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What was one of the worst writing advices you ever got? (1 Viewer)

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The Green Shield

WF Veterans
^ Thread title


Mine was, "Don't write xyz because someone could be looking over your shoulder and might get upset about it." Probably did a number on my creativity.
 

Kehlida

Senior Member
"Just write when you feel inspired."

It sounded good, but it had me producing one or two pieces a month if I was lucky. Yes, some of my best work has come that way but it's unreliable. Plus, you become a doormat to writer's block.

I've found having a consistent schedule for writing (regardless of what it is,) reading, and studying has given me a more free-flowing source of creativity. It basically trains your brain.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I've been point-blank advised to stop writing and do something else instead...by someone who had offered to 'mentor' me back when I started.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I've been point-blank advised to stop writing and do something else instead...by someone who had offered to 'mentor' me back when I started.

Wow - hopefully you've cut that negativity out of your life.

Worst: English professor - don't read ca-ca, stick with great literature.
Best: (another) English professor - when you get stuck while writing, stop, then write one sentence that is the truth of what you're describing. Quit messing around and just tell the f**king truth.

Before I got bummed out by Foxee's post I was going to say the worst advice was:
Wow, you're lived an interesting life, you should write a book.
That's the worst because now I'm addicted to it.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Immediately. I always wished there was a way to keep other new writers from getting trapped by that person, though. She even went by a username that invited trust.

LOL, sorry.

I think that people often lay their own insecurities on us. Our stories are important, they are the greatest gift we can give to the world.
[h=1]“Our stories are all we have. The only thing that can save us is to learn each other's stories. From beginning to end....For every life we know, we are expanded.” Karen Fisher[/h]
 

karimali

Member
How Reading Impacts on our psychological part?

Reading in itself is means to listen to someone and to learn from someone's experience.

But have you ever think about this habit? How it impacts on your mind?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Bad advice: "Only write about the things you know."

What's the point of writing if not to try learning new things?

It's correct with a caveat. There is no reason why we can't be ignorant of a subject, decide to write about it, but educate ourselves before, or in the process of, writing. I've read material written by people who knew absolutely nothing about their subject. A reader rolling his eyes in disgust and terminating any further contact with any work by that author was probably not the experience the author anticipated.
 
It's correct with a caveat. There is no reason why we can't be ignorant of a subject, decide to write about it, but educate ourselves before, or in the process of, writing. I've read material written by people who knew absolutely nothing about their subject. A reader rolling his eyes in disgust and terminating any further contact with any work by that author was probably not the experience the author anticipated.

Well ... I think "write what you know" is a limited view. I know I, at least, often interpreted it as meaning that writing had to be autobiographical or semi-autobiographical, which is one of the things that may have subconsciously pushed me away from writing, at least as a kid. I mean, when you're a young writer, think 12, 13 years old, you're going to interpret "write what you know" quite literally. Which pushed me away, because what I was good at was poetry, and I generally dislike writing and reading autobiographical poetry, tbh, unless it's very very good or there's a mythical edge to the events. Anyways, I only started really getting into and enjoying writing when I stopped trying to write what I knew and started writing what I would like to read. I think that's a better approach because then you'll still be motivated to do research (if need be), because of course you would want to read something accurate to its subject.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Well ... I think "write what you know" is a limited view. I know I, at least, often interpreted it as meaning that writing had to be autobiographical or semi-autobiographical, which is one of the things that may have subconsciously pushed me away from writing, at least as a kid. I mean, when you're a young writer, think 12, 13 years old, you're going to interpret "write what you know" quite literally. Which pushed me away, because what I was good at was poetry, and I generally dislike writing and reading autobiographical poetry, tbh, unless it's very very good or there's a mythical edge to the events. Anyways, I only started really getting into and enjoying writing when I stopped trying to write what I knew and started writing what I would like to read. I think that's a better approach because then you'll still be motivated to do research (if need be), because of course you would want to read something accurate to its subject.

You're correct, "Write what you know" is often taken too literally. Here's a great series of notes by 31 authors on the subject. Your comment is in step with most of them.

https://lithub.com/should-you-write-what-you-know-31-authors-weigh-in/
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
"Only write about the things you know."?
If you drop the "only" and say "Write what you know" it's reasonable advice to give. This should be a suggestion to help someone not a rule to hem them in. Of course there is plenty of room to research and learn things and then write about them. Of course, it can be argued that at that point you have learned and now know those things so...

But I've always looked at this as a suggestion given to someone who is asking "How do I get started?" and "What should I write about?"
 

Matchu

Senior Member
‘Write what you know!’ is plaintive, and the kick-start guidance cry aimed toward our bashful, shy, self-conscious ‘creative writers.’ Words of the tutor when confronted with students who say ‘I want to write, but what am I going to...blah blah blah..write about...where to start? Nobody wants to know about a poultry processor and his comic collection.’

‘Yes they do, get started,’ says the tutor, and the poultry processor pens some elegant ‘day in the life’ write prize winner.

Sadly, afterward the new author gains confidence, and embarks upon science fiction writing crimes - an unrelated issue.

[apols for text post, on night shift]
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Oh god, 'write what you know' -- the most consistently misunderstood advice ever given.

Yeah, you have to write what you know. Otherwise you will make mistakes and, eventually, those mistakes will throw the reader out of the story. It's not complicated. It happens all the time. The road to failure is lined with writers who attempted to write about things they had no clue about.

For some reason, people frequently treat the sentiment as some kind of slight, hear it in the words of some snooty academic "you aren't good enough". But that isn't what it's about. For one thing, nobody ever considers what 'know' might actually mean in this context: That it can be relative, a matter of persuasion and confidence rather than spewing of fact. Fiction does not operate on fact but on belief -- that's why it is fiction.

You don't have to have been to China to write a story set in China. What you DO have to do, is convince the reader that you know about life in China sufficiently that they will believe your account of life in China. How you get there is up to you. Whether it's through living and traveling in China, extensive book research, or just some high quality imaginative bullshitting, it really doesn't matter what route you take to achieving an illusion of 'knowing' the subject. It only matters whether the reader believes you.

'Write what you know' is simply a reminder, nothing more, that the proof is in the pudding, that it is incumbent on you the author to persuade us, your readers, that you know things and aren't just wasting our time.
 

epimetheus

Friends of WF
I always took write what you know to refer more to the emotional experience of something, and less the technical details. In other words you can get technical details wrong, as long as they're consistent within the story, and most people will not notice or care. But get the emotional cadence wrong and it jars.


Anyway, my worst advice was from a careers teacher (writing or otherwise i think). After flicking through some book and telling me there were currently no jobs in science she asked me what else interested me.
Writing.
Oh, there's no jobs there either. Why don't you pick something else?
 
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