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No Writing Gurus Needed

no writing gurusI participated in an Annual Planning Day with writer and coach Isabel Parlett who is known on the web as the SoundBiteShaman. She was delightful and one of the things she said so clearly was we should all follow our own hearts. Which is, after all, one way to say there are no writing gurus.

It’s so tempting, particularly when starting out, or later when things get tough, to decide we don’t know enough and look for a guru or to some other writer who claims to have all the answers – or even most of them. We forget we’re the expert on our own lives and look outside ourselves, hoping for a magic key that will make our problems go away.

The truth is there are no writing gurus

Of course, the real definition of a guru is a spiritual teacher who gives some sort of (often) secret initiation. That term, however, has come to mean in popular parlance someone who has specialized knowledge about something – even freelance writing, knowledge that few, if any others seem to possess. These are the folks who wildly over-promise to turn you into a best selling or high ranking or 6-figure earning writer if only you do exactly what they say to do.

There are several problems with this approach including:

  • They rarely make it clear that they succeeded in their freelance writing by doing whatever. In many cases the way they became famous or made $100,000 or more was not in the writing but in selling the classes and workshops.
  • They are not you; you are not them. Even though we are all connected and have many things in common, we are also unique. My writing style is very different from yours. My approach to life and work isn’t the same as yours, nor should it be. If I try to duplicate what you’re doing I’m going to come off wrong, and probably stilted.

In her article, Beware the Gurus and Experts, Lori Widmer points out some additional problems and asks some pointed and valid questions about self-styled writing gurus and about what you’re hoping for.

No writing gurus doesn’t mean no learning from others

It should be obvious I’m not suggesting we can’t learn from others. I wouldn’t keep writing this blog if I believed that. I have a few writers I follow pretty regularly – you’ll find me linking to them when it’s appropriate… and yes, I’ll do a blog post of my favorites… great idea.

From time to time I also pay for a writing webinar or even to hire a coach. I’ve offer both coaching and classes for a fee. Many of the writers I follow and respect also offer coaching and classes. But none of them think of themselves as gurus, nor do I. They demonstrate their writing ability often in blogs. Their sales material doesn’t over promise, or pretend that they are the only ones with answers. They recognize that their truly are no writing gurus – or that everyone can be their own writing guru.

That’s part of what Isabel reminded me of when she spoke about following our own hearts. If we’re willing to look inside deeply to what some call ‘the still small voice,’ we’ll know when we need help and when we can trust our own judgement. We won’t expect or even hope (very much or very often anyway) that someone will save or rescue us. We become willing to step into our own lives in the fullest way possible – and expand from there.

That’s what she wants for everyone and you know what, so do I.

Write well and often,




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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Totally agree. Anyone who tries to tell you they’re the only one who knows something is probably full of what makes the flowers grow. 😉

    And btw I hope you had a very happy Christmas, Anne! 😀
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Happy Christmas and a StoryMy Profile

    • Please accept my late thanks for holiday wishes… and the best of the new year to you, Elizabeth.

  • jorgekafkazar

    I’ve lately read (or attempted to read) a number low-priced, self-published books. Generally, the quality is extremely poor. The authors needed some professional guidance. No, this doesn’t have to be from an expensive “authority,” but surely somebody other than the author and his friends and relatives should have taken a look at the manuscript before publication.

    I’m finishing up a novel I’ve been working on for some time. I don’t plan to use a publisher at this stage, just get copies for reviews and blurbs and test marketing. But I’m going to get a professional to edit it before it goes to press. I’m a competent editor, myself, but, as my mentor used to say, “Every editor needs an editor.”

    • Totally agree and even some editors need editors. This may be the major problem with self-publishing… one of many.

    • Self-publishing has all sorts of problems… editing being one of the most obvious… still it can be a good option if you’ve got the marketing down. Professional editing is a must imo. Totally agree that even editors need editors.

  • Sue Chehrenegar

    I love your suggestion that all writers should “step into” their lives to the greatest degree possible, and then “expand” their skills by starting at that point. If you are writing for the Internet, then that approach is sure to lead to composition of a great article. The trick then will be finding the ideal place to post such an article.

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