On Advice

The best advice you will ever give somebody, you won’t have intended as advice.

Back in ye old high school days—junior high, come to think of it—I had an english teacher named Mrs Bird.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Yeah, okay, the guy writing the blog post is going to tell us about how his old teacher was an inspiration, and his joy of the English language increased by leaps and bounds from that point on…and such.  No, that’s not it.  I’m not sure what I was writing back then, but I guarantee it wasn’t anything terribly interesting, largely because I wasn’t terribly interested.

One day, Mrs Bird was telling the class some story or other, and she went off on a tangent (I’m mis-remembering this, of course, because that’s how old memories work) about cleaning the house, and how she never did it unless she genuinely felt like cleaning the house.  It was a short bit of exposition about her day-to-day life, and then it was over.

It’s some of the best advice I ever got.

I end up applying it to cleaning the house, of course, yes.  This does, I have to admit, often result in the existence of multiple periods throughout the year when my living space isn’t exactly…er…spotless, but darnit, every time I look at the disarray, I know a day is coming soon when I will be in a cleaning mood, and I will genuinely enjoy putting every single misplaced object back where it belongs and wiping out every speck of dust with a smile on my face.  It leads to two things.  First, my indoor surroundings do, every once in a while, end up so perfectly organized that I don’t have to worry about upkeep until the next bout of upkeep.  Second, and most important, I don’t resent cleaning, and thus I don’t hate doing it, or even the idea of doing it.  Cleaning up is a genuinely joyous process.  I’m very seriously looking forward to my next cleaning day, which I’m guessing will be sometime in the next two weeks.

The other place this advice has taken root is in my writing.  Now, there’s a lot that’s been said, in many places, by a lot of writers, about the writing process, and how you must write, write, write, all the time.  I agree.  If you don’t write something every day, you’re never going to get anywhere with it.  Writing takes time, and so time is what you have to put in if you’re going to turn words into a story.

But, the thing is, there’s the writing part, and there’s the creating part, and it’s the latter of the two that’s hard.  I’ve spent several days of the last week writing, putting down prose, telling a story in the best way I can.  I have not, however, worried about making it good, about making sure the story is actually going somewhere about really telling a story.  That part takes serious effort and brainpower and, more to the point, I’ve known a day would be coming, very shortly, when I’d genuinely be up for it.

That day was Sunday.  Holy crap, was I in a creative mood on Sunday.  The second I jumped in the shower and several plot points of “Sect of the Rounded Stone” suddenly fell into place, I knew it was going to be a good time.  By the end of the day, I’d worked out several parts of the continuing story that I’d been struggling with for quite a while.  It was glorious, and now I’m able to get on with the writing bit again.

And, of course, I never resent the fact that what I’m writing is never going to be quite perfect the first time, which, I believe, is the only way I can keep it up.

Thanks, Mrs Bird, for the best advice you never meant to give.

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