Listening to Writing Advice. Or Not.

I think it's a diving boardHow do you know when to reject well-meaning but misguided writing advice, and when to gnaw your knuckles and knuckle under because someone else was given a brief clear glimpse of something you missed in your own work?

I’ve learned the answer to that the long hard way. It’s still more art than science.

Begin by asking yourself a few questions.

Does the advisor understand your goal in writing? Do they understand you? If not, nod and smile and move along.

Do they care about your project, as opposed to simply having a financial or intellectual stake? If they’re offering advice to show you they’re smart, or if it’s a paid position based more on money than mutual trust, that’s a red flag. Nothing wrong with getting paid, but it has to be backed with love.

Do you believe they have the technical expertise to offer this advice? Not “are they smarter than you” but if they say “Make it first person” do they have a clue about why and how? A voracious reader might be as qualified as a writing coach in some instances.

Do they have a history of giving good insightful advice, or just a history of giving lots of advice?

Did you ask for advice, or did they volunteer? Unsolicited advice is probably wrong. Reluctantly supplied advice from a trusted advisor who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings but who gives in to your pestering should get careful consideration.

If you believe they have your best interests at heart and have some level of competence, listen carefully, ask questions, envision outcomes based on your way and their way, and then listen to your gut, your intuition, your unconscious.

Feed your brain all this data, and listen to its answer.

3 thoughts on “Listening to Writing Advice. Or Not.

  1. This is a good post, Joel, a good post.

    I hope lots of folks read it.


  2. That’s the hardest part. Trying to understand when it is just an opinion or a real bit of advice that will either make you or break you.

    Walk away for a few hours (or days) like I did, then come back to the manuscript and make the changes if you really feel it was right.

    I did.

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