People Who Need Writing Advice – and Compassion

Who are these people, and why is it so hard to please them?


So this post started out as something completely different. It turned into something I’m not really sure will go over well with those of you who don’t read this blog regularly. To be clear, I’m not trying to single anyone out or criticize. I just found this idea interesting. It’s something I’ve noticed more and more as this community has grown and as I spend more time in the NaNo forums, and I wanted to share it with you. I’m admitting my uncertainty because I would rather be transparent. I’m publishing this because my brain goes weird places, and exposing you to those places is a guilty pleasure, I guess.

If you regularly give writing advice as I do, or it’s something you want to do in the future, here are a few profiles of people you will come into contact with – either in person or through the internet. If you ARE one of these people – here are some comforting words you might really appreciate right now.

The anxious dreamer

Not every single writer is an introvert with self-confidence issues, but there are creatives out there who do what they do because their brains just operate differently than “average.” These are the “what ifs.” “What if people don’t like what I write? What if I never finish my book? What if someone else steals my ideas?” They know what they want – likely, they have a pretty specific set of goals they hope to accomplish. They often have a hard time executing them, however, because uncertainty is overwhelming. “Just try it and see what happens” is a foreign concept. They need a lot of encouragement – maybe even a, “I’m here if you ever need anything.” They’re fairly independent – they just need to be reminded to keep moving forward.

The doubtful pitcher

These are the askers. The apologetics. “I’m sorry for asking so many stupid questions,” they mumble nervously or type with trembling fingers. It’s not that they’re afraid of looking stupid. They just don’t want to be wrong. But they are extremely dependent on their superiors for every ounce of guidance they can get. They do not want to be shown; they want to be told. They feel they cannot navigate the unknown without step-by-step instructions. Eventually they will realize they cannot learn unless they act – that, or they will never act at all, and may come to fall into the next category.

The bitter quitter

Rejection hurts. Hard work met with silence almost hurts even more. Some people just can’t carry around that kind of disappointment on their shoulders. It’s not that they want to stop – but the pain of never getting what they want just isn’t worth the struggle. That doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, though. In fact, they’re pretty miserable. Don’t encourage them to start again: they might not be ready. Instead, just be a good listener. Remember that giving up, though sometimes necessary, is still one of the hardest decisions a person will ever have to make.

The lonely know-it-all

These writers are the most complex and difficult to assist. They interact with other writers out of loneliness – starting conversations simply because they expect a response. They are not interested in advice or being told what to do or how to change. That’s not to say they’re not good people. They’re in it for the community aspect, to discuss and share what they know (and often, they hope others will do the same). They’re not likely going to learn anything new from you, though. Still, you can use them to get your community talking – as long as they don’t hog the conversation, you might really come to appreciate that.

Above all, keep in mind that all these people want the same thing: approval for being who they are. It’s not always about their writing. Though, if they value that aspect of their lives on an extremely deep level, their writing, to them, is a refection of their own value, which is why criticism in the writing world is often such a touchy subject.

Just be nice. And don’t take anything personally. And understand that every individual is different – if they’re asking for your help, it isn’t always clear what they want. But knowing, in general, why some people behave the way they do in these kinds of communities, can help you respond appropriately to anyone you come in contact with in the writing world.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.