There are so many dichotomies when it comes to writing. We are often quick to throw ourselves, and other writers, into one or another of supposedly mutually exclusive groups.
- Prose or poetry?
- Contemporary or historical?
- Morning or evening writer?
- Planner or “panster”? (I know a lot of people hate the term, but it’s used and known to describe those who don’t plan or use outlines when they write.)
Now, there is nothing wrong with preferring to write in the morning, or loving outlines and always using them. There’s nothing wrong if you want to stay within one genre that work for, challenges, and fulfills you as you write.
There are only 2 problems with these labels that I can see. They’re not major, but they’re worth considering. They’re not problems with the labels themselves or with the categories, but rather with how we tend to approach them.
The first is that if we fall in between the extremes, we might feel like we are doing something wrong. What if I like to write in the morning and the evening, and mix it up a bit?
There’s actually a great benefit to writing at any and all times of the day: you will of necessity at some point be writing at a time of day when you feel tired and least inclined to write. That’s probably when you’ll produce your best work.
In fact, I think it’s probably more typical to fall in between the cracks than staunchly on one side of the alternatives listed above. There are degrees of planning…. There are percentages of days we can write in the morning or evening, and we can draft more or less poetry when we feel so inclined along with writing fiction (or vice versa). We can experiment with short stories or novels in genres we’ve never written before on a whim, or we can make a habit of stretching ourselves that way.
The second problem I see with these dichotomies is that we can use them to justify patterns, or even ruts, that aren’t working for us. Even if they used to work, they might not be working now. We all grow and change and develop, after all. But we can use these phrases–“I’m a planner,” “I’m a pantser”–to prevent ourselves from trying something new that might work far better than what we did in the past.
I’m a big fan of experimenting with the writing process. I like to try different approaches with different pieces. I like to see if “this” works better than something I did before. If something works well, I work around it and tweak it and try to make it more productive or more useful still.
So, that’s what was on my mind this morning…. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with labeling yourself a morning writer, or a planner, or a genre writer. Just don’t let the label prevent you from branching out if you need to do that, and don’t let labels make you feel like you’re doing something wrong if what you’re doing works but doesn’t fit the title.