As I was dealing with writer’s block last week, my thoughts went back to my first and only technical writing class I had taken in college, which may look like a funny thing to remember since I’m working on a fantasy story not a how-to manual. However, there’s a reason I’m fond of that particular writing class. It was there that I heard the best writing advice I’ve gotten so far.
On the first day of class and after going through the formalities of explaining the syllabus and his expectations, Mr. Fassiotto, our professor, went on to describe our first writing assignment. He wanted us to write about a moment or experience that made an impact in our lives. Of course, all of us wanted to know the minimum word count or number of pages for the assignment and he said, “I’m not going to give a number to you. I want you to write as long as you need to in order to say what you want to say.” And that was it. At that moment, I felt like I was being set free. No limits, or rather, a limit imposed only by my own needs to express myself. Or seen from another angle, permission to write as freely and creatively as I could in order to bring a moment in my life across to the readers. My first assignment and the fruit of taking that advice to heart was a piece I entitled, “Pilgrimage.” It was later picked up by the school’s literary magazine.
My professor’s advice still has that liberating effect on me. When I wrote Night of the Moon Serpent, I never thought in terms of pages and never worried about how long the book should be. The book is exactly as long as I needed it to be in order to say what I wanted to say. And that’s how I approach any kind of writing I find myself doing these days. There’s time for chopping and pruning later, but when it comes to first drafts, I always remember those words to summon the freedom I need to start writing.
P.S.: Dear fellow blogger and reader, if you’d like to share the best advice you’ve gotten about writing, please do so. Your comments are always appreciated.