My Philosophy of Writing… or, Am I a Fraud?

For my previous post I really had to think hard to define my blogging philosophy. While I was thinking it occurred to me that I’d be equally hard-pressed to say something about my general writing philosophy. Isn’t that a shameful revelation? Should I be embarrassed?

As a novelist I give lots of thought to story ideas, plot development, setting, description and conflict. I’ve occasionally answered the question of why I write. But my philosophy of writing? The attitude, viewpoint, values, and beliefs behind my writing?  Should there be some kind of concise statement that can be whipped out of my wallet or tacked up above my desk? If the answer is yes, I’m in big trouble!

I don’t think much about such abstracts. I just write. Whoever coined the phrase, analysis paralysis understood the devastation of thinking too much. Wikipedia suggests “the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision.” (It’s the opposite of extinct by instinct, “making a fatal decision based on hasty judgment or a gut-reaction.”)

Picture me slumped into my chair, fingers lingering passively on the computer keys. I can’t begin writing until I can identify my philosophy of writing. My mind is twisted into an agony of indecision. The monitor remains blank.

Am I a fraud if I can’t define my philosophy of writing? Without one am I not a real writer at all? Oh, dear! This is becoming too complicated. I’m heading off to contemplate the severity of the situation. I may have to re-think the day’s plan to work on my current novel.

Am I alone in my dilemma? Do you have a philosophy of writing? (Yes or no doesn’t work here. If you have one please reveal it. I need inspiration.)

19 thoughts on “My Philosophy of Writing… or, Am I a Fraud?

  1. Patti says:

    I write for the Audience of One. Try to capture on paper the stories inspired by incidents in the lives of real women who have struggled with real sins. Real secrets.

    My agent, Natasha Kern, converted me to the use of the book The Moral Premise to help me set a foundation for future (and hopefully my just-finished) manuscript, which will be coming out in January.

    Just to strive toward those goals has changed everything.
    Blessings, dear one, as you ponder this IMPORTANT decision.

    • Hi, Patti. Like you, I know my ‘audience of one’, and I know why I write. But, boy, the philosophical aspect is hard to put into words. I’ve heard of The Moral Premise in reference to screenplays but I can see where structuring the plot of a novel around a spiritual premise based on moral values could be effective, too. I’ve never deliberately aimed for that but think I’ve indirectly accomplished it in a couple of my stories. I should look into it more. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. findanoutlet says:

    Hi Carol,
    No, you don’t need to have a philosophy of writing. As if! How could anyone sum up in a few sentences a concept we barely grasp ourselves? And does our writing not constantly evolve as we grow? It can devolve, too.

    One thing that kind of surprises me is the lack of inspiration that some bloggers confess they feel. This I do not understand. Everything in life, even if you think your life is boring, when written from your unique perspective, can be riveting. You just have to find the right words that aren’t boring! I start by taking my copy and cutting it in half, but only after I’ve spilled my guts!

    So, no philosophy, except to say what I mean, only talk about myself as needs to be related in the story, and try not to be boring. As for loftier ideals—our ideals should emerge in our work, yes?

    Wow, your post caused me to think of something I hadn’t thought about, and write it down—now how cool is that? I love it when that happens!

    • Thanks for dropping in here, Debra, and for your comment. I’m thinking that just because I can’t put it into words doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have a philosophy. There is a little of ourselves in every story and each character we create since they emerge from our minds. So I put my trust in the Author of all life and hope that my faith and ideals are evident in what I write.

  3. catwoods says:

    My only philosophy is to write the story that begs to get out. Which is great when stories are falling all over themselves to get onto my computer screen. Not so great when I’m as dry as a riverbed in the Saraha Desert.

    • Don’t you love it when the words tumble out? I sometimes wonder where they came from… my subconscious, maybe? Then I get into these ‘thinking’ moods and that’s when the analysis paralysis sets in. LOL

  4. As a rule I hate making philosophical statements about the things I do – almsot as much as I hate mission statements. The idea that I can turn a complex decision on my part into a catchy tell-all phrase has never appealed to me in the slightest and it just seems like to properly explain a philosophy should actually take reams of paper and not just a single sentence or paragraph.
    Other people disagree and think you are unfocused unless you can boil your thoughts down to a singular essential. However if we boiled life down to the singular every single philospohy would go along the lines of ‘keep breathing’.

    • In a career where we’re told it’s imperative to create a story synopsis and one-sentence summary of our 90,000 word novel, it’s refreshing to hear someone objecting to “turning a complex decision on my part into a catchy tell-all phrase!” Sometimes I guess it’s necessary, but I wonder if we expend more time and energy coming up with that concise statement than we do on the project itself.

  5. joylene says:

    If being an author meant others needed to label you, then defining your philosophy of writing might be important. But even so, they would state what “they” thought your philosophy was and you wouldn’t need to. I wonder if ordinary people even give this stuff much thought. They just want a good book to read.

    I’ll confess I read your post last night, didn’t know how to answer, so went to bed and slept on it. This morning I’m no closer to defining my philosophy of writing other than to say that I hope mine is honesty. I write to better understand myself and others. But of course as I getting older, I’m confronted by how much I don’t know.

    Another great post, Carol.

    • The really deep thinkers among us likely have no problem searching through their motivations to discover and define a core premise. I think I must be among your “ordinary people” because that much analysis makes my brain hurt!

  6. christicorbett says:

    Oh Carol, I can’t even think about something so hard like “Philosophy of Writing” when you have such a hilarious cartoon going on in the sidebar! Seriously, I called my five-year-old twins in and we all sat and giggled endlessly as it re-ran.

    Alright, now to your question. (*scrolls up to read, this time ignoring true-to-life cartoon*)

    I know I have an unwritten “theme” behind many of the posts on my blog, which is along the lines of “Never give up. Ever.”

    I re-read your post again (and again, and again), and I still don’t have an answer as to my philosophy of writing so don’t worry, you’re not alone :).

    Christi Corbett

    • I saw the cartoon on someone else’s blog some time ago and had to go searching the internet for it. It so perfectly exemplifies the frustrated writer, doesn’t it? At least he doesn’t have any hair to pull out. LOL

      My “dilemma” may boil down to nothing more than semantics. In writing, what’s the difference between our reason, motivation, philosophy, theme, mission, purpose, vision, belief, etc.? It feels like I’ve opened a can of worms.

  7. Paul Greci says:

    When I first started writing fiction I wrote with my reluctant/struggling reader students in mind. I wanted to write stories that would engage them. And I still think of them when I write but I also think of others, too.

  8. I love that cartoon! I had a hard time concentrating on philosophy and motives and all that jazz when that funny little man was pounding and crying. Too hilarious!!!

    Who says you need a philosphy of writing? All I can find in the Bible that might relate to this concept is, “Do your work heartily, as unto the Lord,” and “Speak the truth in love.” I know you do that, Carol. Just call it good and go on.

    We mortals like to complicate everything, including our call to minister. Don’t let satan tie your brain in knots, dear sister. Just write what God gives you, and ask Him to bless it. And He will.

    BTW, re: my post on Embellishig vs. Lying, my mom didn’t remember the setting of the telling of my miracle, either.

  9. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I think every writer has a philosophy of writing, but most of us don’t state it explicitly, even to ourselves. We just act on it. It governs our choice of subject matter and audience and language. It influences how we set our priorities, and how we present our writing to the world, and what we do in between projects, and how we face writer’s block, and how we feel about other writers who have what we would like.

    I define my philosophy piece by piece, in my blog. Occasionally I will discover I feel a certain way about something or take a certain approach, and I will blog about that one discovery I’ve made. I don’t think it’s necessary to define your philosophy, until it becomes necessary to know how you feel and think about a specific aspect of it, in order to make a choice about something.

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