Get seriously inspiring writing tips delivered to your inbox Join my author mailing listJoin my author mailing list

Confused by conflicting writing advice? Read on!

Writing advice test part 1

How do you know where to start?

Writing advice. It’s everywhere: social media, websites, online training, in interviews with authors, on college and university curriculum. How do you know where to start? How do you know which advice to listen to and which to ignore?

Writing advice test number one

The other day I talked about Brené Brown’s use of Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘arena speech’. Don’t know what I’m on about?! You can read about it here. Now let me show you how to apply the ‘arena speech’ as a test – the arena test if you like – to any writing advice you receive. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are you ‘in the arena’ practicing your art?
  2. Once you are ‘in the arena’, how much does the writing advice you’ve read actually apply to your current context and to the current stage of your writing journey?
  3. Are the people giving the advice ‘in the arena’ too or are they sitting on the side lines?

Work out how your context is affecting you

Draw a circle and write your name in the middle of it. Around your name, add everything else in your life right now. Don’t evaluate or put them in any order, simply get them down. Now get a coloured pen and circle the contexts that are affecting you the most right now.

Context circle

What stage are you at on your journey?

The writing ‘journey’ is a metaphor that’s often used in the writing community and it isn’t always helpful. However, to a certain extent it can help to define the stages of that journey. Are you just starting out, about to leave home, packing your bags ready to go? Or have you reached the first resting place or completed the first leg of the journey? Or are you well on your way with several books out, for example?

Pirate's treasure map

Combine context and your journey stage

Next, look at the contexts you’ve circled in the first exercise and examine them in relation to your journey stage. What challenges and opportunities are unique to this particular combination? Say you’ve just become a parent for the first time and you’ve just secured a two book deal, for example, or you’re recently retired and a publisher is interested in your memoir. You can see how, in these examples, the writing advice you want to engage with differs depending on the challenges and opportunities you’ve identified.

Are the people giving the advice ‘in the arena’ too?

Are the people giving the advice ‘in the arena’ too or are they sitting on the side lines? On the whole, I would be inclined to trust those who are ‘in the arena’ and who’ve been there for longer than I have! However, even if they’re ‘in the arena’, they might be writing something different.

These advice-givers might never have experienced the particular set of circumstances you identified when you combined your context and your journey stage. Of course, their advice may still be useful, especially if they’ve also showed up in the ‘helping and supporting others’ arena regularly.

Coming soon

Before I mix my metaphors anymore, let me tell you that there is another way to tell if a piece of writing advice might be useful or harmful or neither, which I shall call (for want of a better title) writing advice test number two.

More on that soon, until then, happy writing,


P.S. You can still get your hands on these two free writing courses – Writing for Beginners and How to Make Money From Your Writingcheck them out here.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.