Best Writing Advice Ever
I had a discussion with a writer friend of mine. We tend to be polar opposites in many ways and the pursuit of writing is no different. We both have the big dream, publishing regularly and successfully enough to kick the dreaded day job to the curb. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.
Our main point of contention is whether or not reading books on craft is really worth the effort. My answer is an enthusiastic yes. Hers is a skeptical not so much. She gave me the side eye when I told her that I read craft books so that I know what I’m doing. She argued that those same books hinder creativity.
I can see her point. There are so many writing rules that one can become overwhelmed. And then there is that tendency to accept all those rules as absolutes (which they aren’t). Or the desire to adopt some expert’s writing process because it worked for them. They made x amount of dollars doing it that way. It should work for me too. Right? Right?
Pitfalls, yes, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. How much creativity does one need to suck at writing? Or to be mediocre? Creativity cannot be short-circuited by studying actual technique. It can only be enhanced by it. All the imagination and creativity in the world is useless without the skill to effectively tell a story.
When I was pursuing an MFA, one of my professors told me to “stop resting on talent, and study your craft.” I hated her for it at the time. I felt picked on, but now I know better. It was the most sincere and most useful writing advice I’ve gotten to date. It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to be creative. It’s a publishing jungle out there!
Talent+ Creativity-Skill= A Short-lived writing career (if it ever gets off the ground)
Sure, there are other ways to learn craft. However, there are few that are so readily available , fewer as cheap (break out your library card), and none so adaptable to your own pace. I’m lazy. I don’t want to spend hours toiling away, trying to figure out on my own what I could have learned easily from picking up a book or two. I’m grateful for the kick in pants that professor gave me. Otherwise, I’d still be clinging to my delusions of grandeur.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?