You are not alone.
You ever notice how often that phrase pops up in commercials? Do you ever feel a little creeped out by it? Maybe you look around the house to make sure that there’s no one there with you. Well if you do, then you are not alone.
But all silliness aside, as a writer you really aren’t alone. There are hundreds and thousands of other writers out there, from all different levels of the skill spectrum, and many of them are eager and willing to help you out on your journey toward the fun and lucrative world of being a published author.
This is a good thing. Sometimes.
But sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are lots of great people out there with tons of knowledge, and lots of great advice to give out. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they know all the mistakes you’re going to make if you’re not careful. You’d be a fool to ignore them.
Except sometimes their advice doesn’t work for you. And sometimes it might actually contradict other advice you’re getting from equally credible sources.
This is something I’ve thought about quite a bit recently because it happened to me in a big way. Let me explain.
I started blogging seriously solely because of the influence of one Kristen Lamb, media expert and all around awesome person. Her blog is an invaluable resource on how to leverage social media as an author, as well as having great tips on plotting and structure.
(Also she has a book entitled We Are Not Alone. How’s that for your freaky coincidence?)
She encourages writers to do things like start a regular blog, get on Twitter and Facebook, and for the love of Bob use your writing name wherever you can.
As you may be able to tell, I’ve taken most of her advice to heart. But one of her bits of social media wisdom is this: Blog about what you write about.
You may be noticing that I am in fact blogging about writing. I do not write about writing. Except now. Which doesn’t count.
But I didn’t make the choice to pass on that particular piece of advice at a whim. I went through a process of thought and introspection which I’ve boiled down into three steps.
If someone’s giving you advice you’re not sure about maybe this will help.
This is very important. Sometimes a piece of advice might not be for you, but if you dismiss it out-of-hand then you’re doing yourself a disservice. At least give the person the benefit of the doubt that they’re not just blowing smoke. They want to help you. Don’t ever ignore that.
When I first read Kristen Lamb’s advice, I didn’t just snort and say, “Well that’s stupid. I’m not doing that.” I listened. I gave the idea room to take root in my mind.
Now that you’ve got the bit of advice in your head, mull it over, do your best to understand it. If you can, try to incorporate it into your process. Even if it doesn’t feel natural at first, give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you try to understand why it doesn’t work. There may be some deeper kernel of truth within the advice that may be able to benefit you.
“Blog about what you write about” is really a great piece of advice. Kristen’s deeper point is this: we need to connect with our potential readers not just other writers. And that’s something I’ve tried to keep in mind as I’ve slowly expanded my writer’s platform.
Because hey, you can really do whatever you want to do. Ignoring advice isn’t wrong. If it doesn’t work for you then fine. If it does work for you and improves your craft, even better.
Obviously, I decided not to follow Kristen’s advice. I made my decision mostly because it’s hard to blog on topic when your work-in-progress is a horror story about a monster mulch pile.
I’m gonna talk about what? Organic gardening?
But for someone writing a more conventional genre, say legal thrillers, blogging on topic could be a fantastic opportunity to connect with readers.
The bottom line is that one size does not fit all. You need balance. You shouldn’t reject advice simply because you don’t feel like doing it. But neither should you feel obligated to go on following advice that just isn’t working out for you. You have to use wisdom and discernment, and consider which path is best for you.
And that’s my advice. You know what to do with it.