Writer’s Desk: Don’t Listen to Advice

When Roxane Gay set out to write a novel, at first she got tired up in logistical questions:

… Is it really true that every chapter should be self-contained and readable as its own thing? Do you have to write from beginning to end or is it acceptable to jump around the story and pull it all together at the end? How do you pace a novel? How explicit is too explicit? Is it okay to leave gaps in the narrative? There is lots of advice on novel writing out there but I struggled to find satisfying answers for my specific set of questions…

Not surprisingly, this tied her up in knots and didn’t produce much writing. So she chucked all those questions:

Finally, there came a time when I decided to ignore all the advice I had read and do the only thing I know how to do, which is write. I wrote what I felt like writing, when I felt like writing, how I felt like writing. I jumped all over the place. None of my chapters had numbers. I didn’t take notes, or create a timeline, or plot anything out.

Once she stopped worrying about how to write, she wrote.