Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blind leading the blind

Time to again open up the top of my head and see what falls out.

I just made a couple of comments over on a writing list and perhaps it bears a closer look. We were talking about how often lists are dominated by people who have little publishing experience but have a lot of time and a lot of information to dispense.

I don't claim to be an expert, but I do this full time and have learned a thing or two. I often pass it on. I find, particularly on some of the lists in question that I will tell someone how something really works in the publishing world only to havea number of folks with no publishing credits at all challenge me on it. I don't bother to respond. If people don't know how to evaluate the quality ofthe advice that they are getting they aren't ready for the advice anyway. Particularly for new writers these groups are incredibly useful. I spent a half dozen years in them before I started publishing over ten years ago. They really helped me get started, but I did have to be sensitive to the"blind leading the blind syndrome."

You can get a lot of help on these lists but you can also get a lot of advice from people who are unpublished because they have learned a lot and what they have learned are the things that are keeping them from being published. There is a reason that 85% of all submissions are turned down. One solid comment from a pro who is willing to share some hard earned knowledge can offset a number of folks who are passing on theory. I was lucky early in my career to connect with a number of such pros and with them grounding me I was soon able to distinguish between the caliber of advice that I was getting. Not that new people and unpublished people don't have good advice to offer, they do, we just have to learn to filter it.

This can also come into play in another way. I talked to a young man at a recent conference and when I asked him how it was going he told me he was utterly and terribly confused. I also told him about filtering what he was hearing. I told him conferences had programs on many levels to have something for newbies, beginning, intermediate and publishing writers and hopefully even something for the pros. I told him he needed to learn to realize when he was hearing information and advice that he wasn't realy for, to file it away for when he needed it but not let it worry and confuse him. I saw him later and he said that advice was giving him a fresh look at the programs and it was going very well.

We all need help and we all need advice. We just have to learn to filter so we are getting what we need at the time we need it, and are filtering what that advice is based on the credentials of the person giving it. But we should keep in mind that person giving it may not have the experience to back it up, but may have done the research necessary to know the validity of what they are talking about and not just be passing on untested theory.

No comments: