Advice from the Unqualified

Have you ever thought about how, technically, people at the same level as you are not qualified to give you advice?

Take parenting, for example.  I’ve offered quite a bit of random advice here, all written down because I expect it to be useful (to someone… sometime… somewhere…) but if you were looking for real results, you wouldn’t look at my advice.

For that you would look around for some mother whose kids are grown and turned out the way you want your kids to turn out.  That’s results.  That’s experience.

Unfortunately, those moms can also be most insensitive to the place where you are currently living.

“Oh yeah,” says one lady enthusiastically, the first time I bring my 2-year-old and 6-month-old to practice for the musical Beauty and the Beast, “I brought my four kids with me *everywhere.* It’s so good to have them watching real life.”

Six weeks later she was irritated with me for bringing my baby, even with the 2-year-old farmed out.

I thought it was tremendously silly: even wearing the baby I could do all the choreography, and felt rather pleased with myself at that.

So I am not an expert in mothering: I am only keeping notes about what’s worked for me as I go along.  And sometimes that has been helpful.

In the same way

I am not a best-selling novelist.  I am not even a published writer (beyond our local paper), but I read people who are, and I am writing. I also happen to be very good at compiling and extrapolating.

So.  I have advice about writing.  Yay for me.  ;)

I’ll just share the thing on my mind just now, that provoked this post, and perhaps I’ll write more in the future.  But if there was one thing I could say to anybody gung-ho about getting published it’s this:

Don’t Trust Yourself.

Aren’t I mean? That’s the opposite of every female-written piece of advice I’ve ever seen published.  But I think it’s very important.

If you’re already convinced you’re a great writer, that you can slap your best stuff together on the first go around, I (or anyone else who might disagree with your assessment) am not going to seem all that helpful.  And you’re not going to be very easy to work with.  The trick is to let other people (the kind of people who should know) praise your writing.

There’s a great story in G.K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy where Ches is speaking with a publisher who remarked, “That man will get on; he believes in himself.”

Chesterton’s reply began with the observation that those who believe most in themselves are the ones who end up in lunatic asylums.  When the publisher protested they don’t all go there Chesterton agreed.

“And you of all men ought to know them.  That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself.  That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself.  If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.

Actors who can’t act believe in themselves; and debtors who won’t pay.  It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself.

Strong words, and mentioned largely for their hyperbole, I mean them to illustrate my point; that is, no matter how much we believe in something, unless there is external proof backing up the belief our own effort or enthusiasm is irrelevant.

So, write if you must (it’s certainly cheaper than therapy!), don’t try to stop if you can’t, and feel grateful for your certainty if you know God had called you to write.

Just remember that He may not be calling that publisher to distrubute your work, and you’ll have healthier expectations.

7 thoughts on “Advice from the Unqualified

  1. This is an interesting topic to think about. One of the things that I’ve never understood is why someone would go to someone who hates something to find out about it. Take for instance, Mary Kay. I’m a closet consultant. I don’t do it for serious. But I did for a while, and one of the things that they told us all the time was that we really shouldn’t listen to the people who had a miserable experience. They didn’t make it work. We needed to hang with and listen to the people who were successful. This makes perfect sense to me. Mary Kay, as a business, didn’t work for me, not because the business was bad, but because I didn’t work the business right, and most people I know who had “bad’ experiences fall into that category.

    I feel the same way about religion. Why should I listen to the person who hates that religion to base my opinion on it? Someone once said that you should talk to someone who loves it and someone who hates it, but I’m not really sure I believe that assessment. I waffle on that one.

    Interesting thoughts.

  2. I think it has something to do with reinforcing your expectations. It is more work to change the way you think, so as long as what you see or hear lines up with what you already think, you don’t have to go to any particular effort.

    Or were you actually asking for a reason? :)

  3. Pingback: Untangling Tales » More Writing Advice (getting started)

  4. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Where to Start Cutting Words From Your Novel

  5. Pingback: Untangling Tales » How do I Become a Better Writer?

  6. Pingback: How to Write | Writing Hope

  7. Pingback: How to Write, Part 2 | Writing Hope

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *