The Only Writing Advice

If you’re learning brain surgery, it’s probably a good idea to practice before diving right in. Same goes for auto repair. You don’t want to be hearing later about how you installed those brakes wrong.

But writing isn’t brain surgery, or automobile maintenance, or even tax accounting. In writing, everything in the world you possibly need to know is:

  1. Write.
  2. Think about what you wrote.
  3. Write some more.

Of course, there’s a long journey in those nine words, and no two writer’s paths are going to be the same. But then that’s the point.

There’s not something you’re supposed to be doing. There’s no Ten Tips to Being a Better Writer. Big Name Author’s secret tricks probably won’t apply to you. Writing is not like fixing widgets or excising tumors or trading stock. You don’t have to read the manual first. You don’t even have to wash your hands!

Some advice can be helpful of course. I’m not suggesting you never listen to anyone or that you never lift your head to see what your colleagues are up to. That would be silly.

But advice as such is always faulty — not necessarily wrong or useless, just incomplete. “Tips & Tricks” have about as much use to the professional author as whoopee cushions do to the quantum physicist: at best a diversion, at worst a distraction. And obsession with them is just another form of procrastination.

“I can’t start now. I don’t know how. I have to learn the tools first.”

Bullshit. You coward.

Thing is, you do need to learn the tools. You just don’t need to learn them first.  Yes, in the beginning you’re going to make a bloody mess. But that’s how you learn.

I see a lot of writing advice out there. I even get asked for it sometimes. It seems like those most interested in it are also the ones in the biggest hurry. They are the big, fat SUV of writing, zooming to the end of the narrowing lane to jump ahead of everyone else. Only it doesn’t work that way.

Think of it like this. Writing advice is like diet advice. It even sounds the same.

LOSE TEN POUNDS IN FIVE MINUTES WITH THIS ONE SIMPLE HOLLYWOOD TRICK THE BIG NAMES DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT

Everyone over the age of fifteen knows the requirements for weight loss. It’s not a mystery.

  1. Eat less
  2. Eat healthy
  3. Exercise

The multi-billion-dollar diet industry is built on the basic premise that you can repackage something everybody already knows to make it seem both novel and slightly less painful.

No, no. We’re serious. It really works this time. All you have to do is eat mostly fat/eat mostly protein/fast like a yogi/feast like a caveman/graze like a gazelle.

If any of these programs worked as advertised, they wouldn’t need to keep inventing new ones.

That’s not to say losing weight isn’t damned hard. Of course it is. But every human body is different, and the only way anybody loses weight is by figuring out what works for theirs, which is to say jumping right in, seeing what works, and adjusting as appropriate.

Sound familiar?

So you want to be a writer. Do you want to write as a hobby, or do you want to be a professional? Do you want to write a genre bestseller, or do you want to craft literary masterpieces that make readers wet their shorts?

Doesn’t matter. The path is the same:

  • Write.
  • Critically evaluate what you wrote, preferably based on feedback.
  • Write some more.

Then repeat forever.

Now, for fuck’s sake, stop reading this bullshit and get back to work.

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