Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a group of like-minded people and suddenly your motivation is at an all-time high?

Last week, the inaugural 20BooksVegas conference helped me find my mojo again. I’ve planned and plotted and read and studied every day since I left, and now I’m ready to write and teach.

When I started studying to become an editor more than fifteen years ago, I knew two things:

  1. I love words in all forms. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music… I simply love how many different and varied ways we have to communicate.
  2. I want to help others love words as much as I do.

At the 20Books conference, I met hundreds of others who feel the same way I do. However, as with most conferences, there was one aspect I felt didn’t receive its due weight.

Advice (writing advice, editing advice, relationship advice, technical advice, etc) is like a pair of jeans. One size definitely does not fit all. Over the next few months, I hope to bring you a whole lot of advice. It’s only fitting that I start this series with a little advice about how to take advice.

Learn everything. Then decide what works for you.

I have a friend who was struggling with her writing last year. Full disclosure, the friend was actually me, but for stylistic impact, I’m going to pretend her name is Writer Woman. Writer Woman loved writing. She’d often sit down at night after a busy day at her full-time job and bang out 3,000 words or more. She published four or five books every year. She thought being a writer was about the best thing ever. After she’d published eight books, she changed her process. Rather than use a loose plotting method, she adopted a rigid one. Rather than write a book once, then self-edit, then send it to her editor, then revise, then send it to a proofreader, she started writing the book at least three times because she didn’t feel the book was right. When her editor received the books, they were in such a convoluted state, they often had to be rewritten yet again.

How did my friend, who was (in her fans’ estimation) a pretty kick-butt writer, go so wrong? Easy. She worried that she wasn’t doing things “the right way,” and so she changed her process. Then, when she started to struggle, she didn’t stop and think, “hey, maybe this process isn’t the right one for me.” No. She thought, “hey, maybe I’m not good enough at this process.”

DANGER. DANGER. DANGER.

We should all strive to be better today than we were yesterday. We should learn as much as we possibly can. We should expose ourselves to differing opinions and viewpoints and try new and exciting processes. However, we should also take a little self-inventory from time-to-time and ask ourselves if these new processes are working for us. If the answer is no, that’s okay.

A writing coach I once talked to described his advice as “brutal.” Well, when you have some PTSD-like symptoms from past writing coaches, seeing that word on the screen can be a little shocking. Triggering, even. I took one look at that word and then turned and ran in the other direction.

For about an hour.

I don’t like being scared, though, so I turned right around and bought his book. Why? Because maybe I’ll learn something. Maybe his book will help me write faster or better. Maybe it won’t. His advice could be 100% wrong for me at this time. That said, I want to know what he has to say. Perhaps I’ll find a diamond in that book. Perhaps the entire book is made of diamonds. Perhaps the pages are filled with nothing but coal.

I’ll report back in a few weeks. However, here is the important point: This particular writing coach isn’t me. He doesn’t use my process. He doesn’t have my fans. He doesn’t approach his writing or his publishing career the way I approach mine. It’s okay if I read his book and don’t take a word of his advice. It’s also okay if I take bits here and there. Or if I take his word as Gospel.

So as you read this series of blog posts over the next few weeks, remember this lesson.

No piece of advice is right for every person at every time. Learn as much as you can. Question. Think. Let the advice settle. Think again. Then decide how much of the advice you feel is right for you.