If you are writing or thinking about writing, or reading about thinking about starting to write you will, with little trouble, come across a terrifyingly huge amount of advice. It comes in the form of: books, blogs, well-meaning friends, videos, hash-tagged conversations, mime performances, professional organisations and their magazines, software, spam invitations to pay for your own publishing, classes and lessons and courses, videos, strangers who offer up uninvited nuggets of truthiness the moment you mention the w word, author lectures, and worried phone conversations with relatives.
All of them have something to tell you about writing: how to do it right, what to write about, how quill is better than typewriters, while laptops are impossible cos Internet, what won’t sell, why they gave up or never started, and how everything ever has already been written.
So much to say about writing.
Don’t try to take too much of it in.
At least not all at once, you’ll implode and the universe will collapse into some kind of singularity. So I’ve heard. Maybe.
So here’s my anti-advice.
– You don’t have to tell anyone you are writing.
– You don’t need to tell anyone whether you have been published or not.
– You’re not obligated to tell your story to anyone before or while you write the story. Or even after. Some writers believe it takes power from your writing, while others believe people will steal your idea.
– If you don’t want to talk about writing, smile politely and change the topic. Pointing at something and running away might work.
– You don’t need to take or accept anyone else’s advice, unless you want to, or for reasons, must. (Like contractual reasons – just accept editors know how to use apostrophes).
– Don’t let the nay sayers get you down. You don’t need to own the failure or shortfalls of others. You make (and proudly display) your own mistakes:) Or not.
– You make and you own your successes. Don’t let others take them from you either. Stealing your joy should be a crime.
– Write what you want to write. Limiting your writing to ‘what you know’ is bs. Cos how many crime novels are written by criminals – not all of them? How many hours did Barbara Cartland put into working out what would work, ahem, romantically? Did George Lucas or Steven Moffat go into space? Did JRR Tolkien meet Elves and Dragons? Did George RR Martin go back in time to pick up tips on European politics, add some Dire Wolves and that double R thing in a canny marketing move? No. What they did was (and what all authors continue to do is) invent places and times and settings while studying a lot of historical, literary and technical texts to lend consistency to their worlds (give or take a Jar Jar Binks or two).
– It’s ok to write. Really. Go on. I’ve said this before but what you bring is not your idea (because unique ideas are few and far between in this old world). No. What you bring is you. You and your writing voice are unique. Bring. Them.
– It’s ok to fail.
– It’s ok to fail and still not tell anyone.
– It’s ok to be wildly successful and still not discuss it.
– It’s ok to be semi-successful and published but still have a day job because writing doesn’t pay like it once did. And it’s still ok to not discuss it at the water cooler if you don’t want to.
– It’s ok to completely do the opposite of everything I’ve ever done, because I’m not exactly swimming in publishing contracts, while promoting myself as brand….like others seem to have mastered since forever…yet.
– Basically, it’s ok.