How to Take Writing Advice and Make it your Own

There are approximately 6,580,522,845* blogs, books, and courses on writing out there.

(* that number might be a tiny bit made up…)

Everyone, their mother, step mother, dog’s mother, and their infant sister has advice on writing. How do you figure out what’s legit, what to take to heart, and how to actually apply it to your life?

Too Legit to Quit

If you were applying to a college, you would check to see if the school was accredited by a trusted source. You would want to make sure that your money was going to something that would actually be worth the investment.

When it comes to writing though, anyone can give advice. People sometimes feel like they have no way of checking accreditation, aside from checking if the person giving the advice is published.

There are other ways, however. Checking for membership with groups (like RWA, etc.), or checking for affiliation with writing groups (online or offline), online courses, workshops, and more. Having a finger on the pulse of the current trends is always better than having something published six years ago. Or worse, badly self published.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Right now, you want to keep in mind that not all advice is good advice, and that not everyone is legit. Do some investigations before you pay for courses or e-books from someone who isn’t a trusted source.

Matters of the Heart

With all those blogs, books, and courses, how do you figure out what’s really worth trying?

Remember my advice from last week, about giving something 15 minutes? Do the same for this. Did someone give advice that story-boarding works so much better than note carding? Maybe that those long character forms are the best way of getting in touch with your characters? Give it 15 minutes. Try it out. If you feel like you are wasting your time, move on to something else. If it’s working, you’ll know when you don’t want to stop after those 15 minutes are up.

People are great at giving advice to others, but they don’t always remember that not all people are the same.

Own it

If something is working for you, great! After it works time and again, you should find out what about it works.

I got some advice a few years ago that I should pre-write, but only in my head. The person who gave me the advice told me that some hot tea, a little bit of meditation, and then I should open myself up to the characters – let them tell me whatever they wanted.

Doesn’t that sound all flowery and wonderful?

Problem is I don’t have time for all that flowery stuff. I’m a Working Writer! I’ve taught myself to pre-write in my head without tea (even though I love me a good cup of cinnamon tea in the mornings), without meditation (in this economy, don’t be caught closing your eyes at your desk!), and without allowing my characters to take the reins. I’ve learned to stop asking my “muse” and start telling my self-conscious what I’m going to do.

I’ll tell you what:  making this my way didn’t help at first. I felt as if it wouldn’t work unless I did the flowery stuff. So I drank the tea. I meditated in the lady’s room (totally don’t recommend this to anyone, by the way). And it still didn’t work.

It honestly didn’t work until I tried, over and over, and finally the muscles in my brain woke up.

The moral of this story:  your brain is as much of a “muscle” as your arms. You can’t expect to lift 200 pounds over your head if you’ve never worked out before, and you can’t expect writing techniques to work if you haven’t tried them before. Work those muscles!

Conclusion

Make sure the advice you follow is legit, that you’re willing to give it at least 15 minutes of your time, and that you mold it to fit your life. Not everyone is the same, but just because something doesn’t fit your lifestyle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. Live a little!

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2 thoughts on “How to Take Writing Advice and Make it your Own

  1. This: “I’ve learned to stop asking my ‘muse’ and start telling my self-conscious what I’m going to do,” made me sit up and think Yes! It’s so true! I’ve tried explaining this to people before, but as you mentioned, not everyone works the same way… and not everyone is ready for advice, either.

    In a way, I think writing advice is like grief advice. When someone dies, people everywhere (and their kids and dogs) suddenly try to tell you how best to mourn. They want you to talk it out, go to therapy, have memorials, be strong for the family, etc. and on and on with most of the suggestions conflicting. Eventually, you realize that not all of those things will work, and that you have to try some things and figure out what works for you. I think writing advice is just like that: take what works, leave the rest. And when you need to, it’s okay to plug your ears. =)

    • It is *exactly* like grief advice. Or advice to lose weight. Sometimes it works and you feel like the person who told you was a genius. Sometimes it doesn’t, and you just want to smack them. But always, always, ALWAYS you need to try it for yourself.

      And I’m glad someone else has decided to stop treating the ‘muse’ like some flowery ghost you see from the corner of your eye when you aren’t looking! Much <3 for Awesome Annie.

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