When I first started writing seriously, I found a lot of advice online. Write everyday. Have a set schedule for writing. Make yourself sit down and write.
The advice was so common, so sure, that I became convinced I couldn't be a real writer if I didn't follow those simple steps.
I tried dutifully to do so. But like a student avoiding their homework, I found myself avoiding writing, even though it was the one thing I truly enjoyed. It took me a year, sometimes more, to write even a first draft.
I wanted to be a serious writer though, so I kept going. I kept trying.
But the common writing advice? It wasn't working for me.
If anything, it made me dread writing.
I started to wonder if I could truly call myself a writer.
Then COVID hit. I was trapped at home, trying to avoid people and do my part to slow the spread. And I was struggling. My brain felt foggy. My emotions were a mess. I knew why it was. When teaching, I'm always on my feet. I constantly pace around and average 8000 steps a day in my classroom. But with school online, I was sitting around all day instead, averaging maybe 2000 steps a day. My activity level had dropped and I was in a funk.
So what does this have to do with writing?
Well, I was at my worst mentally. Then my inlaws loaned me a bike. They hoped that some physical exercise might help me, so I started bike riding.
And then I started storytelling.
As I rode along familiar paths, my mind would drift. I'd play out scenes of my story in my head. I'd stop in empty parks and walk in circles, speaking the scenes aloud and recording them to write down later.
I drafted an 90,000 word YA fantasy this way. Then promptly shelved it to come back to later.
It wasn't very good, to be honest. But it was written, and it was the fastest I had ever drafted a story. It was like a whole new world of possibilities opened to me.
Then I discovered dictation software. I figured if I was already recording stories, wouldn't it be nice to be able to just speak and have the computer type it for me? I started using Dragon Home to dictate my work. My writing sessions often saw me pacing in circles around my room, spinning a baton through my fingers (I used to be a baton twirler) and muttering into a headset as I spoke what I wanted written.
In June I started drafting a story about two very opposite girls that had to work together to save their middle school robotics team. By September I was finished, had edited the story, sent it through several rounds of betas, and was ready to query. Later that month I signed with Emily Forney, my agent.
I found what worked for me, and it was something I had never imagined. Movement is key for me. Movement makes the words flow. It makes the writing happen.
I can't sit down and write.
I can't write every day.
I can't force myself to focus through willpower alone.
But I'm still a writer. I still craft stories, and I do it in a way that works for me.
All this to say, it's okay if the common writing advice doesn't work for you. It's okay if it does. It's okay if you draft super fast, or if you take your time. I was no less of a writer when my stories took years to write.
It's okay if you need to let ideas stew over time, or if you must write them down in a frantic rush to avoid losing them. It's okay if you can't write every day.
Whatever your process, whatever writing advice you do or don't follow, you are a writer. If you craft stories, you are a real writer and you are doing something amazing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Try on advice like you would an outfit. If something works for you, that is awesome! If it doesn't, don't feel bad for discarding it. We are all different as writers, and that's part of what makes your writing so special.