“They’re fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.” –Lillian Hellman
Know when to tune out, if you listen to too much advice you may wind up making other peoples mistakes. –Ann Landers
“I always advise people never to give advice.” –P.G. Wodehouse
I have a lot of pet peeves. Probably more than a reasonable amount. It’s a rare thing when I can watch TV, leave the house, or hop on the Internet without bitching, mocking, making fun of or simply pointing out something that I find annoying or idiotic. (Unless you’re reading this blog for the very first time, you already know this.)
Often, what I have to do is, I have to stop paying attention to whatever it is that bugs the shit out of me. I must ignore it completely. This isn’t always possible. Try ignoring the human race. It’s tough. Betcha can’t do it for very long. (I’ve tried. People start calling & coming to your house in a panic because they think you’re dead. It’s more irritating than just tolerating them.)
What I have to do then to maintain my serenity levels is, I have to filter out the bullshit to the best of my ability. I’m sure everyone does this to some extent. For me, this is especially true with the Internet because as we all know, the Internet is a never ending flood of bullshit.
However, I’ve been spending more time offline lately. Not having an Internet connection for 6 months sort of weaned me from the world wide teat. I check my mail, I make a few snide comments on Facebook or Twitter, like or retweet some shit, then I go about my day. Every now & then, I’ll get some free time & will spend it surfing around or reading a few articles online. Because I’m connected to several writerly type people & websites, I encounter a shit-ton of writer noise. Some of it is very good, very helpful & very interesting. Some of it is just utter crap.
Especially all of the fucking writing advice.
Advice is helpful. If I do not know how to do a thing, I’ll ask a more experienced person – or someone with a different skill set than I possess – how I should go about doing that thing. I will solicit them for advice. If I want to make my writing better — which I always want to do — I will seek out ways to do this.
So far, the ways I have found to do this are by writing… then writing some more & showing it to the members of my writing workshop. (A writing group works for me. It does not work for everyone. That’s okay.) Then I read books… followed by reading more books, then by writing more stuff.
I will seek out advice in one form or another. When I read a book that just blows the top of my fucking head off with its literary awesomeness, I’ll go out of my way to learn more about the author & their writing process.
I’ll read the occasional book, essay or article on craft. I almost always learn something new by reading these. The only catch is: all of this “advice” should come from a writer who has some serious writing chops. A super word-wrangling champ. If this “advice” is coming from someone other than an author I’ve already read & am familiar with, I want to see the proof in their pudding. Their writing advice essay (or blog post or whatever) should be written well enough to reflect that they know what they’re talking about. I don’t want to read some shit parroting some over-used bits of writer wisdom that we’ve all seen hundreds of times. I want to know what they’ve written. I want to know where their work has been published, whether it’s an essay or short story, or a novel.
Otherwise, I’m outta there. I’ll leave their blog or website, never to return again.
There is a lot of really bad writing advice out there. There’s a lot of advice that tells you that you can’t. Such as, “you can’t edit as you write”. Bullshit. You can if it works for you. Why not? Some advice tells you that you must. As in, “you must use an outline”. Please. Good books get written with & without outlines. Stuff your can’ts & musts. These are never good, in any situation. Especially anything that tells you that you can’t. Fuck can’t.
I want more than a blog from someone who just decided to open up a Blogger account & call themselves a writer. I want to see some kind of writer cred. It does not have to be great big massive bestseller writer cred. It can be a wee small mostly unknown indie cred. But for fuck’s sake – it’s gotta be something other than the tired old clichés on writing barfed out on a blog post by an “aspiring writer” who wants to talk about writing more than they want to actually write.
Show, don’t tell. Classic writer’s advice. (How’s that for parroting some shit?) Show me, don’t tell me that you’re a writer. Show me how you’re applying your own advice into your own writing. Advise me by example.
It’s not only the bad, over-used advice from “aspiring writers” with blogs who like to talk about writing & being a writer. Although, yes, I do often find talk about being a writer & “the writer’s life” to just be some boring, romanticized shit.
There is also the fact that one person’s ridiculous & useless piece of writing advice is another person’s magical wand of genius inspiration. It works for one person & for another, it does not & may be scoffed at or made fun of. That’s just the way it is. Not everyone has the same writing philosophy.
What I’ve found is that most writing advice is useless.
What I’ve found is, the more you actually write, the more you can filter the useless dung from the genuine gems of word wizards.
What I’ve found is, it’s better to write than it is to talk about writing & that the teaching should be left to the teachers.
But, you shouldn’t take my word for it. I’m just another writer with a blog… & a lot of pet peeves.