I am no expert, (even though Klout calls me one). So, I’m not exactly sure how much advice writers need.
I do know this: that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a website or blog for writers. There are more experts now in the field of writing than any other time in history, (if you don’t believe me tweet the phrase writing for social media and see what happens). And pleasing everybody gets you nowhere.
What did pre-internet writers do? How many people did they have to please? How much welcome or unwelcome advice did they receive? How did they stay true to themselves without the constant reminders of proper word count, verb tense and exactly how many adverbs are acceptable? Writers, as a generalized group already have a tendency for nicotine and alcohol addiction, but I imagine if the writers of a half, whole or two centuries ago had the social media influence that we have today, we may have fewer masterpieces and more Sylvia Plaths.
That’s one characteristic I share with the dark souls of other eras. I know that if I become obsessed with what is expected in my favorite genre, what my agent want, what the industry is doing, what my peer groups say, what my critique partners say, what my crazy Aunt Sunda says, then I turn into a blubbering fool, who can’t write a shopping list. I discovered this when I sent my manuscript to twenty-five beta testers. Some thought it was too long, some thought it was too short. Some thought it had too many characters, some not enough. Some didn’t understand why I set it in Oklahoma. Some totally got it. One reader, who has absolutely no experience in the publishing industry, decided she wanted to be my editor/agent and insisted that all future changes go through her. My response to her was in an acronym. First it was BS. Then it was ROTFL.
Sometimes, however, when I get conflicting advice, I don’t ROTFL, I panic. I cry. I freak out, thinking that I really don’t know what I’m doing. I slip into that dark place of anxiety and fear that convinces me that the path to happiness goes through pleasing others and not myself. This would be the time, if I were a heavy drinker, I’d reach for the whiskey and toast Hemingway. But this isn’t how writers get better. This only makes things worse.
Perhaps the problem is too many voices? Too much clutter? Too much influence? Maybe it is. So, I’m restricting my circle of influence. I’m not reading blogs of random writers who retweeted me, or the gal who answered my question about point of view on my ACFW e-mail loop and I’m also only “liking” the Facebook author page of people I know. I also receive instruction from reputable sources as I need it. I want to get better by being more intentional in who I learn from and what I learn. This, I hope, will keep that overwhelmed feeling at bay. The next group of beta testers will be people I trust and who will encourage me.
I think when my mind is clear, I’ll be calmer and I’ll be stronger.
I will be a better writer.
What about you? Are you overwhelmed with advice? What do you to do declutter?