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The Worst Advice I Ever Received About Writing

worst adviceThe worst advice I’ve ever received about writing was and occasionally still is “don’t.”

You probably recognize most of these – any one of which could qualify as the worst advice:

  • Don’t count on writing paying the bills
  • You need a regular job
  • Writing is so insecure
  • You’ll never make any money writing

The list could go on.

Nay-sayers give the worst advice

Nay-sayers give the worst advice, always telling people that whatever their idea is it’s no good. However, those who always discourage people are pretty up front – their pessimism for themselves and others is straight forward. If your Uncle Joe is a true nay-sayer he’s always going to say don’t do it, whatever it is. Saying you want to be a writer is bound to elicit his worst advice. One way or another he’ll tell you don’t risk it.

Covert nay-sayers are more dangerous

There’s another type that may give the absolute worst advice, and that’s someone who covertly tells you you shouldn’t pursue your dream of writing. They won’t nay-say directly, but instead will try to divert you from your dream by telling you how someone was hugely successful in, for example, some sort of corporate job. Or they will tell you how someone failed at some other creative career, like dancing or pottery. Either way, they are saying no to your dream and trying to enroll in their vision of the world.

Many who give you the worst advice will, if you ask, tell you they’re doing it for your own good, or because they don’t want you to get hurt, or other such nonsense. I call it nonsense because in my experience the people who have discouraged me from my dreams, and many have tried over time, aren’t being totally honest with themselves. Sure, at some level they’d like to see you succeed, but probably even more important to them, at least unconsciously, is that your pursuit of your dream says something profound about them. Becoming a writer or pursuing a dream is a direct challenge to some to dare to find and work toward their dreams, and they don’t like it one bit. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay attention to them – and when you are successful, the chances are they will tell you they always knew you could do it.

Listen to the encouragers

There will be people in your life who will encourage you. Those are the one’s to listen to. Even if they don’t know the ins and outs of writing, and sometimes their advice will leave something to be desired, they are truly on your side. Over time I’ve gotten rid of the nay-sayers in favor of the encouragers. It’s worth doing.

If you don’t have encouragers, go find some. Writer’s groups are one place you might find some. Even a class on creative or other kind of writing may lead you to people who know would rather cheer you on than tell you it can’t be done.

Here’s the best advice I can think to give you if you are a writer or want to be one: write, and rewrite and write some more. Go for it.

Which is why I say over and over again,

Write well (it’s a learnable skill) and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • There’s a saying that goes something like this: People who say it can’t be done are usually passed by somebody doing it. Terrific article, Anne, and it reminds people of their value.
    Laurence Pollwade recently posted..Greetings to all my readers.My Profile

  • One of the worst cliches came courtesy of my aunt who said – loudly, and at a crowded dinner party, while she was three sheets to the wind, “Write what you know.”

    How boring would that be? I’d rather learn about new things than write about what little I actually know. I’d rather interview experts and fall into rabbit holes researching new topics, places, and things that fascinate me than only write about what I know.

    Unless you’re a subject matter expert, why not write about what you WANT to know? Or better yet, use your imagination, and flesh out the details through research.
    Paula Hendrickson recently posted..How Transcribing Interviews Can Improve Your Ear for DialogueMy Profile

    • Paula, as you know, I totally applaud you and this approach. You’re the one who taught me that writing what I want to learn about was something I did automatically, without ever articulating what I was doing. Thanks!

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