Things No Budding Writer Should Ever Have to Hear from Anybody

Have desk, will write © by Bright Meadow

All artists are vulnerable to “helpful” clichés and criticism from anyone with a mouth and an opinion.  Singers get it (“You should try out for American Idol.”).  So do musicians (“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice.“)  Painters probably suffer it, too (“That looks like you just slapped some paint around.  My dog could do that.”).  Although I haven’t been writing very long, I am finding out firsthand that writers are not immune to this phenomenon.

 Here is a helpful list of things you should never say to a writer, unless you want to be boiled in ink and buried with a pen stuck in your heart.

 “Write what you know.”

 We’ve all heard that one.  We’ve heard it for years.  We probably heard it for the first time on some TV show.  We don’t need to hear it again.  Most of us are already doing this, anyway.  We are too scared to write about stuff we don’t know for fear we’ll end up looking like jerk idiots.  Even writers are normal enough not to want to look like jerk idiots.

 A lot of writers can write about stuff they don’t know about, but that means a lot of time, energy and work spent on research.  The rest of us either don’t have time for this or we can’t be bothered, so we stick to things like our home life, old high school memories, our crazy neighbors, politicians – stuff like that.

 “You must find your voice.”

What voice are they talking about?  Soprano?  Bass?  Alan Rickman?  This is one of the vaguest pieces of advice ever.  The only thing it’s good for is making the person who says it sound smart.  All it does to us apprentice writers is to confuse us and make us feel even worse about our writing than we already do.  You don’t want to make a writer feel bad.  We have words and computers to write them on and we won’t hesitate to use them.

 The following remark is especially odious to humor writers:

 “Your (essay/story/joke) is cute.”

 This is How to Damn With Faint Praise 101.  A writer labors over a piece for hours, days, even months only to have someone call it cute!  CUTE!  I can’t speak for other writers, but when I have worked to put something really funny together I want to hear that I have made someone laugh so hard their stomach hurt and their eyes became waterfalls.  Even making someone giggle is okay.  Cute is not okay.  Cute is for puppies, kittens, babies and that great looking guy who lives in the next apartment.

 Of course, if what I wrote isn’t as funny as I thought it was, somebody should put me out of my misery and tell me.  I’d rather hear that something I wrote sucks like a vacuum cleaner than to be given a rating of “cute.”

 Any stupid criticism from someone who is just trying to be a pompous ass

 I once posted a link to my piece Frodo Plans a Trip on a website, only to have someone tell me that I was not being original, referring me to a well-known, full-length Lord of the Rings spoof book.  I failed to see the connection, since my piece is about an email exchange between Frodo and a representative from an outfitter company, and is maybe two pages long at the most.  I suspect the wannabe critic hadn’t even bothered to read my little opus.  He probably saw the name Frodo in the title and thought, “Ah!  I will grind this poor little deluded fool into the dust with my superior intelligence.”

 If you are going to critique a writer’s work, you will save everyone a lot of trouble if you at least try to make sense.

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4 thoughts on “Things No Budding Writer Should Ever Have to Hear from Anybody”

  1. I do agree with writers finding their voice and by that I mean genre. Some people are great at humor and suck at horror or great at sci-fi but suck at romance. As for writing what you don’t know, I love to do that once in a while. My next challenge erotica. Yea, that is going to be a hoot.

    1. Well, let’s see. I suck at writing poetry. Sci-Fi isn’t my thing, either. On the other hand, I can be funny and when I write a short story I love to include either humor or humor and fantasy. (One of my best stories is about a woman who switches places with her cat.) So it looks like I’m stuck with humor and fantasy. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. 😉

      PS: When you start writing erotica … well, that I’ve GOT to see! 😉

  2. Obviously you’ve copied this article from another source, still, it was cute. Glad you found your voice. (JUST KIDDING!!! Don’t kill me, please! Hehe)

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