Monday, February 07, 2011

How do you know when you’re ready to offer advice?



My husband will soon graduate with his degree in Golf Management. During the course of his studies, he learned how to give golf lessons using all kinds of techniques including video analysis. This year, he must bring in people who want to learn the game and instruct them in front of his teacher for his grade.

Yet still he feels inadequate teaching anyone golf. One reason could be because his own game isn’t quite where he wants it yet. Maybe it’s because he’s only been golfing for three years. (BUT seems like Forever!)

As writers, when are we ready to offer writing advice?

Is it as soon as we are published? Is it as soon as we call ourselves writers?

I read a lot of blogs that give advice on all kinds of subjects. Usually I look at the blogger’s credentials and then determine if I will take what they say wholeheartedly or not. Sometimes, I’m surprised at how soon advice is given out and the depth of it.

When it comes to my blog, I try to share the mistakes I’ve made along the way and those I learned from. They won’t be the same as yours. You also won’t see me giving out a lot of technical writing advice like plot and structure because I know the books out there can do a much better job than I can. And besides that, I’m still learning.

I’m on my fifth novel and I’ve finally just developed a good working plan for my revisions. But ask me how to write a good non-fiction story and I’ll jump right in.

So tell me, how soon do you feel comfortable offering advice to others?

46 comments:

Jessica R. Patch said...

That's a great question to which I have no answer! I know what works for me, and I share that occasionally on my blog, but I've never written technical advice either. I do enjoy reading "how to" blogs though!

Shelley L. Snyder said...

With regard to writing, I am in no position to give advice...unless it's to check out the blog of a more "advanced" writer, someone qualified and totally knows what they are doing, or maybe directing people to books or articles that might help with something. Other than that, I really don't think I can give anyone advice.

Linda O'Connell said...

I think we can all learn from one another. I welcome and also give advice.

Yolanda said...

For me, not as a writer, but just in general of giving advice, I try not to give advice unless they ask me to share my thoughts.

Hugs-
Yolanda

Sassy Granny ... said...

Over the course of my 63-year lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that free advice is often not welcome, or even needed for that matter (I'm always a bit suspect of "free" offers myself). Thus I rarely offer it unless asked outright, regardless of subject matter.

There truly is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, so I personally collect ideas & insights when I need to see a big picture or make a decision. And it's typically the mature or seasoned person I seek first.

Wouldn't life be dull if we didn't have the well-thought-out insights of others?

Blessings,
Kathleen

Lin Floyd said...

there's expert advice and then there's feedback. both are valuable...

Kara said...

I think I can offer advice on how something works or doesn't work for me, but the technical stuff I'm still learning. If I offer advice I try to do it in a different light, maybe a way that helped me to understand. I"m glad you brought this up, because I struggle with the fact that my blog posts might not be techinical enough!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

This is a thought-provoking question--one I'll be thinking about throughout the day. I hope I don't jump in too early and wait until I'm asked before I let my words fly.

Been meaning to thank you for what you wrote in your email recently! It meant a lot!
~ Wendy

Karen Lange said...

Very good question! I'm thinking it varies; you don't have to be an expert at something to share some advice and things you've learned. But it does lend credibility to have accomplishments in the particular area. But then too, teachers fresh out of college are teaching students...not that they don't know anything but certainly aren't seasoned veterans. A good question to ponder, thanks, Terri.
Happy Monday!
Blessings,
Karen

Kenda said...

Good question :-) There's so much I'm still learning about the craft so I don't feel confident in giving too much advice. But I do tend to share those things that I'm learning about at the moment. That helps me and hopefully helps others, too...

Lynn said...

I teach software I've been trained on, used, and have years of experience with, so feel qualified to give advise when asked. With writing or photography, if asked advise I always qualify it with 'I'm not the expert' and will point to others who are. And I'm learning that sometimes experience trumps credentials.

Diane said...

If nothing else, I try to offer an ear to listen even if I have no empathy for what someone is going through.

Yeah to your husband BTW!!! :O)

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm not comfortable giving advice since I'm not an expert, but I love to help others and pass on what I've learned, which creates a bit of a dilemma. What works for me is to offer suggestions rather than advice and let the recipient determine whether or not what I've shared is beneficial.

Angie Ledbetter said...

I'll give advice if asked, but love to encourage widely. :)

Cheryl Klarich said...

Really thoughtful post Terri! I love reading blogs that give tips, especially if done in a kind and helpful way.

Your husband must be quite the athlete to learn golf in only three years! Bravo!!

Katie Ganshert said...

I think, like you said, it depends a lot on our experiences. I also think it depends a lot on where the advice we're handing out originated from. A lot of the stuff I write on my blog about craft/structure/writing technique comes from I'm learning from whatever craft book I'm reading at the time. I like to share the knowledge. :)

Jill said...

We are all on a path. Many of us, although unpublished, are not just starting out. We often know when something works and why it works, even if we're not there yet with our own writing. But we very well might be, who knows? Much of the advice I see out there parrots the experts, however. There's nothing original or thought-provoking about it. I love it when I find fresh advice AND it comes from an expert writer.

Heidi Willis said...

You've hit on a great issue, one which I didn't notice until after I'd been published. It seems most bloggers who write in-depth writing advice are unpublished, and the published writers stick more to personal stuff. I'm not really sure why that is, but I know I was guilty of that as well. I think it was because as I was actively learning about the craft, I was more enthused about passing on what I was learning.

After being published, I stopped, but now I'm back doing it with what I'm learning in grad school, and that, I think, is just passing on the brilliance of my advisors rather than my own. :)

I don't mind people talking about what they've learned, as long as they don't post it as an absolute or try to imply you can't get anywhere unless you follow those rules. Life is full of options.

Melissa Marsh said...

When I've figured out something for myself and feel like I have a good grasp of it, I'll offer advice. But if it's a subject I don't know much about or I don't "get it", then I keep my mouth closed!

Jan Cline said...

I usually only pass on information that has come from another, more credible source. I have given some advice to my writer's group, but only advice from the mistakes I have made. Or I will steer them in the right direction on where to look for help. I love to teach, so it's a temptation to give advice based just on my opinion. Im learning!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Terri, this is a great question--and one reason I was initially scared to join a critique group. I would hate to give someone advice that isn't helpful--or worse, isn't accurate. But I think writers who aren't published yet are still great sources of feedback. Most of them give advice from mistakes they've made, and things they've learned from. And that advice is very helpful. But this is also why we have to discern as individuals what advice and feedback is helpful and suitable to what we're writing.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I never feel comfortable giving advice - sometimes I'll write about writing because I'll be asked something a lot or sometimes I'll feel as if I 'should' be talking about writing instead of all my willy nilly stuff I do on my blog :D

But, I make sure it's something I feel confident about and as well I always point out that everyone is different, and, that if we convince our audience, then our work is done no matter what rules we followed or did not follow.

I never give advice on plot and structure and some other related things because I never think about those things when I write! Usually it's grammar or voice or POV or something.

I don't know - there's so much "advice" out there now I'm feeling over-kill on it. In with that is advice on how to blog, how to twitter, how to facebook - AUGHHH!

dang!

T. Anne said...

After I've recovered from several mistakes in the area. Plus, I subscribe to the consider the source mentality. ;) I always like to hear what others have to say.

Sally said...

I'll give my opinion on anything at anytime anyone would like to ask or listen. I have no advice to offer on writing other than editing (I've done my share of editing, mainly thesis papers). My area is psychology (master's) and my blog is full of relationship advice. On taking advice I'm with those who say "consider the source."

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

If I'm talking with an established author, I mostly put tape over my mouth and open my ears.

If the person is a newbie, I'll do my best to share what I've learned. If I can spare them some of the mistakes I've made, why not?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I just offer suggestions and let them know I haven't made it yet. :)

Texas Playwright Chick said...

Yeah, that's a tough one. I really only give advice depending on the person asking, my relationship to them & even then, try to only point out mistakes I've made. Because in the end, everybody's path snakes differently and we all have different things to learn along the way.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great question, Terri. Its tough to offer advice as I am still learning what works for me. But its nice to share what we all are learning in our writing lives. Or what we have all learnt from our mistakes.

Rhonda Schrock said...

I like your style, Terri. You're so honest with us, never afraid to tell us what didn't work. That gives you creds with me, girl.

So happy that your husband's almost done!

Hugging your neck,

Rhonda

Susan R. Mills said...

Okay, here are my thoughts... I like to pass on advice that I've learned from someone who knows a lot more than I do. My favorite way to do this is to use mistakes I've made and what I've learned from them as examples.

Julie Gillies said...

Hi Terri,

Well, if I'm approached, I'll do my best to help. I love helping and encouraging writers. Part of that is just making them aware of the plethora of information available--books, blogs, magazines, classes, conferences, workshops.

Since I oversee a large network of critique groups, I have the opportunity to help a lot of writers--but that sure doesn't mean I've arrived yet. We can ALL keep learning!

Nancy said...

I offer advice in the form of little stories and things I have learned. I think right now is a good time to do it and that we all have some areas we can share with others.

Jill Kemerer said...

Congrats to your hubby! May a long, fun career be ahead of him. :)

I hesitate to give advice on subjects I haven't researched or that I am not passionate about.

Julie Musil said...

Not comfortable at all! As a matter of fact, I resisted joining a critique group for that reason. What could I offer? But each of us does offer something, even if we think it's insignificant.

As for the blog, I'll offer bits of wisdom that I've learned along the way. These are things I've learned from others, and I credit the source. Hopefully it comes across ok!

Lynda Young said...

Usually what I offer on my blog are things I've recently learned and tested and I wish to share.

K9friend said...

I feel more comfortable calling it my opinion, rather than advice!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

Janna Qualman said...

Oh gosh, that's hard. Because it's so subjective! Not just from person to person, but from subject to subject. I guess only if I feel I've a relevant point.

Congrats to the hubs, Terri! I can't believe he's nearly made it through, seems to have gone so fast. Good for him!

WritingNut said...

This is a great question... and I'm really not sure! I usually just try to share my experiences as I learn them on the journey, and hope that it will help others too :)

Jen Daiker said...

This is a great question. I was just telling my husband the other day that I'm not always comfortable giving advice when others ask for it.

This is what I've learned. If I feel that I have something to share, I do. Most likely it's a story of my experience and if it helps a friend great, if it doesn't, that's fine.

I suppose what I'm saying is that if you have an experience then you have something to share!

Laura Pauling said...

Such a good question. And something each blogger needs to decide for themselves. It really helps me process information to blog about it. I try not to just spit out information that I've learned from books. But I write about what I learned while applying that information. And, I'm going go by reader feedback what other writers are looking for. I love hearing or being reminded of writing concepts just as much as I love reading about a funny story. But either way, if it's boring or didactic, it won't keep my interest.

Sylvia Ney said...

What a great question and an interesting blog! I often tell people to realize I'm only sharing my beliefs and experience so take it with a grain of salt.

I wanted to let you know about a giveaway I'm offering on my blog http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/ Come by if you get a chance!

Jennie Allen said...

I am so far from the advice stage! I am sure it will come in time.

But girl- you after 5 novels are most certainly qualified!!

Deb Shucka said...

I think if words are offered in the form of my own experience (or anyone else's) then any time is okay to share. If advice is given as the final word on anything, I read with more caution.

Nehha N Josshi said...

No where close to it when it comes to writing....but I think you do it pretty well because you speak from experience:)

Dawn Simon said...

Excellent question. I offer advice if it's something I feel confident about. My opinions change/evolve as I grow as a writer, and I think that's okay. I'm finding what works for one manuscript isn't always what works for another, and we learn so much from experience. I'm also learning a ton from suggestions other writers offer--things to try, books to read, etc. That said, I could totally relate to Nathan B's post last week that said something to the effect of "the more I learn, the less I know." Hee!

Brock S. Henning said...

Wow, what a great question. I'm still at the early writing stages and lack the creds to feel competent to offer advice. And the only times I've offered writing advice is when the person is completely new to writing, and my advice is not about writing technicalities but more of offering them resources that I've used to explore my own writing. Blogs, books, writers groups, etc.

On your fifth novel? Your advice has my ear. :)