The Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Writing Advice

Knowing who, and what to ask

When I first started thinking about Becoming an Author, one of the first things I did was Google things like ‘how to become a bestselling writer’, ‘writing a book’, and of course the important one, ‘how much do authors make?’ (hint: not much).
Any of those familiar to you? I’m guessing the answer is yes, because if people weren’t hunting for it, then there wouldn’t have been so many search results. So at least I know I’m not alone in that sense.

But what I’ve come to learn over my frequent and incessant Googling, is that while there are many benefits to having access to all this info, there are also a fair few pitfalls too.  The benefits include getting tips and tricks from people who’ve walked a similar path, and being able to use their experiences to avoid the same issues they came up against.

The biggest of pitfalls, however, is that so much of the advice out there is contradictory. And if, like I did, you spend ages reading the articles about ‘best writing habits for authors’, for example, you will find a lot of varying opinions. Some people write a little bit every day. Others write when inspiration strikes. Turns out that there’s no one way to do it.

confused stick man
If you find all the info about ‘how to be a great writer’ confusing, you’re definitely not alone!

I’ll be honest, that was a little bit scary to me at first. I am a lover of rules and formulas: even though I’m a writer, I also really enjoyed maths at school just because you knew there was a right or wrong answer.

With creative writing you don’t have that level of security. You never know what will or won’t work for you…until you try things out.

So that’s what I started to do. Yes I still Google things and look for advice, but I now take it with a hefty pinch of salt. And when I start to get discombobulated by all the contrariness, or if I’m feeling lured into paying for a service because I think it will be the magic bullet, I force myself to step back and take a breath.

I have to remind myself that there is no one way. But more importantly I have to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. I’m doing it because I want to write, because I can’t stop myself in fact (unless I’m actually trying to write the next chapter of my book, of course, in which case I can’t seem to get started – more on that in future posts).

For me, it’s all about going with the flow. I used to get super stressed by trying to control everything (and often still do), but the older I get, the more I realise I can’t control most things. Including me a lot of the time. So I don’t try as much. I just move from moment to moment and let things play out – some would argue that’s a poor way to achieve goals, but I’ve also tried the more structured approach and that did nothing for me either. So I’ve decided to take the path that stresses me out less.

For other people though, you might be great at discipline, and find it only works if you actively schedule time for writing. Brilliant. Stick with it! You’re likely to get your book written way before I do – and I’m so excited for you! (If this is you, please let me know so I can congratulate you; your hard work might even rub off and inspire me to get cracking, which I’ll be eternally grateful for).

Becoming an Author isn’t a competition. Yes, in terms of financial rewards authors do compete with one another to get the recognition and rankings that lead to muchos wonga. But, that’s not what writing is about, for me at least. As I’ve mentioned before, and will undoubtedly mention again, being an author is about the joy of writing, of telling your story. Nobody else can do that, ever. So you’re really not competing with anyone.

And if riches come your way along the journey that is amazing. But it doesn’t mean that all the other authors out there who don’t become millionaires aren’t just as important. Your story could change the life of one person forever – so get it out there for them.

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