Recently I heard a joke about a guy who went in for surgery. After he was rolled into the pre-op area, his wife trudged her way down the long haul toward the hospital cafeteria. But two steps from the cafeteria entrance, she heard her husband screaming, and she froze in her tracks. She looked down the hall to see him running toward her.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked.
He pointed at the nurse marching down the hall towards them. “I heard what she said!”
“What did she say?”
“She said, ‘I know you’ve never been through this kind of operation before, but it’s a relatively minor procedure, so try to stop shaking. There’s a good chance everything will turn out okay.'”
The wife shook her head. “But, honey, the nurse was just trying to help you.”
His eyes went wide. “She was talking to the doctor!”
Yeah, we’d all like to know that our surgeon has been there and done that before we entrust our bodies to him. I don’t want my doctor to point to an x-ray and exclaim, “Wow! What’s that d0-hicky there?” Hardly a confidence builder.
One of the challenges of being a writer is deciding who to go to for advice. Let’s face it–and this is an uncomfortable truth–there are a few self-proclaimed experts out there on the literary landscape. Doubtless, many of them mean well and can even offer random nuggets of information that can benefit any writer. But others have never really been there and done that. And, frankly, your time as a writer is too precious to waste. The stewardship of story calls for us to carefully exercise discernment.
Thankfully there are tons of people (al though I’ve never actually weighed them) out there who bring to the proverbial table wisdom gained by the experience of having walked the road themselves. They are usually very humble people who are willing to share what they’ve learned because the respect the craft, and they genuinely want to help another writer succeed. They remember the times someone helped them in the past, and the vow they made to sacrificially do the same if they ever had the chance.
How do YOU decide who will help shape your story? How do YOU decide who to go to for advice? Any experience–good or not-so-good–you care to share (don’t mention names, please)?