Becca Syme

Thanks to Zoom, I was able to attend a very interesting workshop by Becca Syme. The workshop was sponsored by my local romance authors group and I nearly didn’t attend. I find Zoom more frustrating than helpful most of the time, but, at the last minute, decided to check in, from home, just to see what was happening. Am I glad I did!

The workshop was titled “11 Myths about Writing and Why you should Stop Believing them Right Now.” 

Eleven myths seemed like a lot to me but that’s how many she had, including those time-honoured ones like “you should write every day,” and “you should write an outline in order to write faster.”  

Using something called the Clifton Strengths Test, she used personality profiles to challenge these “shoulds.”  She used only five major predictors. There are many others if you take the complete test. The ones she used are

  • Introverted vs extroverted
  • Momentum Producing vs Momentum Resistant
  • Prediction Comfortable vs Prediction Resistant
  • Responsive Controlling Environment vs Responsive Necessary Environment

These are not either/or characteristics. Rather, they are opposite ends of a continuum.  Since I never fall into a single category whether it’s choosing my best colours or finding my best diet types, learning that I could be somewhere in between for this exercise filled me with relief. When Becca went on to explain that not everyone benefits from writing an outline, and that “word count” isn’t the only measure of productivity, I danced around the room. 

I am very good at filling in charts, answering plot questions and writing an outline. Unfortunately, when I write the story, it bears hardly any resemblance to the outline. I rarely admit that fact because I believe the myth about writing an outline. If I can’t do that then, I’m a fraud, or as Becca puts it I. AM. WRONG.  However, if I stop believing that myth I am no longer wrong, I just have different strengths. Now, there’s a bit of good news!

I’ve been watching the national curling championships in Canada and now the Women’s world curling championships. Under the current rules, teams have so many minutes of “thinking time,” instead of a total time allotment for the game. In other words, the rule makers know that “thinking” is a key component of the game.  I’m one of those writers for whom “thinking time” is every bit as important as fingers on the keyboard. In fact, I “thought” this blog long before I came to the computer. For me, clearing my timetable so I can show up at the keyboard is only part of the equation. More importantly, I need to clear my mind so I can think about the story. I can do that while taking a walk, making the bed or weeding the flowerbed.

To be fair, at every writing workshop I’ve attended, the presenter has prefaced his remarks with the caveat, “this is what I do. It may not work for you.” Then he goes on to lay out a very orderly, rules-based method for producing lots of saleable words. I understand that. It is much easier to teach a “system” than to stand in front of a roomful of hopeful writers and say “I don’t know how you should write.” Ms Syme is the only one I’ve heard present an entire workshop on finding one’s own strengths and methods. 

I can’t claim to have put her wisdom into practice yet — it has been a very busy time in my life — but I’ve been happier. I’ve stopped wearing the cloak of I. AM. WRONG.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend Becca Syme’s workshops.

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