31 Comments

Oh, that's easy. A memoir writer I so admired, who I'd traveled hours to see at a writers conference, mocked me when I asked about how to find through-lines through a series of essays. She told me not to look, to just write, but in a way that really made fun of me in front of a room full of writers. I've never read her work since.

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author

Oh dear!

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That’s awful. There’s no excuse for making fun of anyone like this, especially someone asking a writing-related question at a writing conference.

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3Liked by Jennie Nash

"Write every day. " Not so much *bad* advice as annoying, unrealistic, and sort of blindly priveleged. Whether it's because of work, family obligations, illness, grief, depression, tornadoes or whatever else, it's just not always possible to write every day, and nobody should feel guilty because they can't.

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author

I so agree with this one! I have never written every day -- and have published 12 books and a whole lot of courses for writers.

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I was going to write exactly that! It might be good advice for some people in some seasons, but it’s also a recipe for guilt and avoidance.

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"Write every day at the same time". Do I look like a human Dictaphone?

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This

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All I ever wanted to do was write. Someone told me not to major in English in college or aspire to an MFA, as I would be writing essays no matter what my major was. They said English was a "useless" course of study. It turns out that Theology and Religious Studies is, in fact, a good deal more useless. Now I am reading all things Writing Craft, taking courses and workshops, and hungrily gobbling up all the novels I wish I'd read in those missing college lit classes.

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From what I see every day in my community of book coaches, you are NOT ALONE. So many people come back to their love of story and ideas and words later in life after spending time in careers that didn't feed them. It's a fascinating reality. It sounds like you're having fun! I love that!

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Jun 3Liked by Jennie Nash

You will never publish this book. Reader -- I traditionally published in 2021

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"You're 24. You don't know enough to write yet." I mean, in a way it was true. And a grand excuse not to sit down and write for many years. Then again, I've been writing about the same themes for my entire life, just different backdrops.

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Jun 3Liked by Sarina B., Jennie Nash

That old shibboleth, "Write what you know." Research is the best part of the process for me.

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author

So true!

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author

Totally!

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whenever you tell someone what you're doing and they just tell you it's a bad idea that will never sell.

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The worst is when it is me telling myself that ;-)

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don't listen!

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Anything that elevates mere production (like daily word count goals) over having something meaningful to say. To me, that's like preaching the virtues of shoveling dirt without a purpose, even if it's just to make a ditch. After all, ditches have purpose.

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author

Oh that's a very good one!

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Strange as it seems I can't think of a time when I got bad advice. My teachers have been understanding and respectful and above all encouraging. Write what you know. Bop

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I don't have an anecdote; I just wanted to say that the comments here are really reinforcing something I've learned as a parent of a creative kid who wants to pursue the arts. I present the concerns (steady income, hours of practice, the time and effort needed for auditions/demos/submissions, the thick skin needed for rejection letters, etc., etc.) but I do it matter-of-factly. I present the concerns as a heads-up from a fellow artist (a musician, in my case) and not as an attempt to discourage them. "If you're willing to put in the work, it can be really gratifying. Here's something to keep in mind..."

Anyhow, I appreciated all the stories shared here. They're a reminder to present things in a positive way, and to be kind.

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When you’re a young college student who wants to write fiction and your writing professor tells you maybe you should go with ‘new journalism’ (the creative nonfiction of its day). What a setback… Moral of the story: Listen to what ‘the experts’ have to say, but at the end of the day, trust your voice.

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When are you going to switch over from memoir to fiction?

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Follow the rules.

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author

Wait -- there are rules???

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"Don't spend that much time editing, give it one go, and then ship it." 👀

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“You can’t make a living as a writer; become a lawyer instead.”

I became a K - 12 Reading Specialist and wrote the material .

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“Don’t quit your day job” from an editor as a response to one of the first pieces I ever submitted to a magazine. Ten years later I did quit my day job to write full-time, I’ve landed bylines in places I never dreamed of seeing my name, but I’ve never forgotten that editor’s response.

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Don't edit while you write. While some people can do this, I write with word processing software so I can write in sentences with all the elements (you know, those subjects objects, and those pesky things-oh, yes verbs). I create meaningless drivel and not sentences that follow other sentences if I don't edit my text as I go along, complete with an edit pass to see if I'm writing something I like or simply not writing stories in scenes. Without editing as I go, nothing I write is a draft that can be edited into something useful. I've gotten shit tons of useless and bad writing advice, but the not-edit thing is the one that would mean I'd never have produced 8 published books since I first published at 67 years old in 2019. -tc

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author

Wow -- you're on a roll!

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