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One of the weirdest things about being a writer is that the only people who never read your writing under any circumstances are your friends and relatives. Of course, I am joking and exaggerating, but as they say, any joke is just a half-joke. Try to remember how often you have given your new story or novel to a friend, hoping to hear his or her opinion, and then waited for months just to hear: “Sorry, dude, I had no time, but I’ll read it—I promise.”
The other weird thing is that those of your friends or relatives who actually did read your book believe for some reason they know better—how and what you should write. Of course, a reasonable critique is valuable, but most often people express their opinions based on nothing. Sometimes they dislike or misunderstand one particular word, phrase, or chapter, and harass you with demands to change it. Sometimes they suggest their own versions of your writing, or express doubts whether your writing is ever going to be published, or what is the worst, they start giving you advice.
Personally, I divide advice in two categories: useful and useless. If a piece of advice is useless, I ignore it; however, if it is useful, I still don’t rush into following it. In fact, useful advice requires a double-serious attitude; always think well before following useful advice.
Why do I find useful advice dangerous? It is simple: because I care about my writing style and my personal experience. I believe if you follow the advice of somebody else, you lose a chance to learn from your mistakes, and to improve your skills. Someone would say that I am too self-confident, and there is nothing bad about advice. I agree; but, at the same time, I believe every writer paves their own road. If my writing is bad—it’s bad because of my poor skill. If it’s good—it’s my personal victory. But, if I follow the advice of somebody else, and my writing either improves or degrades because of it—whose achievement is that? Mine? Not at all.
Advice are footprints of other people in your writing. These footprints may show you a way out of the wilds, when the situation is desperate (following advice in this case is reasonable). But they can also lead you into a swamp. You must draw your map yourself, and think carefully, where the footprints of other people may take you.
Thinking with one’s own head is a good and useful trait for any writer.
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