J.L. Winters

The Best Writing Advice You’ll Ever Get Is From Yourself


Aspiring writers are especially prone to getting bogged down with an array of writing advice. Thanks to the internet, we can learn anything from style, structure, plotting, word choice, characterization, setting – if you can think of it, you can find an article or even an entire book about it.

Is too much advice a good thing?

It’s commonly said that one must first know the rules if one wants to break the rules. A better piece of advice might be you have to forget the rules altogether and make up your own. Isn’t that what art is about in the first place? Creative expression doesn’t play well with rules. And since most writers are avid readers, we already know more about the craft of writing than we think.

When I first started out, bless my young writer’s heart, I was full of passion and creativity, and I got published, even though my craft wasn’t perfect. Always seeking to improve, I set out to learn more, and that’s where I got over-loaded with all of the advice, must-do’s, never-do’s, and can-do’s. This is where my writing got crippled. The polite rejects kept rolling in, and I couldn’t figure out why because I was following their guidance and advice to the letter. I was saving the cat, so to speak. I nixed adverbs and filter words, and I never, ever used the dreaded exclamation mark. After being rejected by an agent simply because I’d had the audacity to use a literary device, I began to reconsider the rules. Maybe they didn’t work for my style. Writing is supposed to be fun, right? Instead, it had become a chore, and I started to second-guess every word and doubt myself.

Writing Is Supposed To Be Fun.

The one thing I never lost sight of was my love for creating stories. This is where I became a radical. I put aside the self-doubt and second-guessing every word to sit down with my laptop and open a new, blank page. I had a story in me, and I decided to listen to the words flowing from that secret place deep inside. I trusted that the place able to come up with the ideas, the characters, and the basic structure, could also come up with the right words. I let the story flow onto the page. I used adverbs and dialogue tags. I used words like that, very, little, just, and then. I started sentences with ‘and’, I played with punctuation, exclamation marks, italics, and alliteration.

I let my soul be my guide.

And I’ve never looked back. This little experiment taught me the most important lesson of writing. You have to be brave enough to write whatever comes without judging (don’t worry perfectionists, you can edit the mess later). The part of you that’s good at writing is your soul. Some might call it their muse. Call it whatever you want, but it knows what to say and exactly how and when to say it. A perfectly placed word. A great cliffhanger. A snippet of sharp, witty dialogue. That part of you can create characters out of thin air, or kill them off just as easily.

You are your own muse. I encourage you to take time to listen to that voice inside. That is your voice. Unique only to you. It’s what will make you stand out from all the rest. The more you listen, the louder it will get, and your muse will never be fickle or need to be lured out. Don’t let the rules overwhelm you or get in the way. You aren’t going to find the heart of your story in an expensive, week long workshop or by studying a book on writing skills (though follow what feels right for you). You already know what you want to say. You already have your voice, but in order to find it, you have to get to know yourself. You have to go within.

So, how do you set about strengthening that ever-elusive voice?

The following tips are habits that have stuck with me because they are simple and they work.

Have A Daily Spiritual Practice.

If you want to learn to write from your soul, you first have to get in touch with that part of yourself. Strengthening your intuition is a good place to begin. Start listening to the advice, the leads, the ideas as they pop into your head, no matter how crazy they might seem. And don’t forget to write them down. I promise you won’t remember them later. The more you allow yourself to do this, the louder the voice gets and the stronger the nudges get. Your role is to act on those nudges. Decide what works for you, and what doesn’t. Trust yourself and the process. Other things you might find helpful are journaling, drawing oracle or tarot cards, meditating, consuming inspiration, and establishing a morning routine. Connect with the unseen and the unknown. This is where the magic lives.

Find Your Most Creative Time.

For me, it’s the mornings. My mind is fresh, my energy is high, and things are quieter when the world is waking up to a new day. I like to save the afternoons for more technical things, such as marketing, social media, working on my website, or editing. If you’re not sure when your creative time might be, experiment with different times of the day. Some of us also have normal jobs, families, and other responsibilities to work around, and we have to make our writing time fit into those schedules. Even finding thirty minutes in your day to write uninterrupted is a great place to start. Once you build the habit, the rest will follow.

Devote A Special Place.

Our brains are creatures of habit. By having a dedicated writing space, you’re telling your brain that when you sit down there, it’s time to write. Put the phone away. Don’t check social media. Save the research for another time. This is your sacred time to write. Sometimes it can help to give a little ritual, light some sage or incense, a candle, play music if that’s your jam, or even bring some brain-boosting crystals into your space, like Quartz, Amethyst, or Citrine. Sip a cup of tea. Then ground yourself, take a few deep breaths, and just start writing. This process can feel slow at first, but like anything, it gets better with practice, and before long, you’ll be writing in spiritual mode.

Cut Off Your Ego.

This might be the hardest thing to do. Differentiating the voice of the ego from the voice of your soul is sometimes challenging, but the soul will always build you up, it will never cut or criticize. When the ego does come barging in, kindly remind it that it has a role, but right now, you are working from a different place. The ego can come out when you’re editing, that’s where it can be useful. You have to learn how to drown it out, and as you get used to listening to the soul, the ego will learn when it’s time to get in the passenger seat.

When you write from the soul, you can never go wrong. Agents and publishers don’t care about where you studied writing or how many credentials you have after your name (although they are nice to have). What matters is the story you tell and how well it engages the reader. The world doesn’t need more writers who follow the conventional rules and write to the market in order to be successful. What the world needs is fresh voices. We need adjectives and adverbs and exclamation marks! We need your voice. Let go of all the rules and make your own.

This is how you write magic.

What other ways have you found to connect with your voice and write from your soul? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.