What You’ll Never Get When You Ask for Writing Advice

Another writer cannot do your work for you.

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I love when aspiring writers ask questions. It shows me they are curious, driven, and doing all they can to put their ideas into words.

I don’t love when writers ask me what the “right” way to do something is.

What’s the right way to build a successful blog? What’s the right way to promote a book? What’s the right way to make money writing?

I can’t answer those questions. Because I don’t have the answers.

When you’re speaking to a writer, whether they’re an expert or not, most of the time, anything you ask them, they’re going to answer from their own personal perspective.

Which is a problem. Because their experiences aren’t yours. You aren’t them.

And why people expect to learn the most effective way to do things by asking, and not by doing, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

For the record, there’s a difference between asking someone’s opinion and expecting them to do the heavy lifting for you. I’ve seen both. The latter deserves an eye roll.

You will never learn the “right” way to do what you are trying to do. Not the way you’re hoping to learn it.

If someone is giving you good writing advice, they won’t tell you the “best” way to do anything.

Because writing, in terms of figuring out what works and what doesn’t, is mostly a matter of trial and error. And no one can learn what will work best for you … except you.

That’s right — writers actually have to write. And they have to keep writing. And sometimes they will fail, and sometimes they will succeed. There is no guarantee of either.

But there’s only one way to guarantee you will DEFINITELY fail — and that’s to never try.

I know writing is a slow process. There’s no instant gratification. Some people spend years and years writing without any recognition whatsoever.

Welcome to the real world. Welcome to life as an aspiring writer.

Why am I getting so in your face about this? Because it might be what you need to hear. Some people are brilliant writers, but they don’t have the patience to practice and practice until they succeed. I wish there was more I could do to help you get rid of this mental block, but I can’t.

Only you can do that.

I think people believe they can depend on someone else partially because they don’t want to figure the answers out for themselves.

As someone who finds that — discovery — one of the most thrilling elements of writing, I don’t think I will ever be able to understand why.

But when you do ask other writers and writing experts for advice — we all do, for some things — ask with the purpose of gathering opinions and creating an action plan. Don’t approach someone expecting them to do all your work for you. If that’s what you want, don’t make writing your career. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life frustrated and wondering why you haven’t actually accomplished anything.

I have written this before. I will write it again.

Active writers make successful writers.

Passive writers make dreamers.

If you want to write for real, stop dreaming. Start writing.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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One thought on “What You’ll Never Get When You Ask for Writing Advice

  1. I’m with you 100% on this. The other thing which is driving me crazy is people who think their way is the right – and only – way, and tell others they are doing it (whatever it is) wrong. That sort of advice almost made me give up because conflicting advice meant I was always wrong!

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