Is all advice good advice? No, probably not. Sometimes, actually, probably all the time, advice is 50/50.
By the way, if I seem a little out of it, it’s because I’m twisting in circles. Since I like to share, you get to join me!!!
First of all, who came up with the silly idea of calling it a bucket list??? Buckets are, by their nature, designed for carrying things, sure, but we’re talking about water, building materials, sand, snow, toys, and other such things. It never carries a list and the only paper that ends up in a bucket is a trash bucket. Besides, using the analogy of what it’s supposed to mean, a list of things we want to do in our life, the ultimate goals of our life so to speak, then shouldn’t it be a suitcase list or a life list or a goal list? Perhaps a wish list?
Heck, let’s call it the Ultimate Things I Want To Do With My Life List and call it good.
Oh, I know what you’ll say: “That’s too long.” So what?
…. hmm, ahem, right. So, where was I? Oh, yes, the article. Out of five pieces of advice, I’ve accomplished three of them. They are:
1. Do something bizarre just to write about it – well, technically I didn’t do something bizarre but I wrote something bizarre that was unique and unlike anything I’d written before that I’m not sure how to describe it other than Twilight Zone meets Alfred Hitchcock so maybe this doesn’t met the criteria, but it works for me.
2. Self-Publish Something – See this blog, I also wrote for a newsletter with a RPG club I was a member of online some years ago. AJJE Games called Know the Edge (that’s the name of the newsletter) plus I’ve written some articles for a social media network I built at work so: check!
3. Live poor for a few months or years – have you seen the economy? To be truthful though, this is not something that is practical as a mother of two. Can’t be poor because I have to take care of them so this is a relative piece of advice and poorly given. I understand why they did, but unless you are single it’s impractical in my humble opinion so I’ll say check in my own way.
Now comes the other two pieces which I, shockingly, agree with and I’m still working on. Well, sort of agree with, but I’ll explain that in a minute.
1. Find a mentor.
In my current paying job (emphasis on that) one of our initiatives is mentoring. In the last year and a half I’ve learned a lot of what mentoring is about, more than I ever contemplated is involved in the process. I had the benefit while in the military of having two fantastic mentors who helped me get myself on my feet professionally and personally. They gave me the guidance that was necessary to keep from going off the rails. I’m not sure if I ever told them as bluntly as I’m about to say it, but if it hadn’t been for their guidance and the guidance of my husband, I’m positive I would be in a very different place than I am now. I had serious anger issues back then, I was self-destructive and would have continued to spiral downwards if I hadn’t been fortunate.
Understanding the value of mentoring from that perspective plus what I’ve learned from my current job told me a year ago I need a mentor for my writing. Not only someone to give me the necessary pep talks and to help me talk myself out of the negative thought patterns that can bring me down, but someone to help point the way. To help me take the next step forward instead of sideways.
So I’m looking because it’s what I need… Any volunteers?? Just kidding 😀 (sort of)
2. Edit Your Favorite Novel
Okay, stop for a second and read that again. What was your first gut reaction to that statement? I don’t know about you, but I started to chuckle, then I stopped. I realized that, well, yeah, why not? First of all, established writers like Stephen King, Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks, etc, are not perfect. They are human! They have editors who are HUMAN!
What do humans do? Make mistakes. We excel at them. I know because I make a ton of them and I bet you do too. We get too involved, too sensitive, too close. Essentially, we’re flawed. We have issues, we twist, we turn. Inherently our grammar sucks, and we really don’t see the point of a comma. It’s a little curvy thing in the middle of a sentence that has no purpose other than to separate things. It’s a blight between words that slows the sentence. It’s also annoying to remember the rules. We hate it, they hate it as much as we do.
Second of all, people have their favorites as I’ve stated many times and it’s hard for us to hear something negative about their work. We don’t want to hear someone disagree with our choice. I have a great example of this. In my humanities class we had to read Jane Austin‘s Sense and Sensibility. I hated it, I actually hate all of Jane Austin’s books.
*ducks from the rotten fruit thrown at me*
Hey now! I’m entitled to my opinion!!! Be nice.
Clearly most of the world does not agree with me, but my primary dislike of her work is that she breaks the cardinal rule of writing which is to show and not tell. The woman does nothing but tell and it drives me up the wall!!! But that, again, is my opinion. It should also be noted that I am not a romance fan or a history fan. I have, maybe, a total of 8 romance novels in a book collection of 300+ and those 8 are also the history novels I have. So right there are three strikes against Ms. Austin.
My Humanities professor disagreed with my opinion, and in fact took issue with me on it after reading an assignment after we read the first three chapters of the book. The assignment asked for our opinion, what we thought about the book, and what we took from it. I tried to be objective, struggled my way through the chapters twice in the hope of finding some redeeming quality to the bloody piece to give it a fair chance. Didn’t, wrote honestly.
She graded me somewhat fairly, but took issue with me from then on. I, and anyone else in the class whose opinion was similar to mine, were frequently either ignored, talked down to, or graded unfairly. We attempted to talk to the administration about it but was told it was her class. So we ground our teeth, complained to each other, and tried to temper our comments with only the smattering of good we could find in the piece. I had the hardest time as I hated it the most. It’s an extreme example, but serves as a great one.
A better example of how to handle that situation comes from my Literary Professor who, when she found out of my dislike of Ms. Austin’s work, stated it was a pity and asked why then listened to my explanation. Our conversation after was quite invigorating.
As you can see, opinions and passions vary and are expressed differently depending on the [maturity of the] person. Yet, the idea of us editing our favorite author’s book can cause this instant “Ah, hell no, I can’t do that. It’s messing with greatness, its folly, asking for trouble.” Almost like we’re committing a type of blasphemy against the writing gods if we were to edit Tolkien if you’re a fantasy nut like me or Isaac Asimov if you’re a sci fi nut like my Dad.
However, I find myself agreeing with Writer’s Digest about this Editing Your Favorite novel simply to practice. It’s easier to edit someone else’s work, to rip it to shreds to speak. If we can find it in ourselves to do this to our favorite book then perhaps it’ll be easier to do it to our books and stories. It’s worth a try right?
- Don’t Be a Wimp – Writers’ Edition (bengarrido.com)
- Critique Groups: Ego, Etiquette, and Expectations (ernsangia.wordpress.com)