The Best Writing Advice I Can Give

| Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Today's Tune: Mr. Pitiful

This is the very best, truest writing advice I've been given and will probably ever be able to give: Listen to your own truth, but don't block out everyone else's.

Like all of the other writing advice blog posts out there in Writerland, this one has been repeated over, and over, and over. And I'm repeating it again.

You are your own best judge of what you're trying to do with your words. You cannot possibly follow every rule and insider tidbit you're fed. It's not possible, because so many of them contradict one another. You have to figure out which writer ideals you admire most, and why. Study them. Understand what draws you to certain styles of writing. Then branch away and follow the letters wherever they lead you. This is your journey. No one can tell you how to walk or where to go or how long to try or if you should give up.

But. But.

Do not become arrogant or bitter. Do not ignore the basic building blocks. Do not discount the advice of those who walked before you out of jealousy, or spite, or ego, or whatever. Listen. Always listen. Just because you listen doesn't mean you have to agree, but you should always know why you disagree. None of us are beyond learning. Not a single one of us. If you believe you are the most talented, that you need no guidance, that you already write on par with the greats before you? Then I hate to break this to you, but you are at the beginning. Not the end.

There is no "right way" here. There is no enemy, except perhaps ignorance. If you are always open to growth, always ready to listen, always willing to learn, then you will become better. And then you will become good. And then you will become great. And then you will become legendary.

Even if it's only to one person.

Even if it's only to yourself.

I think it is so, so desperately important to believe in yourself, your craft, and your voice. But I think in order to do that, to truly get to that place, you have to learn and remain open to learning. Knowledge never limits us. It only helps us understand.

So listen and decide for yourself.

Then write.


{ Elissa Sussman } at: January 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM said...

Your last few lines remind me of a song from the musical "Title of Show" that says:

"I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing
Than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing"

I love everything about this post especially your call for the elimination of bitterness and arrogance. Here, here!

{ Old Kitty } at: January 4, 2012 at 1:28 PM said...

Hear! Hear! I think that's why I love enrolling on writing courses - I always learn something amazing - my last course I was so surprised to find my instinct for poetry writing - something I've never dreamed I had, but it was learning about all sorts of types of poetry that grounded me. I mean I'm still a loooooooong way to understanding iambic pentametres and suchlike but if I hadn't opened my learning to such a course, I'd still be dismissing poetry reading out of ignorance!

p.s. not quite on topic - but there was a bit of a shinding here about whether attending university was a necessity any more given how much fees have gone up and how many grads are unable to find work despite their qualifications and I just despaired because in my mind, learning and acquiring knowledge of whatever discipline should be celebrated. Learning in itself is a good thing for the soul. Unfortunately the debate seemed to centre on the financial rewards a degree offers - understandably in this current climate! Ok now I'm definitely babbling - off I go!

Take care

{ Elissa Sussman } at: January 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM said...

Oh right..."here, here" makes absolutely no sense. I was wondering why that looked incorrect.

{ vic caswell (aspiring-x) } at: January 4, 2012 at 4:28 PM said...

great advice!
for writing and for life. :)

{ Jen } at: January 5, 2012 at 2:33 AM said...

Great advice!

This - There is no enemy, except perhaps ignorance."
You nailed it right there.

{ Chantele Sedgwick } at: January 5, 2012 at 10:15 AM said...

Wonderful advice. Loved this. :)

{ Liesl Shurtliff } at: January 5, 2012 at 7:48 PM said...

Very good advice. My favorite advice comes from Karen Cushman and it goes like this:
"Don't listen to advice. Even mine." :)

{ Mindy McGinnis } at: January 6, 2012 at 11:25 AM said...

Very true. It's important to look for consistent complaints / comments from your betas and give serious weight to those that go across the board - even if your knee jerk reaction is to not agree.

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