Often while playing on twitter (otherwise known as “researching”) I see someone post a piece of writerly advice that is deemed The Truth. This is a nugget of wisdom you MUST follow if you want to sell, succeed and so forth. Half the time I see the advice and think I’d never do what the person says is a requirement. Other times I agree but have a caveat. Most times my reaction is: Oh, if only there were one right way to write a book and run a writing career. Alas, no.
That’s not to say there aren’t authors out there with good ideas and concepts worth thinking about. There are a few publishing people I follow on twitter or visit through blogs because their sentiments seem to mostly match mine. I think that’s really the answer. We gravitate toward folks who are saying what we believe or want to believe.
One of the people I follow is Chuck Wendig and his Terrible Minds blog. He recently gave some advice to aspiring writers. Most of it made me nod in agreement, but I specifically liked these two parts:
Nobody respects writers, yet everybody wants to be one (probably because everybody wants to be one). Point is, you want to be a writer? Good for you. So does that guy. And that girl. And him. And her. And that old dude. And that young broad. And your neighbor. And your mailman. And that chihuahua. And that copy machine. Ahead of you is an ocean of wannabe ink-slaves and word-earners. I don’t say this to daunt you. Or to be dismissive. But you have to differentiate yourself and the way you do that is by doing rather than be pretending. You will climb higher than them on a ladder built from your wordsmithy.
There exists no one way toward becoming a professional writer. You cannot perfectly walk another’s journey. That’s why writing advice is just that — it’s advice. It’s mere suggestion. Might work. Might not. Lots of good ideas out there, but none of it is gospel. One person will tell you this is the path. Another will point the other way and say that is the path. They’re both right for themselves, and they’re both probably wrong for you. We all chart our own course and burn the map afterward. It’s just how it is. If you want to find the way forward, then stop looking for maps and start walking.
I might tack that last part to my office wall because I constantly fight the temptation to compare my career to those of my author friends. I know this is self-defeating and not smart. I know their careers are completely unrelated to my career path. I know all of that and generally have common sense. Still, I lose sight of it and slip into wallowing now and then.
And then there’s his sort of wrap-up point:
Write better today than you did yesterday and better tomorrow than you did today. Onward, fair penmonkey, onward. If you’re not a writer, something will stop you — your own doubts, hate from haters, a bad review, poor time management, a hungry raccoon that nibbles off your fingers, whatever. If you’re a writer, you’ll write. And you’ll never stop to look back.
I’m thinking we all, aspiring or published, can benefit from that one.