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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Bit of Advice On Taking Advice

by James L. Rubart, @jameslrubart

In ninth grade, I wanted to be a rock star. (Yeah, me and every other kid who had a modicum of talent on the guitar, bass or drums.)

That meant buying an electric guitar. I’d played an acoustic for a few years, but I needed something I could plug into an amp that would go to eleven. More than that, I needed a guitar that I could play lead guitar on. I wanted to play those screaming solos that would make girls like me and guys want to be me.

I searched my school for someone experienced. Someone who could tell me the secret of getting the right guitar. Finally, I found him. He explained there were two types of electric guitars. Rythm and lead. And if I wanted to make like Jimmi Hendrix, I needed to buy a lead electric.

Yes! I was stoked. I’d found a guru to help me find the path.

Because I knew nothing about electric guitars I asked, “What’s the difference between a rhythm electric guitar and a lead electric guitar?”

My acquaintance leaned back, assumed an impressive air guitar stance and said, “With a lead electric you can wind it out!”

Being a typical ninth grader I pretended for a few minutes to understand what he meant. But my desire to know was greater than my insecurity at being looked the fool. So I said, “What do you mean ‘wind it out’?”

“You know! You can wind it out!” He nodded at me with wide eyes. “You know? Wind it out, man!” Another impressive air guitar solo ensued.

No. I still didn’t know. But I was determined to find out. So I went to a music store in downtown Kirkland and asked one of the staff to show me his LEAD electric guitars. His response: “Uh, I’m not sure what you mean.”

Those of you who play guitar are ahead of me. (For the rest of you, there’s no such thing as a lead electric or a rhythm electric. An electric is an electric is an electric.) But I didn’t know that. I was looking for advice and went to my fellow ninth grader who was more experienced than me. He spoke with confidence and knew lingo I didn’t, so I believed him.

Now the rest of you are ahead of me as well, in regards to how this applies to writing, but I’ll say it anyway.

Before you take writing advice from anyone ask yourself:

  1. Does this person have the credentials to be offering me their advice? What is their experience level? 

  2. Have I asked three or more different people the same question? (There is wisdom in many counselors. Often you’ll get different answers even from multi-published authors and teachers that will give you a better-rounded picture than if you’d only asked one person.)

  3. Have I looked in books from respected writing instructors to get their perspective on the question?

What About You?

Have you ever taken writing advice which you later found out was wrong?

How do you make sure you’re getting the right counsel when trying to an answer to one of your writing questions?

Must go. I just came up with a great ending for a chapter I’m working on. I think I’ll be able to wind it out.


A Bit of Advice On Taking Advice by James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Before you take writing advice from anyone ask yourself three things.~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Have you ever taken writing advice which you later found out was wrong?~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer

What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?
Corporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.
When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.
Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.
But the journey will become more treacherous with each step Jake takes.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling and Christy award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, SOUL’S GATE, and MEMORY’S DOOR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at


  1. Sure have taken wrong advice. From critique group mostly. Learned a lot from the process too. About myself, about different perspectives on writing, varying writing levels and most importantly, learning how to trust my experience as a reader on what works and what doesn't. Constantly pushing to be outside the box of others' perceptions can be exhausting but pays off in lessons learned. So far the hardest part has been knowing when to walk away (figuratively speaking). I love how much I've learned from my critique groups, from their flaws and their strengths. I'm nearing the point of needing to find new critique partners due to a number of different factors, their age (at the opposite end of the spectrum from my readers, YA), their reading preferences (not fantasy), their writing goals (intent on production based on writing years left) versus my goals (producing quality indie books with minimal of editor services due to financial limitations). I've learned so much from their advice, but now I need to move on...and open the door to people more suited to my writing needs...scary steps, but how can we grow without the advice? We can't, in my humble opinion.

  2. Joanna,

    My wife is great about realizing there are seasons to most relationships and groups .. she knows when it's time to move one, me? Not so much. So good for you to figure that out and know when it's time to move,



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