People have a hard time, as they get older, not deciding that they have things figured out. Sometimes, they think they have everything figured out. Usually, this is accompanied by not thinking about anything, because, really, why bother to think about anything when you already know it all? And this, this issue of becoming more and more dogmatic over time, is why people like priests, pastors, politicians become unassailable pillars of authority. This is why people will switch from telling you "here is A way to do" something to telling you "THE way to do" something. Whatever that something is.
And it's no different in writing, as can be seen just from the comments to some of the posts in this series as many people have responded to various parts with things like, "no, that really is required."
A few weeks ago, John Scalzi responded to a quiz posted by another writer. The quiz was supposed to tell you whether or not you are a "professional writer" or just a "hobbyist," as the author of the quiz put it. Scalzi (and if you don't know who he is, you should start following his blog) failed the quiz. Miserably. Out of the 10 questions, he only got one correct, so, apparently, he is not a "professional writer" despite the fact that that is how he makes his living. And a very good one at that.
See, the problem is that the author's quiz was all about the things she does to actually get the writing accomplished. Her process. She leaves her home a mess so that she can spend time writing. She doesn't watch TV so that she can spend time writing. She turns down invitations from friends so that she can spend time writing. And, evidently, if you don't do these things, you are not a writer. Like a neat writing area? Sorry, you fail the writing quiz. Like spending time with friends? Nope, you can't be a writer. If you don't follow her process, you are merely a hobbyist. Even if writing is the source of your income.
As Scalzi put it, she actually left off the only question that matters: Do you get paid to write? If the answer is "yes," you are a professional writer. Except that I would amend that somewhat and say that you'd need to actually be making enough at writing to live on to be doing it professionally. I think there's a definition about that somewhere.
But, see, the author of the quiz has decided that she knows the process, the process, and that if you are not doing it her way, you are not doing it correctly or adequately or professionally. You're just a hack. And that's dogma for you. Here's how Scalzi responded:
The problem with [the author's] quiz is that it confuses process for end result. Her quiz is about process, and presumably her process -- what she thinks is necessary for one to do in order to produce the work that create the end result of making money as a writer. But process isn't end result...So, sure, we can measure end result, but we can't measure process, nor should we try.
Which really brings us to the point of this whole series. In different ways, people will try to tell you how to write. The way to do it. The way to get an agent. The way to get published. The way to become a bestselling novelist. They will tell you that you have to have beta readers, that you have to have an agent, that you have to pants it or you have to plot it. That you have to listen to the universe. That you have to eschew life so that you can write about it. That you have to drink coffee or that you have to drink tea. All of these things if you want to be real.
And it's all a stinking pile of manure. It's all dogma. It's all personal religion wrapped around the way that one person writes and, maybe, whoever else that person has turned into disciples. And those people... well, just feel sorry for them, because, mostly, everyone who writes does it his or her own way and trying to do it the way someone else says it ought to be done is just going to mess you up. Like trying to follow exactly in someone else's footprints rather than finding your own stride. Not to mention wearing shoes that match the other person, especially if your feet are bigger than his.
With writing, as with so much else in life, the only way to do it right is to find your own way to do it.The way that fits. The way that is right for you. Forget the dogma that other people preach. At least, forget it as dogma. Take it as an idea, maybe. Something to try out. If it works, great; if it doesn't, discard it. I'll leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs, because, really, I won't say it better than this:
"Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."