I've just been reading Samantha's excellent post over at Strictly Writing ( http://strictlywriting.blogspot.com/ ) giving her Top Writing Tips. It set me to thinking about how often I've been asked, when giving talks to writers' groups etc, for tips and advice. Of course, we all have our favourite tips: I often tell would-be writers, for instance, that the best advice is just to make a start! - as so many people tell me they'll become a writer at some imagined point in the future - when the kids start school, or when they retire, etc - and I really wonder whether they ever will, if they're not motivated enough to get started right now!
But I often also repeat a quote I've seen, by Somerset Maugham, who said: 'There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are."!
I love writers' magazines, books about writing, forums inhabited by writers, etc - and over the years, I've gleaned some wonderful advice from all of them. Just as you're never too old to learn, you're also never too experienced or successful to find out more about the inexhaustible topic of writing for publication. Not that I'm particularly succesful! - but I have been going at it for a long time - and yet I read Jane Wenham Jones' 'Wannabee a Writer' earlier this year, and found loads of helpful advice in it - presented in an easy-to-read and amusing way.
But as Samantha points out in her post, we all need to be able to filter the massive amount of advice we read, to take on board the bits that apply to us (and which work for us), and ignore the rest. Sometimes that's difficult when it seems that all the so-called 'experts' out there are saying stuff that seems to go against what comes naturally to you.
For instance, I don't think anyone would disagree that when you're fitting in your writing around a full-time job, you just have to write whenever you have the time and the energy - but it seems that once you're a full-time writer, almost everyone advises you to work to a routine. I have to keep reminding myself not to feel guilty or to feel like I'm not a 'proper writer' for completely ignoring this advice! It just doesn't suit me - since not having a day job, I like to be flexible and write at whatever time I feel inclined on different days.
I'm giving a talk at a Rotary Club this week and I've no doubt I'll give out some of my so-called pearls of wisdom about becoming a writer! - it's what people usually want to hear. But since reading Samantha's post and mulling all this over, I'll definitely also add the caveat that my tips might have worked for me - don't necessarily expect them to work for you. Writing isn't an exact science, where you can learn the 'rules' like a maths lesson (God forbid!) and expect to get 10 out of 10 or a gold star (showing my age, there!) for getting them all right. So if you like using adverbs, for instance, or you think you might be doing a bit of Telling instead of Showing - but it seems to work, and feels right - don't beat yourself up. Trust yourself to break or bend a rule or two and see what happens!