The Problem with Writing Advice

Sometimes, I fantasise about becoming a world famous author and being interviewed on television, or radio, or, more likely these days, on a podcast! Woopty-do, eh? Of course, in the interview I would be asked if I had any advice for writers. It would be a great opportunity to debunk the stock standard rules for writing such as:

write everyday,

read everything,

show don’t tell,


write what you know.

I would especially like to rapaciously ravage and eternally eradicate the slavish scorn for adverbs. I have no issues with abundant alliteration.

How smug I could be – arrogantly suggesting there are no rules for writing fiction. So, I thought about it a bit. What advice would I give?

Here’s one shot at it:

  1. Have fun – you’re alone, you’re free to write whatever you like, why suffer?

  2. Be bold – it’s not called creative writing for a joke.

  3. Be prolific – most of your stories will be crap, a few will be gems, do the maths.

Now, here’s the problem. Since formulating these rules, they have become a mantra that swims around in my early morning writing head.

Have fun, be bold, be prolific.

Have fun, be bold, be prolific.

Have fun, be bold, be prolific.


Consequently, writing has become a gloomy chore, my sentences are pastel, and the output is drier than the mouth of the Murray.

I ditch my three rules.

Advice to self:

Don’t fantasise about becoming famous and being interviewed and thinking that you have anything wise to say to anyone about writing – just write.

Here is a picture of my bedside table. These books have to be returned to the library tomorrow – proof you can’t read everything!

Bedside table

22 thoughts on “The Problem with Writing Advice

  1. Hi Sean
    Can identify with your thoughts. I don’t want to be a famous writer, I write for myself and if the group is entertained, I’m happy. We miss your wit and writing in the group.

    As usual you make me chuckle with your wordsmithing.


    • Thank you, Julie.
      I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve added #4, join a writing group. But I have a habit of seeing everything in threes. Plus, it would remind me of how much I miss the group.

  2. I believe many people have expertise in some fields.
    I have done medical research and writing for about 35 years, and one should be really dumb not to learn something from that. The extra high standards in this type of writing because it goes for numerous approvals has helped to develop quite impressive knowledge.
    However, nobody wants to read anything nowadays. If it’s written by some famous person (or somebody who they have hired) many people will read, it doesn’t matter how silly this writing might be.
    Internet is overloaded with all kinds of advice. It is frequently wrong and dumb and both, but who cares?
    I think it makes sense to share things you really know and are skilled in.
    I personally like your blog.
    I have 2 blogs, but most people never read any of them, just click on like from Reader in order I’d click back. I am an extremely responsible person, so, I do click on like, as well, but I have started to sort out all followers, and I think it’s time to make changes in my approach.
    It doesn’t matter whether you give interviews or just write for somebody’s attention, it is a great thing.
    I do not understand people who write for themselves. Why to bother publishing it then? However, we can see all kinds of weird attempts on WordPress alone, not to mention millions of other sites and websites.

    • Thank you, Inese, for your reflection. I agree with your sentiments.

      The internet is certainly a crazy place. To be honest, I did start this blog after listening to advice from many quarters. “You have to build a social media platform.” “You need a readership before you publish your first book.” “Publishers won’t look at you unless you have an online presence.”

      Blah, blah, blah.

      As it turned out, I am getting a book published this year without having thousands of ‘followers’. I’m not even on Instagram, heaven forbid!

      There is good and bad in everything. I hear a lot of people blaming the internet for all sorts of social and personal ills. Personally, I see it simply as a tool. Any tool requires some skill to be used effectively. A hammer can crush a thumb or drive a nail home. A discriminating mind is essential when browsing the web. So are all the other basic research skills.

      I was once a high school science teacher. I finally got out of school and did a whole lot of other stuff including working in mental health. I now tutor English, Biology and Physics, and, early in the morning, write fiction.

      Have a lovely spring. Love your watercolours. It is Autumn here. Aren’t the transitional seasons pulchritudinous?

  3. My coffee table next to my swooning couch looks much like your bedside table, and alas, a batch of books is due today. I’ll trundle them in tomorrow within the three day grace and start again. Like the writing advice.

  4. Advice? Yes, I get tired of hearing it, over and over and over. Although I did get better when I wrote every day, or almost every day. Practicing your craft, or art, definitely helps. You can’t do it once a week or once a month and espect to improve. Though one other bit of advice I liked was read—advice I didn’t need—have to make myself stop reading in order to write!

    Thanks for visiting myself site. Yours is supercalidocious.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more – especially the have fun you’re free you’re alone – that is the best part of it all. When I’m writing, I’m so lost in it, pure joy, completely entertained and content – that’s the part I embrace.

  6. I had a similar fantasy of being interviewed on Oprah’s couch. It can be a problem for me bc a good imagination can easily replace reality. I get stuck in reverie instead of executing the work. Or at least I used to. I’m working on it…

    I like your mantra!

  7. I think that you are reaping much from the comments section, let alone from the satisfaction of actually producing. I personally love the recognition from people, however few, who read my stuff. I like your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings, on what can be a lonely search for validation. The secret in my opinion is to believe in oneself, and keep writing until you die.

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