My general stance toward mottos is displayed very cleverly in one of the Series of Unfortunate Events books and is also summarized beautifully in Ecclesiastes.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecc. 3:1)
While I sometimes like simple mottos I do not often trust them because you can’t. Sometimes one action is right, and sometimes another, because no two situations are identical.
I was scanning through a list of Rules for Writing Fiction and (surprise, surprise) a lot of the so-called “rules” were contradictory. So here’s the thing: writing is art. In order to make good art you need to make art that is different from other people’s art. In order to make good art you need to make art that is you. (Yes, yes, of course this is another simple tip and you should feel free to ignore it.) On this theme, there is a piece of advice from Margaret Atwood which I really like:
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
Again, I am cynical and think that this will not always be the best way to write, it certainly seems (to me) a very good way to complete a first draft. It’s like brainstorming: you’ve got to let in enough silliness and honesty to get to the really good ideas.
Anyway, I shall continue picking and choosing the advice that I like, which mostly involves ignoring the stylistic advice and taking the motivational/conceptual advice. I don’t want to sound like anyone else in my writing but I do want to sound like the best version of me.