The Value of Writing Advice

You’ve probably read a metric ton of articles, books, blogs, stone tablets, semi-fore flailing’s, about how to write. Or maybe this is the first article on the subject you’ve come across.

Which would be weird.

Anyway, I have a degree in English, Creative Writing focus from one of the top Engineering schools in the country. I don’t say that to disparage my school or its writing program.

But it doesn’t often elicit assured nods and mutters of approval when I talk about it. This is why I almost never bring it up. Another, more important reason, is I don’t get out much.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading up on how to write. Consistent study of my craft is something I’ve put off for a long time. Here and there I would indulge in an attempt to “be a writer” and typically I’d stop. Maybe it was because photography had cooler toys. Or a podcast was more collaborative. Or improv comedy was more fun.

Time and time again I would do something else, anything really, rather than write. These past two months I’ve tried once again to write. My biggest fear is I’m only able to do that because I’m unemployed. Yes, that’s right, two months of regular writing is not enough to break into a world of riches and rocket ships. Is that what wealthy people buy nowadays?

Rocket ships?

I’ve also done a lot of studying about how to write. Mostly about how to write quality marketing copy and such. You know, riveting stuff. Important to be sure if you’ve got a six rocket ship a month habit. But these are just a bunch of new rules to learn. In school, I learned the rules of fiction, now I’m learning non-fiction, web based writing.

Plus, books on these subjects are more numerous. For some reason.

I wouldn’t call it advice though. Telling you to keep paragraphs to four sentences or less is more a guideline than advice. I think the issue with writing is that since it’s all subjective, telling you how to do something can easily be framed as advice. Take it or leave it. A lot of writing advice out there seems more like adding tools to a toolbox rather than teaching you how to use them.

Well, they tell you how to use them. However, showing you how to change the oil is different than learning how to become a mechanic.

With photography, for example, it’s easy to get hung up on the gear and figuring out how each number changes the result. Raise your ISO to make it brighter. Slow down the shutter to make it blurry. Spend several thousand dollars on a lens you’ll use once.

And so on.

One of my favorite purveyors of writing advice is Chuck Wendig, who talks about being a writer as someone who digs a tunnel. Once you break through to the other side of success you blow it up with dynamite behind you. So, no one can follow you, of course. Because fuck those people.

The point is you make your own path. It’s hard work and it’s not like you want to blow up the tunnel. You have to because there are dark things chasing you. There’s no choice. Everyone has their own reasons and their own methods.

The key is not giving up and letting the monsters catch you.

Which is good advice. Real advice, not just how many words should be in your title.

My personal advice is rather simple. Just write more. Doesn’t matter what or how much. People will ignore you until you give them a reason to stop what they’re doing and pay attention. You can’t really predict how that will happen.

Or if it even will.

The only thing you can control is the output. Maybe nothing will come of it. That’s how I feel about the whole thing now. But I’ll keep writing.

Write more. That’s my advice. Let me know how it works out.