A Bit of Advice

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When it comes to writing, everyone has their two cents which they are more than happy to give you. People who haven’t written anything creative since the ninth grade when they were forced to by their World Literature teacher will be telling what you should or shouldn’t do and how you should do it.

Since I started writing about seven years ago, I’ve done plenty of research. I’ve read article after article, books, magazines, anything from Writer’s Digest to personal blogs from successful authors. I took it all in. What did I find out? Well,

1) everyone has an opinion

2) the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I believe people on the internet are actually trying to help, I really do, but let’s be honest, no matter what subject we’re talking about, there is a ton of bad advice out there.

The problem with giving advice is that people tend to think if it works for them, it will work for everyone. Unfortunately that is not the case. Even published authors sometimes get set in their own ways, not realizing there is more than one way to write a successful story.

Here’s the thing. There’s good advice out there. But just because it’s good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. So how you do know whether or not the advice is worth taking.

I say give everything a try, as long as it doesn’t blunt your creativity. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it won’t. In seven years I’ve have a lot of failed experiments which I learned from, until I found a method comfortable for me. I’m far from knowing everything there is to writing and am always seeking out advice, but I can say that I’ve learned to take everything with a grain of salt.

Sometimes people are wrong. And that’s it. But you shouldn’t blow off the advice you get because many times it will be helpful. Just don’t take it as gospel.

So what is “good advice”?

Good advice is anything that will help you grow. Sometimes it’s not meant for you, because your a unique individual with your own style, but it’s good to try out the different techniques. Good advice will tell you what you can do, how to do it, and still leave room for you to put your own spin on it. Good advice wants you to be the best you that you can be.

Bad advice will probably give you a list of things not to do, never allow you to expand, and will over complicate everything in your life. For example, I read an article that named all the ways you shouldn’t begin a story. The reason I say it was bad advice was not only because it was subjective (based on the writer’s own person preferences) but because it was so extensive that if left you with virtual only one way to begin a story- the same kind of beginning they used in their book.

Imagine that.

How do I find good advice?

Read. Read. Read.

When you’re done reading, try.

Try. Try. Try.

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Play around with the different methods and techniques. Try it out a bit here and there. But don’t let anyone take your story and turn it into their own. You’re the author. You have your style and they have theirs. And that’s good. If not the world would be boring.

Just remember when you’re given some advice to keep in mind that person is probably trying to help. Try not to get defensive or dismiss everything they say, you’ll miss a lot of good advice that way. However, don’t take everything too seriously. You’ll find what works for you. Until then, don’t be afraid to try (and fail). You’ll learn a lot from the experience and you might even have a bit of fun on the way.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own

Bruce Lee

My Three Biggest Struggles When Writing

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We all have those things that grate at us. Those obstacles that inconvenience our greatest of ambitions.

It may come as a shock to all of you reading this, but I too am only human and thus am not above such disadvantages.

As a person born into the human race, I’m already designated my own sets of flaws and those flaws can create impediments in my life both emotionally, physically, and mentally. This is normal. This is what we all go through. However, when I started writing, I realized I had a whole new set of struggles and problems that I didn’t even know existed until I took up this gig.

1: Distractions

I did pretty good in school, up until maybe tenth grade when I started failing in math. But most other subjects I aced and excelled and never had a problem paying attention or focusing on my studies. So it came as a surprise to me now that I’m an adult and trying to start a career in writing just how distracted I get by everything.

The internet has been no aid to me in this endeavor mind you. An endless plethora of information and activity, you could easily lose yourself for hours. One minute it’s 9 am and you’re just briefly checking your Twitter feed and the next minute it’s 6 pm and you’re watching a YouTube tutorial on how to make a paper hat.

I know. I’m weak.

But I’m happy to say I’ve learned to deal with this through scheduling and taking notes. To avoid the chance of being distracted, I write down on a sticky note what it is I need to research. I then continue on as far as I can with my story. I have set times for when I write and a set time for research. Once I reach my word count goal, I then pick up my notes and do the needed research.

As for outside distractions, I usually play some classical music to drown out any noises and sit in my writing place. If the distractions are still to much, it must not be in the cards today and I go find a cave to meditate in for three weeks.

2: Self-Doubt

This is something that I know we all have from time to time. Unfortunately it can be a real problem for me as it steals my motivation. I question my self, my abilities, and everything I’ve ever known.

I can’t say there is a “cure” for this. Or at least, I can’t say I found it. Self-doubt lingers there and comes up at the worst times, but when it comes, I have discovered methods for fighting it.

First, I read. Looking at the works of others gives me inspiration. I feel more confident knowing these people were all once where I was- unpublished, unknown, and probably really confused.

Second, I keep a list of my goals. When I start to feel uncertain, I reread that to myself. It keeps me on point, reminding me what I should be focused on, and what it is I’m striving for.

3: Overload

I have trouble sleeping. No matter how hard I work physically my brain goes and goes and goes nonstop, which tends to keep me up late. I’m always thinking about what I could do, what I should do, recalling bits of information I heard here and there, and forming ideas for stories, art, or whatever it is I’m currently dealing with in life. I tend to find myself multitasking on various projects, sometimes even working on editing one story while writing two or three others. I keep going and going until eventually my mind get’s so overworked that I throw my hands in the air and find myself binge watching TV just to get my brain to turn off.

Obviously, not a healthy lifestyle.

However, as of late, I’ve been doing much better thanks to the power of scheduling. Routines may sound boring, but trust me, if you have a mind that tends to impatiently overwork itself then a schedule is your best friend.

Whenever I get a new idea, I write it down. I put it in my binder where I keep all my writing stuff and I go back to what I was previously working. I plan at the beginning of the week which story I’m going to be working on and a set a word count or amount of time for each day.

Trust me; organization is key. You might not like it at first, you might rather roll with it and have a billion and ten excuses why you can’t adhere to a schedule, but trust me, it makes life easier.

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So there you go. My top three biggest struggles as a writer. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have other ways of coping that work better for you. Or maybe you have other obstacles you face. Feel free to tell me all about it in the comment section. Maybe we can all help each other.

If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.

Rob Liano