With writing, I often seek out the opinions of others to improve my work, but one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how much advice I take or how good I think a story is, I can’t please everyone with it. Someone’s always going to have either a different life experience that shades their understanding of the story, different training in the mechanics of writing, or different preferences in what they read. At a certain point, I have to make my own decision about my story.
Maybe you’ve noticed something similar in your own life or line of work. Everybody has a different opinion about you, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. If you bend to every piece of advice, you won’t achieve your potential. There’s a time to adjust and change, but there’s also a time to stop people-pleasing and to stand up for what you believe is best.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know the difference, so today I’m sharing some of the questions I’ve learned to consider when I weigh feedback.
- Is this one-time advice or a recurring theme? It’s a rule with writing critiques that if only one person suggests a change to something, it’s just one person’s opinion. But once two or especially three people point out an element of a story as a problem area, it’s time to take a serious look at revising. If you’ve had a few people warn you about something, it might be time to take notice.
- Are you considering the change only because of what someone else said? If the advice doesn’t motivate you on a deeper level, it’s probably time to toss it.
- What do your conscience and moral compass tell you? Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t say ‘Thou shalt not use semicolons.’ That takes some of the pressure off when I’m told not to use them in my writing; it means the decision is, at the very least, not a matter of right and wrong. However, if a writing partner points out something that a character says or does that goes against my faith, I have to consider whether or not I’m reinforcing something I shouldn’t with my fiction. This can be applied to all kinds of advice in all areas of life from parenting to finances.
- Will you be proud of the result? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who told you to do what. You’re the one who will live out the consequences, good or bad, of your decisions. Your life and the outcomes of your decisions matter to no one else more than you.
What do you consider when weighing advice?