I don’t like being asked for advice. I don’t want to be asked which job you should take or what you should do about a relationship. I have an opinion (I’m full of opinions!), but I don’t need more responsibility. What happens if you follow my advice and everything goes wrong? Blame is what happens. The universe knows, I’m not looking for ways to add blame to my life.
But I’m a teacher at heart. You want to know how to do something? Please, ask me.
The other evening at speed skate practice, a couple of skaters needed to know how to do a drill. I was interrupted trying to explain. “What were you saying?” someone asked.
“I teach. It’s what I do. I was trying to explain the drill.”
But I don’t see teaching the same as advice. Do you?
Writing advice is everywhere. Blogs, articles, videos, and books are full of writing advice. I’m happy to share what I’ve heard or read. But don’t ask me, “What should I do?”
I don’t know.
In the picture are some ornaments I tried to make. A painful story goes along with them.
For a while, my art was displayed and sold at a high-end furniture/home decor store downtown. Which was mostly a good experience and I was sad when the store failed (due to the economic downturn and possibly questionable management practices). But I decided to make ornaments for the store. Maybe they’d sell.
The owner of the store had an idea to make the ornaments sell. She suggested I back them with wood and use a protective coating. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, does it?
It seemed reasonable to me, even though I wasn’t quite sure. Part of me thought the wood and shellac wouldn’t work. There was that little voice in the back of my head saying, no. Don’t.
But the owner of the store sold my work and she knew the market. I wanted to make her happy.
She decided to promote my work by having a night-with-the-artist event. I could work on the ornaments and people could come into the store for treats, wine, and art. I could meet customers and sell my work. Win-win!
I brought lots of ornaments to work on. The store owner provided the wood and shellac. She decorated her store and set up the food and wine.
She opened her doors.
How many people came?
One. One person came. A friend of mine. Two hours I sat there talking to employees. I tried not to act as mortified as I felt.
And how did the wood and shellac go?
It ruined every ornament. The paper would adhere to the wood well. The shellac discolored the paper. I hated them. the store owner in sited they were fine. She hung them around the store.
A few weeks later, she sold a couple. She sold the ones that I hadn’t attached to wood backs or coated with shellac.
I don’t like to ask for advice either. Once I ask for advice, I feel obligated to take it. How does someone feel if you ask for advice and they give it, but then you don’t follow it? Not good.
What if you follow the advice and it fails?
What if you follow it and it works?
I like being responsible for my failures and successes. Don’t you?
When people give me advice about my writing, I’ll listen. Well, I’ll listen if I believe that person knows what they’r talking about. But sometimes, I just don’t want to follow that advice. That advice-giver may be wise, but they aren’t writing my story.
Making those ornaments took a lot time. I spent hours on them before I tried to adhere them to wood and coat them. All of that work went wasted. I still have some of the ornaments, and I hate to take them out and look at them. Why didn’t I listen to my own inner voice? Because I wanted to make someone else happy. I wanted to be agreeable. I wanted to be successful and I didn’t believe I knew how to be just that. I’m not wildly successful, right? Surely the store owner, cooler and smarter than me, knew what to do. Right?
Advice is great as far as it goes. I don’t know everything. But I’m still bummed I ruined hours of work.
How do you feel about advice?