This is another question that came in from the Newsletter. If you want your questions answered in a post, you can ask them on the Newsletter and I’ll do my best to answer them as thoroughly as possible.
This question is from Lael Braday:
“My struggle with writing is being distracted by all the so called ‘common wisdom’.”
Alright, less a question than just a statement of struggle, but it’s perfect for a Friday rant!
Let me start off by saying that writing advice (in all its forms) is pretty much bullshit. Yes, you read that right. Writing advice is bullshit and you’re probably better off ignoring it.
I don’t mean that you should ignore basics like “use good grammar” or something like that. I mean the rest of it. It’s all a bunch of crap that you really don’t need to listen to.
Writing advice is just that. Advice. Yet so many people swear by certain bits of advice they’ve picked up from others to the point that it sounds like a solid rule.
Advice is just what one individual (or more) thinks is the best course of action in any given scenario. It isn’t a golden rule. It isn’t something you should live your life by just because a lot of people believe it.
You shouldn’t follow the common wisdom just because it’s common wisdom.
Like all ideas, it needs to be able to stand on its own merits and not just because many other people believe it. The appeal to popularity and appeal to authority are logical fallacies and should be avoided whenever possible.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
‘Fair enough,’ I hear you say. ‘But what about you? You not only follow writing advice, but you give it too. Why should we still listen to you?’
There is no reason why you should listen to me. You can listen to what I have to say if you want to, but there is no should. If you think my advice is a bunch of crap, then kick it to the curb.
This might sound very hypocritical, and confusing, but the point that I’m trying to make is this:
Common wisdom should not be followed because it’s common wisdom. It should be followed because you tried it and it worked for you. It should be followed because it makes sense and because it is something that can actually help you.
I follow and give advice that works for me. It might not always work for you. It’s your job to sort the good from the bad.
Advice given by myself and all other people are just a culmination of opinions and life experience. If you can recognize that before taking any advice, you’re already halfway there.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Question all the advice. If you’re becoming distracted by all the common wisdom or advice out there, then take a step back and use only what you know works for you or what makes sense to you.
Feel free to experiment of course, but don’t get so distracted by the different kinds of advice out there that you never get any writing done.
Writing advice is bullshit not because the advice itself is bad, but because the motives and methods to following it are misguided.
Follow advice because it works for you. Follow advice because you know it’s good. Anything else is just, well, bullshit and should probably get ignored.
Follow your own artistic path.
What do you think of following common wisdom?
Let me know in the comments below!
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