March 7, 2012

Advice vs. Experience

Posted in Creativity, Fiction Writing, flow in writing, writing techniques tagged , , , , , , at 1:26 pm by Rebecca Hein

When I was younger, I dutifully read books on writing, and still remember those passages about observation and detail: “Go out into the rain. Notice everything. Notice how the puddles look on the sidewalk with the raindrops spattering into them. Notice the people with their umbrellas, hurrying home.” And so forth.

Fifteen years later, my reaction was identical when one of my cello teachers said, “Listen to your playing and try to get a better tone.”

I froze. Shut down in both cases by direct instructions, I could hardly move or think.

But why? I certainly needed the information. Writers do need to observe and note details; musicians have to develop their tone.

My problem was in the way the advice was delivered. It was too direct. Trying to do what I was told, rather than immersing myself in the experience, removed me several steps from the very sensations that could have helped me progress.

Now I know how to deal with direct advice: take it in, do nothing about it, and let it float to the back of my mind, where it mixes with other information to ultimately produce ideas I can work with.


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