Speaking to Us: Advice, Critics and Wisdom for the Heart

“Put down the writing advice guides that don’t speak to you and hold tight to the ones that do. You don’t need to follow all the wisdom you encounter, only that which makes you feel wiser.” – Jordan Rosenfeld, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence

I felt inspired to write a post, today, after coming across this quote in A Writer’s Guide to Persistence.  The words literally jumped out at me after finishing this latest chapter, Chapter 12: Increase Your Craft. The quote wouldn’t leave me be!

When I started to take writing more seriously, I did a few things: started following publishers of the books I loved on Twitter, subscribing to many different writing websites for advice, looked at book after book that stood out to me for a clearer vision of my path and, of course, subscribed/followed writing magazines like Poets and Writers, Publishers Weekly and Writer’s Digest, to name a few. I also received emails about certain genres to keep up to date on what’s selling.

But I’m going to be honest here. Part discouragement with the job search and other things lately and part impatience and stuck, I have grown to dread the daily emails I get. Yes, I can always unsubscribe at anytime that’s what they tell you when you first give your name and email address. Some websites give out free ebooks which I have downloaded on to my flash drive.Yet, I never touched them. Maybe glimpsed them, but that was it.

Plus, you sometimes compare yourself to those writers who have a hot book right now.

I think back on my two earliest publications in college for some reason: a poem in my community college’s literary magazine and the sudden publication of a short story that was part of a writing showcase. I never thought my work would mean something, or that someone would recognize it enough that it deserved some kind of publication. Yet, that’s what ultimately happened. I still felt strong emotions though: undeserving, cocky.

Maybe it comes from my modesty in wanting others to have the same success as I do or the attempt at keeping arrogance and a big head from sprouting when these unexpected things happen to you. That feeling has come about with college papers, too. When I got my first C on a paper in a comparative literature class, I was visibly insulted. I started to feel entitled. I always did well with writing papers and usually got A’s or B’s; yet that C really shook my confidence, and ultimately, my attitude. Then there was the instance of a professor who thought my writing was “not useful,” when I signed up for a fiction writing course.

Creatively, the poem surprised me in the community college literary magazine, and that was my very first semester! Then, I felt arrogance creep in when it didn’t happen again. That feeling also returned during my final two years of college: never got published in that lit mag either. I NEVER forgot when I went to that meeting to help pick out entries when one of mine showed up and when the girl asked to continue reading, not many raised their hand. I also glimpsed the girl next to me check no for my entry, which disgusted me. Who was this person to judge my work?

I think all of us, artists or not, have this feeling come up now and again. At times, we can’t take some criticisms and sometimes one could get a big head when they see their work recognized. We also try to listen and follow all the different kinds of advice we get, and are hard on ourselves when it doesn’t feel exactly right. I think that’s what I’m wondering about now ever since I read chapter 12 of that writing book today.

I follow and subscribe to all of these things, but am I really getting something out of it? Is it really FOR ME, or just to make myself look good? “Hey look at me I follow all these things! I do take my writing seriously!”

Every once in a while, you need to take a moment to really think about what matters most. We will always have detractors, critics and so on who will never understand, or like, our works. We also will take advice from some outlets we follow, and dump the others that don’t apply to us.

We can’t do every single thing. That would, and does, overwhelm us. We can only do what we can, take from what we know in our hearts to be real and true. Advice doesn’t just apply to the writing guides we look at, but also to those who take the time to look at our work. That doesn’t mean we should take everything personally or to heart. It’s just one’s opinion. I know I have taken criticism personally at times, and with those instances in college, it was never a reflection on me. I just felt it was because no one saw what I did.

Maybe that was the point. Some don’t see it, but others do and get something out of a written piece. It should be an experience to grow wiser, as Rosenfeld points out in the quote I shared. Take what will make you stronger and humble, not weaker and cockier.

There are many voices in the world with many upon many stories to share. We just have to remember our own matters too.

Do you check out and follow many writing guides or magazines? Which ones have benefited you? Which ones have not? What do you do when ego appears once in a while and clouds your thinking?


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