Friday, October 21, 2016

Most Writing Advice Sucks

The original purpose of this blog was to catalog a journey from the cubical farm to the easy life of a career writer.  It seemed like a legitimate purpose for a blog, a way to take constant stock of my writing progress, and maybe give a little something back to the writing community.  Over time, I've slowly come to a couple of important conclusions.

The easy one is a variation on the theme of, "Don't take financial tips from a broke guy."  As a guy just out of the starting blocks, there's not a whole lot I can tell writers that they can't find from far more credible sources elsewhere.  So there isn't much writing advice here.  It's mainly thoughts and commentary directed towards media, with a focus on pimping the high quality independent works that don't get the attention they deserve. 

Some day I hope to be a Pulp Revolution hipster that was there before it was cool.

The major conclusion I've reached about the culture of writers is that most writing communities are terrible places.  They are filled with pretentious people who aren't half as clever as they think.  They were probably in the top two percent of the smartest kids in their small town class, and never graduated from Dunning-Kruger University.  That doesn't stop them from presenting long lists of copied and recopied "No Shit Sherlock" advice about reading what you like, finding a quiet place to write, and just writing already. 

The inspirational advice that grinds my gears the most is the accurate but over-used idea that you should only write if you can't not write.  For a couple of reasons:
  1. When somebody comes to you asking for help with something, telling them not to do that thing if they don't have to smacks of self-serving condescension.  If you don't want the competition, don't offer advice to help the competition.
  2. It doesn't offer any real guidance or path forward.
  3. It isn't consistent with the advice that normally accompanies the phrase.
Specifically, regarding the last point, when that phrase is used in the opening of an article that lays  out the ground work for a detailed, step-by-step process by which you, yes you, can earn enough from your writing to earn a living.  It happens all the time, and frankly, if you can't come up with a more creative way of writing your advice than the hundred and first iteration of, "Don't, but if you must, try this," then maybe creativity isn't your strong suit, and just maybe creative writing isn't the field for you.

Look, I get it.  It's nice to be paid for your writing.  The knowledge that a stranger would sacrifice a bit of his time or cash to partake of the sweet honey of your writing is both financially and emotionally rewarding.  But if you really believe that you write because you can't not write, then why are you stressing out about how to write full time?

I got a list of hobbies as long as my arm that earning a living from would be a dream come true.  Of course, the market for people who sing bass in a barbershop quartet is limited, so that's right out the window.  As it is DMing old school D&D, or pushing cardboard chits around a hex map, or running a lot of ten minute miles in a row without stopping, or playing video games ten years past their prime.  These are all things, just like writing, that I can't not do, so I just do them anyway.  I do them for the sheer pleasure they bring.  Just like writing.

You can't claim to be a writer who writes because he can't not write, and claim that you don't write because you can't make enough money at it.  That makes no sense.  If you want to be a writer, go  write already.

Let me conclude with some writing advice written by an underappreciated master, by way of Two Gun Bob at Two Gun Blog:

Go forth and multiply those words.


  1. There are a lot of experts out there, most of whom have a handful of set rules, usually negative in nature (never use adverbs, never use the passive voice, never use "said" or never use anything other than "said") and who just love to jump in with both feet and tell you everything that you're doing wrong. I avoid such people when I can, and ignore them when they are unavoidable.

    However, I have found writers who support each other rather than tearing each other down.

  2. A good post; I consider the advice I get, but I tailor it to my own circumstances. It's really the best I can do since there's no royal road to success.