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(Not-So) Writerly Wisdom: 4 Writers Share the Common Advice They’ve Learned to Ignore

October 26, 2020

Like any craft, writing has fundamentals that shouldn’t be ignored. (Let’s not confuse you’re and your in any context!) That said, there’s a lot of advice out there… but is it all worth paying attention to?

We recently asked our community of Gotham writers and writing coaches: Whether it’s just misguided or seemingly a myth, what’s one piece of writing advice you’ve learned just isn’t true for you?

Here’s what they said.

“Write what you know.”

The worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard is “Write what you know.”

To turn this into good advice, it should be revised to read, “Write what you know about what you don’t know.” In other words, apply your knowledge and experience to things that are beyond your knowledge or experience.

Ken Salikof, novelist and screenwriter

“Only focus on writing.”

A misconception I’ve heard is that writers should only focus on writing and sharpening these skills in order to be successful.

Writers also need to utilize a toolbox that includes marketing, negotiation skills, accounting knowledge, and basic social media skills in order to build a thriving business that lasts well after their last piece is published.

Diana Kelly Levey, freelance writer, author, and freelance writing coach

“Find jobs through your network.”

I’ve learned the advice that’s all over books, websites, online training, et al, does not work. That advice? Start by gleaning biz from family, friends, even former bosses.

Nope. Never worked for me. None of those close to me were in any way able to direct me to a colleague, another relative, or other who’d need my help. My own searches have gleaned me far more, and continue to do so!

Wendy Meyeroff, health/tech writer and editor

“Writing is a hobby, not a job.”

I was always told that writing should be treated as a hobby… as a Plan B and second to a “job.” I couldn’t disagree with this more.

If you treat writing as a hobby, it will always BE a hobby. But if you treat it as a priority, well that’s when you can one day hope to bump it up to your career (of choice).

Mona Andrei, writer and author


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