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Throw Out The Writing Advice and Become a Better Writer

Updated on November 3, 2010

Have you ever taken a stroll past the writing section in a library or book store? Endless books on how to become a writer, how to be a better writer, what you should write about, and how to "break into the business". The advice is different, and I've read many, but most all say the same thing- not in so many words. Find who you are as a writer. Don't depend on someone else to tell you how to write. I can list several writers who broke the rules or don't follow mainstream advice, and they do quite well making a living on writing.

The problem is when you begin to read others' advice, tips, exercises, ideas, you eventually lose yourself. You want to make money writing so you seek "professional" advice from authors. Many were at the right place at the right time. I am beginning to learn, making a living at writing has less to do with writing than marketing yourself or some serendipitous event to sweep you off your chair and onto the bestsellers list.

The industry is always looking for new ideas, fresh voices, and it is in our writing, not literally, that we present ourselves to the world. People can tell when you are being a fake; following other authors' rules, writing style, or any other advice.



Creative Exercises- Writing Inside the Box


The PROBLEM: When you think of creativity, thinking outside the box is what usually comes to mind. Therefore, the purchasing of, learning, and execution of creative writing exercises/advice is an insult to your creativity. How can someone be inspired by filling in the blanks? Unless you hold in your hand your very own personal muse (an inspirational Greek Goddess for guys and a pause button on life for women), creative writing tips and exercises will hinder you.

I'm guilty, I've read tons (OK, two too many) of these books, and their place in my life only served to enable my dirty secret; procrastination. First, by fooling myself into believing I had to read these books before I could start writing. Second, I never produced good writing samples from creative exercises. Naturally, I simply concluded I wasn't a good writer anymore and should give up.

The SOLUTION: If you don't feel the creative juices flowing, don't write. Instead, do something else creative; draw, paint, sculpt, build, read, play imaginary friends with your child. Feel it from others; be around creative works or people to get your inspiration sparked- like visiting an art gallery, watching someone create a piece of art.

It's crucial to step outside of your boundaries to get creative. We live in box shaped houses for God's sake. How creative can that make us feel day in and day out, living in a literal box? Get out, explore. Do something you don't usually do. Talk to someone you usually wouldn't.

Get out of your proverbial box too. I've been known to pick up a magazine or book on a topic I would normally not read about. You can do this on HubPages by browsing topics you wouldn't usually take interest in. So many of us keep wanting to learn more about the same stuff we already know so much about. This can serve as a reassuring security blanket to our knowledge bank, but it squashes creativity.

OK HERE IT IS: This wouldn't be one of my hubs if I didn't include a personal story. I'll soon explain my trick for creativity. Most of you know me on hubpages as someone who writes about everyday topics, but "I have a fantasy!" That is, a fantasy side to my writing resume. I grew up reading "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" and watching "The Neverending Story". I've written fantasy fiction as long as I could write.

My trick for writing creatively is browsing the greeting card section of unique gift stores or small town stores where they sell local, artsy cards. This trick dates back to when I was a kid and my mom loved to take a drive in the country and explore quaint little shops. I never begged for candy or toys, just greeting cards. The pictures on some of these cards were so inspirational I would go home and immediately write a story about what I imagined.The stories would write themselves.

A sample of my greeting card collection.

Famous Authors' Advice

Stephen King has a book, "On Writing", with tips on how to be a better writer.

Get to the point is one of his tips. But I have to disagree because several self-help books written by motivational speakers repeat similar points and reiterate phrases for emphasis. Many of the classics, for instance Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Anderson, went into excruciating detail, but these are beloved books and authors.

Read more or read authors you admire. You may find yourself becoming a copycat by accident or lacking enthusiasm because so many people have already written your ideas, and probably better. I found myself in that proverbial box every time I tried to learn from or emanate the authors I was reading. I say read often, but not all having to do with what you like to write. Read a well-known author, but read more than what they say. Read into why they may be so popular. Do they possess distinctive writing styles or verbiage?

My Unconventional List of Pros and Cons of Writing


  1. Writing is like good sex. You get caught up in the moment and afterwards, with a few glistening beads of the good kind of sweat, you sit back and smugly say to yourself- Woo Hoo!
  2. Writing is like a blue sky. Everyone can appreciate it.
  3. Writing is like making a wish. As long as you write, you can dream.
  4. Writing is like volunteering. You're always a better person for it even if you don't get paid.


  1. Writing is a lot like the lottery. Many will play, fewer will win.
  2. Writing is like driving. Many know how to do it, but doesn't mean they should. And only the professionals can break the rules and get handsomely rewarded for it.
  3. Writing is like a cheap toaster. The results are completely unpredictable.
  4. Writing is like a baby. It calls to you at inopportune times and is selfishly driven. Some days it doesn't matter what you put into it, all that comes out is crap.


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    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 6 years ago

      izetti this is the first of your hubs I have read. Will have to read some more. This was was great.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      THanks Millionaire! Glad you stopped by.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      Great hub, well written and great advice. I especially l liked your pros and cons.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Yasmine and Karen!

    • Karen Wodke profile image

      Karen Wodke 7 years ago from Midwest

      Great article! Thanks for your insights.

    • Yasmine182 profile image

      Yasmine182 7 years ago from Canada

      Writing is like good sex. :) LOL, that is so true for me. Great article, thank you!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      You're welcome michael ely!

      xixi12~ I like pen and paper too. Even though laptops are super portable i still think a notepad and pen are much mroe convenient. Thanks for the comment.

      Lisa HW~ I like your approach. They didn't have all these writing books when some of the classics were written. Authors did just fine without them. It all came from the heart. You can tell when reading them. Great advice in your comment!

    • xixi12 profile image

      xixi12 7 years ago from Everywhere but here. In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. You can never be truly free till you have the discipline to manage it.

      I love this hub,writing can be tedious for me sometimes. I find it helps for me to write in short bursts and compile it at the end of it all. I am better with the good ol' pen and paper, the computer can be a distraction. hahaha

    • michael ely profile image

      michael ely 7 years ago from Scotland

      Izettl, That was a really good hub, with a lot of interesting tips for helping the imagination. Thanks. Michael.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've often seen each piece of writing as one of my "children": I put whatever effort and skills I have into "building" each one, but then I send it out into the world. If I did my job right it fly. It I didn't, chances are it will be become lost.

      Unwise, obnoxious, or otherwise a bad thing; I write what I write and have never read a book about the actual process of writing. To me, my writing is mine and it's me, imperfect or even disliked as some of it may be. To me, if my writing has to be someone else's idea of how I should write; it's not mine, it's not me, and it isn't anything I even want to write.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Welcome to hubpages Darrenhooper! Thanks for the comment.

      tipoague~ I hope I'm better at writing than baking- lol. But I get your thoughts on it that way.

    • darrenhooper profile image

      darrenhooper 7 years ago from California

      I am new to Hub Pages and this Hub has helped me out. I have written for years, but never had an outlet like Hub Pages. Great Hub! The Pro's and Con's were perfect.

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 7 years ago from USA

      I have found that writing for me is like baking. If my heart isn't into it, it wont come out right. It takes time and patience and can't be forced. Great hub! I like your pros and cons.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thanks Tamarajo!

      Cheeky girl~ Thanks for the comment and I totally agree about hubpages being a wonderful writing avenue for generating feedback and inspiration.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Your hub is really wonderful. I am one such person - writing my first novel. Just published an extract on a hub today, in fact. You obviously know a lot about writing and how to write books. I will have to return for more reads from you, izettl.

      I see only pros and no cons in getting into print (or ebook!) I wrote a thousand words a day. It was the only way to beat the book out of myself. LOL! There's nothing to lose, and using Hubs to help promote our work, there's everything to gain. Let people comment on our work too. It's a great way to discover and then enhance our writing talents. Cheers!

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 7 years ago

      Great advice. loved your pros and cons lol. I found your insight helpful and useful.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      WOW! Great comments here and I've been sick so I haven't had time to read them until today. Some people even mention their writing habits and what's helpful for them. Makes me realize how different we all are and typical writing advice and books can't be effective for all of us alike.

    • bcatgray profile image

      bcatgray 7 years ago from United States of America

      Okay, you just totally inspired me! LOL Love your Pros and Cons of writing. You put it into terms that I can personally understand. Thanks!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I was impressed by your pros and cons. You have some excellent writing tips.

    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 7 years ago from Michigan

      Great advice here! I do like to get writing tips, which help me during the editing process, but like to just write with a frenzy when the creative juices are flowing.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 7 years ago from UK

      Great article, and 'every picture tells a story' advice to boot. Thank you. I must admit I have always been inspired by pictures as well.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 7 years ago from United States

      Wonderful article! I love your pros and cons of writing, I couldn't have put it better myself. How-to-write books have always been touch and go with me. When I knew nothing about writing they really helped setup a framework of things that I could do, but at the same time (like you said) they can be a real distraction from the simple act of putting a pen to paper. Not to mention, everyone has a different method for creativity and motivation. For example, you said you benefit more from reading multiple different works rather than emulating a favorite author. Me, on the other hand, I definitely agree that reading broadly will always help you out, but I find I get the most motivation when I'm immersed in a literary world that I enjoy (usually an author I'm already familiar with). So that's why how-to-write books can never be 100% effective. But you touch on some great points in this article. Very well done.

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Great hub. I haven't yet wrote a story and I do have some. I just don't know where or how to start. Everyone on here is so good, I am afraid if I don't do it write they will pick it apart, then not read anymore.

      Neverending Story, is my favorite.i have it on DVD. I still watch it. So do my kids. Now I am watching it with my grandkids.

      The Lion, Whitch and the Wardrobe is another family favorite.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I really enjoyed reading this hub, there's some great advice in it, especially, "Writing is like a baby...". This is so true as writers give so much of themselves in their writing.

      I find I become truly inspired when I write with pen and paper, I 'feel' the words coming through my hand. This doesn't happen on a computer.

      As far as computers are concerned, although a great tool, I am wondering what is going to happen with grammar and spelling in years to come. Also, capital letters, what is this latest trend of not using them? I've read a few hubs lately with a distinct lack of punctuation and it is very annoying.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Izetti, I believe there is a time in the lives of all writers to read those others' advice, tips, exercises, and ideas. But this is only the ‘kindergarden’ phase of a writer’s career. If he does not pass it, he will never find his own voice. I just loved this hub especially your pros and cons. Take care, dear friend. I’m still one of your big admirers.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 7 years ago

      Great Hub Laura

      I recall a thing I read concerning this subject:

      The monkey typewriter hypothesis says that if a certain (large, often considered infinite, depending on who's saying it and what number they can think of randomly) number of monkeys were given typewriters and a really long time, they could write the works of some random famous writer (e.g. Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. it doesn't really matter).

      I guess this is possible, but not very probable. I have been reading many hubs, yours included, and find some highly skilled writers here on hub pages. I can almost separate hub writers into two categories. Those who write from the head, and those who write from the heart, and I enjoy both. This is a fantastic resourse for those of us who enjoy reading and learning.

      With many of todays high school students graduating without learning how to read or write, I wonder who will be writing hubs 20 years from now?

      Great hub and I always look forward to your next one.

    • Shane Belceto profile image

      Shane Belceto 7 years ago from WA USA

      yep a great house for sure perhaps a HUB is in order about the details of it to share my dream with others .. smiles and hugs

      ~Expect Miracles

    • fred allen profile image

      fred allen 7 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      For me, writing is like a fire shut up in my bones. The only way to put it out is to get it out! You care enough to be helpful. This is why you have such a strong following. It's why I read what you write! People don't care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.

    • nighthag profile image

      K.A.E Grove 7 years ago from Australia

      There is some really good advice here :) thanks !

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 7 years ago from Philippines

      Before coming to Hubpages, I read for the joy of reading. Now I pay attention at how the author approach and present the subject matter. Not to copy or imitate. But to pick up IDEAS here and there. Continually learning from others and hopefully improve through practice .

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Oh, so refreshing! Thanks for this :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 7 years ago from Canada

      This is very encouraging!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 7 years ago from Sweden

      I agree too! If writing is to be good, then the words can´t be what others have said or what you think others maybe want from you! And to try to satisfy other´s wishes about how it should be, can be a h*** of a job. Because, if half of the people around you think you are good, than you really are good! You can´t win them all! Now matter how good you are, you cant! So, your advice is right on. Beutiful greeting cards! I can be creative over spececial pictures to, some of my daughter´s children´s books have beutiful pictures, that make me start to imagine! Voted up!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      FloBe~ thanks for the comment and it's exactly right on! I had to learn that the hard way of not writing for years because I was trying to be a bestselling author right away. Silliness- people who right, do it because we love it.

      Drbj~ thanks for visting. That list came easily to me. I think because it's very true.

      Petra~ It may not be the advice some would like to receive about writing, but like you said, I was being honest. I wrote as a kid all the time, then into my early adulthood I never wrote so when I got back into writing a couple years ago, I thought I'd need a bunch of advice and books to tell me how to do it. It just made my procrasitnation worse.You are so right about innate talent.

      Chris Price~ Great to see you! It's pretty hard to get around bad grammar if you're a writer. Spelling isn't as big a deal now because of spell check programs. Yes, I should have added the birthing process- that's very true also.

      breakfastpop~ Finding your voice through writing more is the best way to do it. I think I stumbled here on hubpages for a while because I was used to writing fiction and fantasy. THis is all new to me here, but my as soon as I found my voice, the pieces fell together and I love it now.

      Shane Belceto~ Sounds like a great dream house. A smiley pool- awesome. I like your thinking! Thanks for stopping by my friend.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      In my younger days I read writers magazines and books on writing, which were not as popular as now. I also read short bios of writers to find out what they have in common. I found that they had very little in common except writing. they are introverts, educated or very little formal education. Introverts and extroverts.

      I have nover found the answer and have only concluded that writing is a very indidual pursuit.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Great Hub and terrific advice. If those that want to do listened to the advice of those that did 100% of the time, we all would be bored to pieces! Everything would come out sounding the same.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Shane Belceto profile image

      Shane Belceto 7 years ago from WA USA

      Yep great HUB wise words be yourself and get to it ... I know your feelings and share some of the same. Think thus why my dream house I have is not box shaped at all ... neither is the pool with it too since the pool will be Mickey shaped smiles

      ~Expect Miracles

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      I agree with you. I have so many of these books but the truth is you have to look inside yourself and just write, write. Do it everyday, if you can, and the words will flow. Eventually you will find your own voice.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 7 years ago from Vermont, USA


      The "writing is like a baby" analogy is a good one, and the birthing process can be difficult.

      If I was to give one piece of advice to writers who wish to become better at the craft it would be PROOFREAD! Dashing off line after line in the thoes of creative passion is a wonderful thing, but it can be a lot like being drunk in the moment too. It can result in wonderful raw unfiltered material, straight from the heart, but leaving it untouched and unrefined too often reveals the baby can't stand on its own.

      Spelling, grammar and punctuation do count, and a writer who doesn't attend to the basics will stumble rather than flow, and will seldom soar.


    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      How right you are! And how honest your advice is.

      I said it a thousand times and I will say it again; following directions is good when baking a cake. Writing is a creative process and nobody could give you advice in how to be creative; you either have it in you or you don’t.

      Most people will be able to operate a regular automatic car and move from point A to point B almost safely, but to be a formula 1 driver takes a lot more and one needs to be comfortable with high speed.

      Like in every other endeavor, practice certainly helps, but an innate talent is essential and that can’t be learned from books or taking classes.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Your pros and cons about writing are right on the mark, izettl. Thanks for this excellent reminder.

    • FloBe profile image

      FloBe 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for your inspiration! Whenever I think about what and how I should write something I become paralyzed and get writer's block. When I tell myself that I can write anything I want, any way I want to, the inspiration comes. Thanks for reminding me again of this!