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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Hayden

My Advice: Ignore Advice

There is a lot of advice out there for aspiring writers. Most of it is good, but what many people don't seem to understand is that advice cannot—and should notbe applied universally. Each of us is an individual, and what worked for Baldwin or Allende will not necessarily work for me.

I've heard time and time again to wake up early and write, but I am more nocturnal and have been since eighth grade. I've been told to write every single day, which is great but not always desirable or a valuable use of my time when there are so many other things I could be practicing/learning/seeing (and in fact a successful writer whose work I greatly respect goes months without writing and then will finish writing an entire book in a matter of days). I've been told to always title my work as the last step after I finish writing my piece, when in fact I prefer to begin with a title before the story starts whenever possible (fun fact: in high school and throughout most of undergrad, I wouldn't even let myself start a paper before I had first chosen the title). I've been told never to use adverbs (I still use them, but sparingly). Perhaps the advice I've outright rejected the most is to choose a niche to write about and stick to it. Nah. I'm interested in too many things; there's no way I can pick only one topic to write about, or even one type of writing. That just doesn't work for me and the type of career I want. I don't care about being one day seen as an expert or the go-to person for a specific subject. Why would I give up being able to write a book review and interview someone fascinating and do a sports story and finish a personal essay in the same week? I would love to be a columnist somewhere one day, but I would still want a multifarious writing career outside of that insofar as possible. Anyway, you get the point: I've disregarded some wise counsel in my day that didn't fit how I want my writing/writer's life to look.

Some advice I have taken is to write more often; try to write shorter much of the time (believe it or not, I'm better at that than I used to be); avoid using polysyllabic words unnecessarily just so people will think I'm smart (this last one is something I did quite a bit during my freshman year of college). So it's not like I'm so egocentric that I won't heed anyone's suggestions. But overall, my advice is fuck the advice. I mean...again not in an arrogant way, of course. And not all advice. But what I mean is that you know yourself best. I take most tips with gratitude, and often deference. That doesn't mean that I have to implement every tidbit, however. Whether it's advice from my parents, peers, or other writers, I take what works for my own situation and I (respectfully) chuck the rest.

Aside: Strangely enough, no one has advised me to use fewer parentheses but I recognize that I have a serious problem. So I guess I'm taking time now to advise my damn self.

Aside #2: Solicited advice is different because I'm (obviously) asking for advice in those cases. That still doesn't mean I take it all, but for the purposes of this blog post I'm referring more to unsolicited advice.

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