There’s a lot of writing advice out there. If you’re the type of reader I am, you would have said, “no shit” after you read that sentence. However, it embarrassingly bears repeating as I still find many new writers (sometimes myself) unsure on how to move themselves with their words. I’ve observed quite a few people, and it seems now I understand what happens.
People are a variation on a theme. We have similar experiences, traits, emotions, languages, and so on. On the other hand we have different interpretations based on those experiences, traits, emotions, languages, etc. Two people could experience the same event and come away with two different thoughts. These thoughts and reactions are not to be considered infinite, as there’s a reason emotions can be displayed on a wheel, there are only so many words in the English language and languages on the planet. There will be some common ground for everyone.
However, what I find when listening to authors is advice can contradict one another. For example, let’s take quote from Anaïs Nin:
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
Now let’s sidle that up against a commencement speech with Neil Gaiman:
These paths are very different. One is that of a quasi-Quaker speaking when the spirit moves her, and the other is the that of the child constantly writing but only when it isn’t work. How does that work? Simple, it doesn’t.
What needs to happen is that the writer needs to take charge of his or her life and respond to what resonates. That requires more thought on the part of the writer, as they are the ones who know themselves better than anyone else (or so I’d hope). It’s like going to the doctor and being diagnosed with an illness you know isn’t right. Why? Because you are feeling the symptoms first hand and are asking a secondary source to tell you what is wrong. Granted, there are some very good diagnostic doctors out there, but I only have access to the budget variety. No offense, doc, but your services aren’t sterling.
This whole notion of tailoring advice reminds me of a brilliant young writer I caught on here trying to decode Ernest Hemingway. In his own right, he has made valuable contributions to literature. That’s something I acknowledge, even if I think he’s a pompous windbag. He also spoke in what I call “red herring,” a dialect Hell bent on confusing you. This is one of the reasons I severely dislike Joyce, by the way. When speaking in riddles, please don’t feed the egos. I’m convinced if this young author took a step back and listened for advice not coming from big-name writers, her personal picture would have been much more clear.
I will shoot you right between the eyes and say I am neither a Nin, Gaiman, or Hemingway. I am the machine. I am the gun steel mecha-man that needs to crank and crank and crank and crank and work and work and work and work but evaluates what he’s cranking out and is only satisfied when it dazzles him. That’s my path to achievement, but it very well may never be yours. That’s for you to decide. It’s your rodeo, after all.
Thank you for posting! I find the wealth of advice out there completely disconcerting, especially when it’s of the ‘Writing must be your whole life, and if you do not live and breathe writing then it’s time to give up’ variety. It is encouraging to read something that (for want of a better expression) gives me permission to do things my way and to ignore the advice that just doesn’t seem to be working.
Thanks again for a great post.
Not a problem, thank you for stopping by!
True, I don’t want this to have the tone of a parent giving a child permission to do anything. That’s not my aim at all. What my aim is, and has been for several years, is to sit people down and say, “look, this is your own life. You can go a different way. You do realize this, correct?”
Chic flick alert (the antithesis to your manly mecha-man preferences, I imagine): I am reminded of when Harry Connick Jr’s character responds to Sandra Bullock in “Hope Floats,” asking him why he didn’t take up architecture as his career, and he says he doesn’t want to be like people who find something they love, then they twist and torture it.to make money. That is always my concern with writing. Blogging gives you the freedom without the pressure. People tell you to find a job, doing what you love, but I’ve never done that. Work sucks.
Let’s face it. Somewhere, at some time, someone will have to swing the hammer. Someone will have to shovel the dirt. Someone will have to sweat and curse and exhaust their energy doing something they consider work. We all can’t be professional writers, but that never meant we are prohibited to write something. It just means some have to do something like mop floors from 9-5 then type essays when they get home. There is no magic bullet to a career.
Great piece. As long as there is more than one writer in the world, there will be more than one opinion on “how” and “why” to write. I think it can be disheartening for a new writer to read/hear that they should not write unless they are some type of genius, because no one starts off as a genius. If everyone believed that, no one would write. But then it’s also disheartening for experienced readers to have to get through a bunch of drivel that has no heart in it, especially if they are used to “true” literature, whatever that definition is. I suppose the lesson is write whatever you want, but know that your success (which is a flexible word) will almost always be a result of the time and dedication you put into your pieces.
Thank you. I’m very much against a “one size fits all” or “magic bullet” philosophy, as people will need to understand themselves and what they want before they could even hope of communicating that to other people. It’s hard work, but no one ever said being an author was easy.
There’s good advice like “don’t jump of a tall building” but after that, however good the advice may be, it’s unlikely that we will heed it or need it. Reading, watching, listening and seeing will provide the answers, but it does entail continually reading, watching, listening and seeing.
Observation does provide needed information to make strategic decisions. As the old saying goes, “you have two ears and one mouth. So, listen twice as much as you speak.”