Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. ~ Buddha
I love this quote. I love it for everyday life, and I love it for writing.
As a writer, a critique partner, a writing coach, and a friend to lots of writers, I find this little quote an inspiration.
When I first started writing, I was a member of a powerhouse RWA group, Washington Romance Writers, in DC. Nora Roberts is a founding member, and it includes in its roster a veritable Who’s Who of NY Times bestselling authors.
I haven’t been back to the annual retreat/conference in a really long time – not since I moved to Wisconsin – but it used to be that Nora herself traditionally gave the send-off speech on Sunday morning, as everyone was preparing to leave.
In one of these speeches, I remember distinctly she told us in no certain terms and in three specific ways, to Mind Your Own Business.
Yes, that is a cute little play on words. Pay more attention to what you write than what anyone else is writing. Write more than you’re marketing or advertising. (She went on to add that that’s what agents and PR people are for, and in a perfect world I agree. However, these days, you do have to do a lot more of it than one used to. And we all have to do it more than Nora does, I’m guessing….). And finally, she went on to say that you have to have a little faith in what you’re doing. It’s a hard business, you’re gonna get knocked down, you’re gonna get rejected – even Nora has a rejection story; you can read about her path to publication, including a famous snowstorm and a dwindling supply of chocolate, here: Faith is good.
At another one of those WRW retreats, I heard a cautionary tale from a member about a writer who took so much advice from other writers – especially well-established, domineering-personality writers – that she floundered and lost her own voice.
Writing is hard. Finding your own voice is hard. (Heck, figuring out what a “voice” is, is hard.) Finding friends and writing partners who “get” you and really have your back and you can have fun with, is hard.
However, it’s also really worth it to try.
There’s a little voice inside you (different from the writing voice – sorry!) that knows what you’re doing right and what you’re not doing quite so right. Listen to that voice. Even if it doesn’t know how to fix what’s wrong, it generally has a clue about what needs fixing. When people give you advice, chances are that inner voice knows when they’ve hit on something that makes sense to you. Their advice resonates. And when they’re completely off the mark, you probably know that, too.
So listen to your heart. (I know – sappy, but true sometimes.) Listen to the inner voice inside you that has a lot more answers than you might think. (If you journal, or would like to consider journaling, sometimes it’s a great method for letting that inner voice have the opportunity to ‘speak’ to you.)
Have faith in yourself, even – or especially – when all you’re hearing from that little voice is that you need to learn more.