Dealing in Absolutes

I read a blog recently in which the writer kept referring to things in extreme terms, sort of like I talked about in a post on the “rules of writing” which I take issue with.  In essence, this person felt that there were certain areas of writing that required compliance to the absolutes this writer was spelling out. For example, this person believed that if you developed a case of writer’s block, then you most definitely had to use “The Artist’s Way” or a similar self-help program.

I’ve previously voiced my objection on this one, but for those of you new to this blog, let me clarify.  There is no doubt that Julia Cameron’s book has been helpful to writers and artists all over the planet, but for me it was a colossal waste of time.  In fact, because of following the advice in this best-selling book, I became even more blocked than when I had started it. It didn’t matter how many days in a row I got up to write morning pages, I was never going to become a morning person, and thus, I was never going to uncover some stunning insight buried in my half-legible scrawling from those morning pages.

The blog writer also put forth the admonition that every writer – regardless of audience or genre – must have an agent in order to be successful.

Hmmm – I had an agent. It was a disaster. Every book I’ve sold has been on my own. I’m not opposed to agents. In fact, I know quite a few of them and they are nice people overall.  I’ve looked in to getting an agent, but in the interim, I continue to write and submit without them.  I think agents can be very helpful, but as far as being mandatory or (as the blog writer said “essential to being a success”), I have to differ. Five books sold without an agent is still pretty successful I think.

This particular blog writer apparently doesn’t think much of those of us who write for kids, too.  Perhaps my favorite bit of absolutism came visa-vi a comment that went something like: “While writing for children may be a great way to break into publishing, to be taken seriously as a writer, you should focus on writing for adults.”


The very idea that writing and publishing for children is easier than writing for adults is ridiculous. The problem is that too many people believe this bit of tripe, and as such, thousands of would-be writers send off some bit of silly, poorly rhymed garbage to every major children’s publisher in the U.S. and contribute to the overflowing slush pile in the poor editors’ offices.

As a general rule, writing for kids is more challenging than writing for adults because kids are a far tougher audience. Take a look at what makes the N.Y. Times’ Best Seller list sometime – the adult market will read just about anything. Kids demand a good story with believable characters. They want a well-crafted plot and a purpose. If things get too formulaic, many kids will put a book down as opposed to the adult who feels compelled to read a bad book all the way through.

In writing, as with most things, when someone tries to force-feed you a string of absolutes, be wary.  Very little in writing, or in life, is so easily pigeon-holed as that.


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