying phrases that either drown or beat my poor plot bunnies to death. Having and making note of alternate choices may also help during editing as well.

Also, finding similar characters in books, movies and TV shows really helps to solidify characters. Take note of characterization in the back of your mind as you watch stuff. You can always rewatch later to get the full effect.

Why I'm a Non-Committal Writer

I don't view story writing as a dining experience in which you are inundated with meal choices and you can't decide which to eat. I view it instead as more of a garden with plants that require different needs at different times.

Plot bunnies are like little sprouts - some of which are weeded out and others are chosen to grow more. Then these plants are given water (passion) and fertilizer (research) to help them grow bigger and stronger. Weeds are cleared out as they grow. And then there is a time to let them grow and mature on their own while you work on other projects.

I find story-writing to be an organic process that grows at its own rate. Sure, it needs water and weeding, but does it need it everyday? I find that if I don't force myself to write everyday, the story grows better in quality as well as quantity.

Writing is not my life. I'm not a full on career writer. I have other things to do, about twenty other hobbies to pursue and a livelihood to catch.

Do I wish to be a professional writer one day? Of course. However, there is more than one method to reach publishing success. I'd much rather take twelve-sixteen years to write a truly wonderful masterpiece and still have a fulfilling life like Tolkien did than to write like crazy for a year and some odd months to write a book that will be forgotten again less than five years from now.

Slow and steady wins the race, my friends. Don't let the hares badger you into sacrificing the love of the story.


  1. Needless to say I totally agree with this post, Catherine! ;) I really enjoyed reading it. :)

    1. Yay! I hoped you would like it :) Thank you Danielle!

  2. Love this post so much, Catherine .... coming from a VERY committed writer ;D But you've definitely opened my eyes to be more understanding toward hobby writers ;D Love your analogy so much, too ;d

  3. I love the garden analogy, Catherine! This is a great post!