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Fetishizing The Process

I haunt a few writer’s groups/forums online. Most of them are populated with people around my own skill/experience level, that is, people who have been in the writing game for a while and have a few things published. One of them, however, seems to be largely populated by newer writers–ones who are just starting out, or who haven’t been published yet or haven’t been at it very long. The contrast between these two types of groups is glaring.

I once saw someone coin a brilliant phrase which has stuck with me for years, though I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it. The phrase is “fetishizing the process.” This means focusing on the superficial aspects of something rather than the technical skills involved. I’m talking about wanting a picture for your Instagram of your neatly-organized desk, as you sit behind it with your scholarly glasses on, gazing out the window at a serene landscape, a bookshelf behind you (full of other people’s books), or the person who takes pictures of their expensive Macbook in a coffee shop or on the beach with an open (empty) Word document on the screen. That’s all well and good, and you might do this from time to time, but it actually has nothing to do with writing. It doesn’t matter what you write with, if it’s a paper notebook, an electronic tablet, or a laptop with some complex writing software, you can write anywhere and on anything and still be a writer.

Look how organized and perfect he is! I bet he’s writing 2,000 words right now!

We never see pictures of writers hunched over their laptops, hair wild, in their pajamas, with a quickly-cooling cup of coffee next to them; or with a pet in their lap as they write, or screeching children dancing around them. No pictures of a writer tucked in a corner, desperately trying to escape these things in order to get a few words down. No action shots of a writer trying to find a clean spot on their desk to jot a few notes while they type. And unless you live next to the beach or in some exotic vacation-type spot, most writers will tell you those are awful places to try to write, because you’re distracted by the scenery and the knowledge you could be out there having fun instead of writing.

Here’s a few things I’ve noticed new writers tend to ask on the less-experienced forum. If you’re a new writer, take heed, this may ease your anxieties a bit:

  • How many words do I need to write a day to be a writer? Stephen King says he writes 2,000 words a day! Should I write that many? Is 1,000 okay? What if I write a lot more? Or less? Here’s the truth: some days you might write a lot, and some days you might write absolutely zilch. You’re still a writer. There’s no magic number. Writers just write and set their own goals.
  • How many books about writing should I read? Should I read Stephen King’s On Writing? Is that a prerequisite? What are the best books about writing? While it’s all well and good to learn about your craft and take the advice of others, don’t procrastinate on your actual writing by reading about writing. It’s easy to get caught up in learning instead of doing. By all means, read and learn things, but again, writers write. By the way, I love Stephen King and I’ve been writing for years, and I’ve never read On Writing.
  • How soon after my first book is published can I quit my day job? Can I buy my dream house after a year? Hahahahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  • Do I really need to be good at spelling and grammar? You might think I’m joking, but I’m stunned at how many new writers don’t put a lot of weight on having a strong grasp of grammar and spelling. True enough, if you’re a brilliant writer otherwise an agent or editor might overlook it, but almost probably not. Some agents and editors won’t even read past the first page of something that’s riddled with errors, even if your pitch is amazing. Yes, you have to have a firm grasp of, if not VERY good grammar and spelling skills. Agents and editors don’t have time to teach you.
  • Should I get a Macbook? Yes. No writer has ever been published without the aid of computer that costs at least a thousand dollars. Sorry.

The truth is, writing isn’t always pretty. It’s easy to get caught up in having everything ‘perfect’ when you begin writing, but it’s not necessary. You don’t need a stack of books about writing, or Scrivener, or the exact right kind of coffee. Say it with me, kids–print it out and stick it on the wall, tattoo it on your forehead:

WRITERS WRITE.

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

21 thoughts on “Fetishizing The Process Leave a comment

  1. LOL! So true eh?
    I think I’m so lucky I started writing when there was no Internet and I could only count on myself, the authors I love and a few friends willing to offer some feedback. I’ll go as far as say there was no wordprocessor when I started writing (Jeez, am I old!). I do think that helped me greatly to become the writer I want to be and to at least manage the anxiety of being a writer today.
    It’s so easyt o get distracted, in today’s world more than ever.

    I’m alsways so amazed at writers who are in doubt if they should have a good grasp of grammar. It’s like a doctor wondering if after all he/she should have a good grasp of the anatomy of a human body…
    I work in a publishing house and just a couple of weeks ago, one of our newly acquired authors called in to ask whether we could provide a proofreader. Nothing strange in that. What was strange (for me) was what he said: “I can’t look after grammar and spelling, you know. I’m already too involved wth the content.”

    O_O

    Maybe I’m weird, but as a writer I think that words and grammar and syntaxis ARE part of the content.

    Well, we were newbies once too, right? I remember having romantic ideas about writing. I then learned lots of things about writing and the process of writing and publishing, but those romantic ideas were good. I think the ghosts of them is what still keeps me in it in spite of all the disappointments πŸ˜‰

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    • Don’t worry, I’m old too! When I started writing, electric typewriters were still a new thing! There definitely weren’t word processors then either. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? πŸ˜‰

      You hit the nail on the head with the whole romanticizing thing. The people who really become writers are the ones who find out it’s a lot of hard work and not romantic at all, that writing is about creating AND the technical side of the work, and still stick around after they find all that out.

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  2. Truly awesome post. I see I need to visit more than once a week to keep up with your wise and humorous words. ~grin~ Happy Memorial Day (sorry you have to work)!

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  3. I’ve gone months, and yes, sometimes years without writing a single thing because of writer’s block. I may even know what I want to write, but the words just won’t come out of my pencil (or laptop keyboard). And then there are times when I seem to not be able to stop the words, and get very frustrated when life gets in the way (Sleep? Who needs sleep? And food? And bathroom breaks? Okay, coffee, I get that, gotta have my caffeine, but food?) and I have to actually step away from my notebook and pencil or laptop and deal with whatever so that I can come back and pick up where I left off.

    And pets? Oh boy, let me tell you! Try having not one, but SEVEN cats vying for your attention at the same time (did I ever mention my six furry grandbabies? Yeah, they’re a year old now, still adorable, and still a royal pain in Grandma’s butt, especially when I’m trying to do anything on the computer, which is like all the time…spoiled rotten brats…) and then also trying to type/write in a notebook/read/pretty much do anything other than pay attention to them 24/7…

    i would actually like to have a Macbook, but can’t afford one at the moment. I’m still using the laptop I bought 4 years ago after my first paycheck as an official full-time employee of the factory I’d just gotten hired into after being a temp for a couple months. My first official day as a FT employee, we all walk in and get told that for the foreseeable future we’re going to be working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, until we get caught up because our entire last order that we sent out had to be scrapped so we were not only starting all over again with it but still had to keep up with our current orders (and the company only had two customers for their automotive products, so you can imagine how important this was). So on the 8th day we walk in and get told we’re finally all caught up and back to our normal 8 hour days and will probably have our weekends back too (thankfully, because after only a week we were already snapping at each other and getting on each other’s nerves, and that was on day 5). That was the biggest paycheck I’d ever gotten from anywhere…40 hours regular pay, *48 hours* overtime! Yeah, I went out and bought a new laptop from Walmart, and STILL had plenty of play money left over after paying the two utility bills I was responsible for (it was the middle of summer, the gas bill is a joke in the summer and the electric wasn’t too bad ether). Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten anywhere near that good a paycheck since, so I’m still using the same laptop and hoping it doesn’t die on me because if it does I’m in trouble as I have no other way to get on the internet (my tablet won’t charge anymore, and I’ve only had it for a little over a year…every charger in the house will charge my phone just fine, but will no longer charge my tablet and I used to be able to charge both with the same charger…and it’s a Kindle Fire, so you’d think it would last longer than a year).

    I use Word on my laptop, which checks your spelling and grammar (I turned off the grammar checker though, I do not need the stupid thing telling me that I didn’t type that sentence right, when it’s *supposed* to have repeated words in it….you know, like the quote “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is…”) but I’ve also always been an excellent speller so unless it’s a word that I am totally unfamiliar with, I generally don’t need help with spelling. Of course, I also type about 100 wpm, so there’s going to be times when my fingers go too fast and I wind up leaving letters out and don’t notice till the little red line shows up, then I go back and correct it myself and leave the spell checker for adding words to the dictionary that it doesn’t recognize like proper names or stuff like “Expelliarmus” (didn’t anybody bother to teach it Latin?) πŸ˜›

    From the way I write comments, you’d think I’d never run out of words for my stories, wouldn’t you?…Yeah, I wish it worked that way…

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    • Ha! I love your long, lovely comments! πŸ˜‰

      Sometimes I find the best way out of writer’s block is to just write your way through it. I start writing crap, and at some point in the process my brain goes “oh well, I guess if you’re going to force me to do this I might as well switch on,” and then EVENTUALLY, something happens and I’m back to writing. It doesn’t always work, though.

      I only have one cat, but she’s probably all the more spoiled and needy for it. She likes to insinuate herself between me and my laptop and provide a furry armrest. I think she can’t fathom that I would be engrossed in something that’s not her.

      I’m not an Apple girl myself, I’m more a PC person and specifically, HP. So my ‘dream’ laptop would probably be an HP EliteBook or an Omen, which cost every bit as much as a Macbook. Sigh…someday! I got myself a new laptop this year (HP of course, but not that high-end) because my old one was starting to get rather rickety and uncooperative (like overheating if I simply tried to play a video). It was definitely time for it, and I upgraded to Word 2016 (with Office 365) and I’m currently in the honeymoon stage with all this new stuff, so it’s still so lovely and exciting. That’s wonderful you go to treat yourself! A reward for lots of hard work!

      I too have a Kindle Fire but don’t have any problem charging it–maybe Amazon could help you out? Is it still under warranty?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I doubt the Kindle is still under warranty, I got it as an early Christmas present (it showed up a few days before) in 2015, and the person who bought it for me never gets extended warranties on anything, apparently thinks everything is going to keep working like it’s supposed to…yeah right. πŸ˜›

        My only problem with a new laptop (other than I can’t afford it) is I do NOT like what they’ve done with Windows. I can ignore most of the features I don’t like/wouldn’t use anyway, but I do NOT like the Big Brother feature, and refuse to upgrade my laptop past Windows 8.1 or buy a new laptop with Windows 10 or later in it until they get rid of that feature. And according to Microsoft, they have no intention of doing so. So what I need is a laptop that doesn’t use Windows at all. Yes, it will make some things more difficult to do online, but at least I won’t have to worry about having spyware that I can’t remove from my computer keeping track of everywhere I go online. It’s none of their business where I go or what I do on my own computer, and that crap is bad enough from the government without having a private company deciding they have every right to do the same thing. Anyone who thinks George Orwell was an alarmist hasn’t been paying attention, the only difference is it’s not just our government we have to watch out for. I’m probably on enough watch lists as it is with all the places I’ve gone online and all the topics I’ve researched (some people just can’t understand the difference between researching a subject for a story and really wanting to murder someone or blow up an entire city or whatever…it’s called FICTION people! Not everybody who looks up 50 different ways to poison somebody is planning an actual murder, some of us are just writers! πŸ˜› ), but I sure don’t need private corporations deciding they have the right to monitor what I do on my own computer, because they don’t and I’m not going to allow something like that on my computer. If this one eventually dies I’ll go out and buy a used laptop from the pawnshop first before I’ll buy anything with Windows 10 or later installed on it. And once it’s on there, you can’t remove it no matter what you do, even if you take it back to factory settings (assuming it didn’t already come with Windows 10 pre-installed). Once you have 10 on your computer, it’s never going away. I don’t like that either. I want to be able to decide what programs I run on my computer, not let the company decide for me.

        Anyway, enough of what I think of Microsoft right now…I’ve never really been into Apple either, since the Apple IIe went out of style and the next version came along, but as far as I know I would have to get an Apple or some other obscure brand that doesn’t use Windows (and then probably have to learn some new program just to be able to use it) just to still be able to get online. I’ve had HP and Dell and Acer before (Acer would not have been my choice at all, but it was bought at the school bookstore and was the only brand they sold, since I was using my Pell Grant to buy it I didn’t really have a choice), and I now have a Toshiba. I think my favorite has been Dell, but then they all wound up with problems that drove me nuts (well, more nuts) before finally dying on me. My Acer’s screen started flickering and wouldn’t stop, before the laptop finally died all together, and it started doing that at about 6 months after I got it. So then of course I couldn’t find the receipt to use as proof of purchase, so I couldn’t get Acer to do anything about it. Needless to say, I’m never buying another one.

        I just hope the one I have holds out until I can by some miracle afford another one…as long as the furbrats don’t sabotage it like they did my TV, I should be able to use it for a couple more years yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m always amazed when I see people on forums saying things like, “I just need to tell a great story. My editor can fix everything else.” And I want to say, well, yes . . . if you want to go broke by having someone practically ghostwrite for you, go ahead. I’ll happily take all your money and your property (or the proceeds from selling it so I can have more of your money).

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    • Exactly! They’re going to be very disappointed when they try to send something to a publisher expecting an editor to fix everything up for them. These are the same people who can’t seem to figure out why they keep getting that REJECTED email.

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  5. No one’s going to get the perfect setting for writing, especially with kids/a job/dogs/etc… You do have to just get on with it. And trying to do anything on the beach gets annoying because the sand gets everywhere!

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    • I can’t imagine trying to do anything productive on a beach! I don’t like having too much ‘scenery’ when I write, because I’m just gonna end up staring at instead of writing.

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  6. Do you have some writer’s groups/forums to recommend that specialize in the technical side of things, then, and have more serious writers? I’ve been wanting to join a few lately, but I’m not sure how to go about finding them. πŸ™‚

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  7. Great post! I love how you use sarcasm. Two thousand words, ten thousand steps, a dozen hugs, three cups of coffee — there’s more to the life of a writer than a pretty desk, fersure!

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    • I think too often new writers look at the ‘big stars’ and how much money and fame they have. The thing is, most of those ‘big stars’ didn’t get that way with their first book! Or on JUST their first book.

      Liked by 1 person

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