Most of us cringe when we are given unsolicited advice.
Tell someone you plan to buy a new house, search for a new job, plant a garden, purchase a new TV, and people will be happy to give their opinion. “Just trying to be helpful,” they explain. Although my friend didn’t ask for a suggestion, I found myself telling her where she should start her search for a new car. I just couldn’t help myself!
I look forward to the second Tuesday of every month when I meet with a small group of other writers. They dish out their advice to me on my current writing project. In return, I do the same for them. Of all the things I do to make my prose shine, their advice is the most helpful tool I have in my creativity arsenal. Do I always do what they suggest? No, but I take their counsel very seriously. It is always a good idea for a writer to have others give their perspective to the story. Sometimes I find that I am not getting a key element of my story across, and I need to build a stronger case. Occasionally, my main characters are not as likeable as I would want them to be, and the other writers help me find a way to make them more “reader-friendly.” I always come away from our meetings raring to go to make changes, edit, and fine-tune my work. Sometimes I delete a scene that I have spent hours writing.
I can only remember a few pieces of advice I gave my kids growing up. Here goes: 1. Do the best you can, and no one has the right to expect more. 2. Be honest with yourself and others. 3. When you fall in love and decide this person is “the one,” make sure they make you happy and make your life easier. I gave them this advice after my own failed first marriage. We learn from our mistakes, right? Fortunately, I took my advice to heart the second time around and have been happily married for many years.
In conclusion, I will tell you something I have learned in my life journey. When I don’t know what to do, I pray. It is amazing to me that soon after my prayer, someone will say something to me —yes, usually unsolicited advice — that will be the answer I was seeking. Just remember, there is good advice and bad advice. Life is a puzzle that we piece together and decide what fits and what doesn’t, because we can’t completely see the whole picture.