They Hold The Answer to All Your Writing Questions…

Okay, so, this is a little bit of a pet-peeve of mine.

I’m a member of a couple online writing groups, and mostly I have lucked out with these groups.  They have been wonderful — highly supportive and helpful.  But there is a certain personality type that shows up on occasion that just irks me.  And I know this isn’t limited to writing-groups…. these guys show up everywhere.

They are those people who step into a group like they are the answer to your (unspoken and perhaps nonexistent) prayers.  Often their introductions go something like: “I have experience in writing and editing [or whatever the topic of the group may be].  I shall not tell you the details of this experience, but obviously just the stating that I have experience will make all you n00bs bow in awe at me.  Allow me to impart upon you some great advice.  LIFE CHANGING advice, and wisdom.  Pearls of wisdom.  [Insert clichéd writing advice that has been argued, debated and is often more deeply nuanced than anyone just stating the advice quite understands].”

I know I should let such things just roll off my back, and I do try to ignore them but… it just frustrates me.  Do these people really think they hold all the answers?  Do they really believe that we are simply lowly nobodies that require to be told regurgitated advice?

I’m not saying that advice isn’t helpful, that is a huge part of why I am in these groups to start with — but there are ways to share your wisdom that are far more useful than what I see these particular individuals doing.

I think it’s important to take time to get to know the group you’re in. Most groups I’ve encountered are a nice amalgamation of experienced and less-experienced writers, published and non-published, traditionally-published and independently-published, representing an array of genre’s and styles.  Don’t step in assuming you are the most “accomplished” in the group, or that you all have the same definition of “accomplished” or “successful.”

Think about what you can actually contribute to the group.  Instead of just retelling well-worn wisdom (really, tell me “show, don’t tell,” “kill your darlings,” or “grow thick-skin,” one more time like it is the most magical, work-altering, piece of advice in the world….) why not speak clearly from your own experiences.  Maybe it’s just because I come from this crazy idea that everyone’s approach to things is going to be different, and that it seems for every writing “rule” there are examples of great reasons to break those rules, but I’m not as likely to shut down and ignore you if you are sharing what has worked for you, without the expectation that it is THE ONLY WAY.

What is going to far more informative and helpful is learning about your style.  What is it that you have experienced so far?  How do you go about writing?  This kind of information, couched in terms of “here is what has worked from me,” serves to help understand the person who is sharing.  If you really are accomplished and “successful”  what are the pitfalls and challenges you faced, how did you overcome them?

This approach allows me to learn more of someones style, what is similar and dissimilar to my style.  I learn potentially interesting ways to approach things, better understand the reasons one might subscribe to certain “rules,” and gain ideas for ways to break through ruts I may have.

One of the advantages of sharing like this is that it allows everyone to join in the conversation.  Even the newest of writers is going to have learned some things about their own style, faced challenges and pitfalls….  It is a recognizing that we are still learning — no matter how many books you’ve published, what critical acclaim you have received… there is always something new to learn, new ways to expand and improve your craft.

No one actually holds all the answers.

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10 thoughts on “They Hold The Answer to All Your Writing Questions…”

  1. My experiences with writing groups have been awful. Usually it’s because the groups have been taken over by the person you speak of. Everyone tries to be polite but this person will even speak over you to get their point across about your book–as if they’re so invested in it! haha.

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  2. They are everywhere…
    http://xkcd.com/793/

    Worse can be the people who decide to play life coach for more than just what the group is based around. “You should [do something you have no interest in] because it’s something that worked for me, and geez, who WOULDN’T want to be just like me??”

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  3. waaaait a minute… Are you saying, like in writing and everything that I, a independently published author of absolutely NO RENOWN, don’t have all the answers…to YOUR writing dilemma? I’m shocked!

    Sorry… It’s been one of those days, but yeah, I like what you wrote and I agree with you 100% (and I REALLY hope I never come across as a know-it-all, if I have, I apologize). At the same time, I appreciate those who are sincere in their sharing and willingness to show us the messes they’ve waded through to get to where they are.

    Writing, like reading, is something we (usually) do alone, so I agree, sharing is good, but I have shelves of books telling me what to do, and it seems they’re all a little different (while still saying pretty much the same thing).

    I love writing workshops because you can get input (like with writer’s groups), but sometimes groups like that can bring out the beast in some folks. Been there, have the battle scars on my heart to prove it. Thick skin? Not me. 🙂

    Guess who’s rambling again…

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    1. I’m sure we’ve all fallen into this a little bit… But hopefully we find ways to share our experience and expertise in helpful, not annoying, ways!
      Also, rambling is always welcome…. I certainly do plenty of it 🙂

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  4. I so agree, and this goes for all aspects of professional or personal life. A new person waltzes in and God speaks through him. Yeah, I roll my eyes. 🙂 As you say, they should let time and participation speak, not just words.

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