brni (brni) wrote,

Writing Advice About Writing Advice

Abraham Lincoln, in the Spielberg film, says:

A compass [...will] point you True North from where you're standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp... What's the use of knowing True North?

So, you're on a journey. You're driving from Philadelphia to New Orleans, for coffee and jazz. Whatever, you're going from Point A to Point Z, and you're not entirely sure how to get to Z.

You can use a compass and plot a course and hope for the best.

Or you can plug your destination into a GPS, and follow the step-by-step instructions to get from point A to point Z.

Or, you can dig into the bottom of your glove compartment and pull out the old road map, the one that shows all the places you might be, all the places that you might want to get to, and all the connections in between. Yes, it's messy and confusing, and the damn thing never folds back up right, but it doesn't just show you the most efficient path. It shows you the world, all the places in-between and on the periphery, and you plot out the path that makes sense to you, the one that looks interesting. The one that makes the journey uniquely yours.

Avoid writing advice that looks like GPS instructions, and look for the writing advice that gives you a map, but doesn't tell you where to go.
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