My seven-year-old often (inadvertently, mostly) gives me insight into work dilemmas. He’s at an age, for instance in which he’d rather not listen to advice from his parental units. He’s a big boy now and wants to do things by himself, his way. He does not need his dad and me telling him how he might save himself time and trouble on a task and outright doubts that our combined centuries of wisdom are a match for his lithe young brain. (I gather this will only get worse once the teen years set in.) Most of the time, though, all that hard-won experience does count for something and my son, being an honest, upstanding lad, gracefully agrees that perhaps we might know a bit more about a particular subject than he thought and that maybe our advice is at least worth considering.
Such is the way with authors sometimes. They come to us because they want to benefit from our expertise and experience yet often butt heads with us when we try to offer advice that runs counter to their goals, preconceptions, instincts, whatever, about their books. As a rule, the more talented the author the most able s/he is to take advice with good grace and at least explore whether it makes sense for his/her work and career. And, much like parents everywhere feel, we hate to be right at the expense of someone’s bad choices.
Advice, though, is a double-edged sword. Whose do you take? Whose do you walk away from? Everyone has an opinion and there are usually kernels of good sense in even bad counsel. Unfortunately, the internet makes things harder by providing an ocean of often unsolicited input from everyone and their kid brother.
My feeling is, take advice from people you respect, who have solid experience under their belt, and who have had some success in the area you are looking for help in. Then, try to tune out the rest of the noise and keep in mind that advice is just that and that ultimately you have to take responsibility for and ownership of your decisions.
With that in mind, here’s William Faulkner giving some pretty good tips to aspiring and practicing writers.