Sunday, July 17, 2011

16345--Rong Writing Made Right

Probably the worst writing advice I've ever received was also the weirdest.  Sadly, it came from another writer I met once.  I don't recall his name, my brain cells devoting themselves to processing and making attempts at rationalizing his strange words overwhelmed their normally firm grasp on names.  C'est la vie.

Years later, I'm not sure if his advice was sincere or if this writer I had a brief exchange with one afternoon had it in his heart to sabotage other writers.

It went like this, "Quality writing should be devoid of ego, so after you write something you need to set it aside.  Come back to it the next day and read it fresh.  Anything you like, you need to discard because that has an ego attachment."  I didn't feel like arguing with this guy, so I said, "I see," and let it go at that.  The philosopher in me really could understand the viewpoint.  By that point in Life, I'd been through a lot of martial arts training and spiritual philosophy stuff, so I was more than a little familiar with the concept of divesting oneself of the burdensome ego.

Still, it never sat right with me.  There were a lot of aspects of Life I could see making a case for leaving your ego to warm the bench and I could even see limiting its influence over my writing, but to throw out any thing I liked felt wrong.  How was that any way to assess your own work?  Assuming the work ever even found an audience, how would you ever even connect with them?  "Hi, everyone.  Thanks for buying my book.  Glad you like it, but I don't know why.  What's my favorite part?  I didn't like any of it."  He might as well have told me never to trust my eyes.  How about, "When you cook, taste the food.  Throw out anything that tastes good to you."

Advice like that I could only see resulting in bad cooking and bad writing.  Personally, I'm glad I chose to eat the many chocolate delights I've baked, the many meals I've cooked and to have written the works that I've crafted.  I put a lot of time, energy and attention into all of them because, y'know, practice practice practice.  That's how you get better at anything.  Whether it be culinary arts, martial arts, literary arts or whatever else you choose to dedicate yourself to, open yourself to what you love love love and practice practice practice.

A lot of us learn by doing.  Some only learn by doing wrong.  Either way, can mean a lot of crispy cookies and burned pancakes.  It could mean broken bones and things, depending on your particular passion.  One of the great things about writing is that the practice paving the road of improvement is rewriting which has no limit to the number of times it can be done.  If all goes well, the more you do it, the less you'll have to do it.

That just leaves the other question.  Weigh-in with your thoughts.  Was it sincerely weird advice or sabotage couched as counsel?


  1. Perhaps the writer that shared this advice sincerely believes this. Perhaps it was advice they heard (or misheard) from another "great" writer. Perhaps it was merely a pretentious statement mixed with good and bad advice. Either way, I would consider it sabotage.

  2. So...d) all of the above! Can't argue with that.