How to Ignore Perfectly Good Advice in Three Easy Steps

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.

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.

1. Listen

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.

2. Think

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.

3. Decide

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.

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21 responses to “How to Ignore Perfectly Good Advice in Three Easy Steps

  1. “Blog about what you write about.” Sage advice. I started blogging last August. I determined it would be a writer’s blog. Not till a month of two ago did I realize I was blogging about what I write about – the people and landscape of my home base. I acknowledged that in my blog, particularly on my “About Page”.
    My pet peeve – people who blog about the angst of their writing lives. We’ve all been there, done that. Why burden us with that?
    As for your other key point – advice: giving it and taking it. I recently incorporated a regular feature where I give it (RESTORE BY NUMBERS) because I love teaching. Teaching is my background. In teaching something, I have to become qualified on that thing first. So it’s a great motivation to learn – and to take others’ advice.

  2. Nice post! I don’t mind advice except I’m Ceylonese and I have Ceylonese neighbours and family friends and relatives – which sometimes isn’t really a good thing.
    Give me advice that doesn’t sound like you being a self righteous pug (no offence to pugs, I think pugs are adorable!) – things like advice on marriage, advice on why you need to ignore the fact your husband is being an arse and so on and so forth 😉

    I’m very happy you are writing on monsters and mulch!!!

  3. I have a love hate relationship with advice. I love it when I agree with it, I can’t stand it when it doesn’t mesh with my version of “right” … oh, and I’m an Aries. Obviously.

  4. alphabetagemma

    i enjoyed reading your article. i don’t think i’ll be ignoring your advice – but i’ll have a think about it first.

  5. Blogging has definitely confirmed that as a writer, I am “not alone” and I have found being among those hundreds of thousands exhilerating and terrifying. As I read and interact, I constantly struggle with “I’m better than that – how come so many more people read this?” and “they’re so much better than me, how can I ever make it?”

    And your advice advice is sound (because it fits with my experience, naturally). When I’m in new territory I tend to wrap my writing in established rules and patterns, trying to make my style fit in. As I learn the rules (or decide they’re dumb) the security blanket gets tangled and stifles me and I throw it off. My end product may or may not look like my original patterns, but it’s done and I did it and that’s what is important to me.

  6. Great advice. I listened and now I’m thinking about it 😉

  7. Your humour, style and wisdom? tickle my funny bone and my brain stem. Thanks and please keep gardening.
    Vermi poster

  8. Yeah. You made me realize that I blog much more about writing than what I write about. In other words, my blog is aimed more at other writers than potential readers. I generally make my own discoveries about writing — what works for me, what it takes to be a serious writer, and all the other little details of the writer’s life. Because they’re my own discoveries and not something I read in a book, I figure maybe there are other writers who are just a bit peculiar, like me, and might appreciate personal insights instead of canned wisdom.

    But my blog does need more balance. Seriously. So thanks.

  9. My favorite piece of writing advice to ignore (or at least ignore selectively) is “Write what you know!” Really? I write fantasy for a reason: because I’m more fascinated by what I don’t know than by what I do. Therefore, I selectively write about things I know, with a liberal dose of what I wish I knew thrown in for good measure.

    Good luck with your monster mulch pile!

    • Yes, yes, YES!
      “Write what you know” is boring.
      My philosophy is, “write what you love.”
      Still, I have to admit, when I write a story set in the real world, I tend to set it around my hometown. Not that I use local street names or anything like that, but in my mind the action is often taking place around Milton Florida. It helps me believe in what I’m writing a little more.

      • I can definitely get behind “Write what you love!” And since we’re admitting things…most of my stories, if set in the “real” world, usually end up either set in or linked to one of three places: Texas (where I’m from/currently live), New Orleans (which I love and just spent two years living in), or Seattle (I have NO idea why, I’ve never even been there!). It’s good to write where you know. I love reading books set in places I’ve been. It draws me deeper into the story.

      • Anytime we do something and we are full of love, it is The Best it can possibly be, which is what makes it so enjoyable and easy!

  10. Great reminder for aspiring authors. Every writer is an individual. Wouldn’t it be dreadful if we all did exactly the same things and all followed the same social media guru like robots?

    Listen to advice, but listen selectively. Use reason. Be yourself.

  11. Ah, Kristen Lamb…I also started mine because of her. From that time, I had broken some of her rules (including the one about religion on my yesterday’s post). At times, I’m learning what she meant the hard way.

    I wrote something similar to this, a few weeks back. Somehow, yours were in the center while mine was slightly geared to the left. But I do agree. We shouldn’t reject an advice because there might be a grain of truth in it. At the same time, we should not just follow an advice blindly, especially if we’re following an advice that’s not working for us.

  12. Great “advice” Albert 🙂 I like how you suggest to take it or not and the explanation. Thanks,

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  14. I’ve tried to incorporate Kristin Lamb’s advice about blogging about what you write about. I was originally going to blog about my writing journey, but realized I didn’t have enough to say about it, at this point, for it to be sustainable or interesting.

    My book is YA Fantasy and I decided that to blog what I write about meant blogging about monsters and such. I still blog about writing, but it’s sprinkled with some monsters here and there.

    Your are right. There is a plethora of writing advice out there, and sometimes it overwhelms me to the point of inertia. Sometimes, I just need to take a little break from reading about writing.

    Great post!

    • I’m glad you’ve been able to incorporate her wisdom into your blog. Like I said, it is good advice. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to make it work for me.
      Best of luck on your blog.

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