I would say I hate writing advice, but my mother always advised, ‘hate is a strong word, you strongly dislike’. Which I guess is as close to writing advice that I’ve actually liked.
So what do I mean by writing advice? I’ve taken whole classes on the subject, read books, I try to keep on the bleeding edge of a field whose winners have just as often never finished college. But on the internet, when you travel circles for writers, there is an almost religious level of feel good quotes and deepities.
I understand, when you are trying to write, especially as an amateur like me, you want nothing but positive reinforcement. You want to see quotes telling you that you can do it, if you just keep it up. Write one page more, stay up late once more, and surely you will suddenly be Stephen King.
That’s cruel, they don’t promise all of that… explicitly.
It only gets worse when they go to voices of authority. You quote writers that people read, and suddenly whatever comes out of their mouths, no matter how much luck or networking helped them make it, is a wave of gold-plated butterflies to make your writing superior. J.K. Rowling says to write a world you wish you lived in. Orson Scott Card says to create and create, then wait until the details make sense. James Patterson says that the most important rule of writing, is to believe what you are writing. I just made all of those up, right now. Sounded real didn’t they?
Now none of that advice is inherently bad, and that isn’t why I strongly dislike (read: hate) them. The problem is that it gets into me. I look, maybe just a headline, and just that fast I absorb the advice into the anxiety center of my brain. That swelling section of my head doesn’t need any help.
Instead of doing my own thing, which I consider at least partially functional, maybe, sometimes, I start wondering WWOSCD? (What would Orson Scott Card Do).
Just yesterday I saw a headline, “Neil Gaiman to Aspiring Writers: If you only write when you’re inspired you’ll never be a novelist.” That wasn’t even the proper headline of the article, it was just the link, which was a paraphrase of what Neil said. Regardless, I found myself repeating those words, word for word, when I didn’t feel like writing one day. As if a floppy haired British ghost had snuck into my body at the crack of dawn.
Screw you Neil Gaiman, you and your fantastic writing of dreamlike realities. I will forge my own path, find my own way to successful writing. Most importantly, when I do want your advice, and dangit I do, I will come to you for it. In the meantime, stay out of my brain, dickhole.