It’s true. The Internet is chock-full with articles and tutorials about how to write gripping prose. Indeed, these days it seems everyone knows how to teach writing.
Some think there is too much writing advice out there — they argue there are too many people who think they can teach others how to write. Others think the problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the sheer numbers of self-proclaimed teachers, but in the contrasting advice they offer — sometimes even after a conspicuous payment.
For sure, having too many choices can be problematic. But mainly for those who want to sell their product. In fact, they have to come up with both a solid product and marketing plan. Besides, the too-many-choices-burden-us theory isn’t as neat as it seems.
If you’re not sure about this, just think a second about what happens when there’s a monopoly — when only one player controls the offer. As a result, they can sell their product, even if it’s mediocre to say the least, at whatever price they want. And you, as a customer, can either suck it up or buy the shitty product and make do with it.
Hardly an ideal scenario, isn’t it?
However, if you’re still unconvinced, you can also look at this matter through the lens of magic. I mean, the more one treats writing like a magical and mysterious process — one only a few initiated can effectively teach — the more they do a disservice to writing itself.
Magic, the magic word
Our ancestors had a tendency to invoke magic every time they discovered something they couldn’t explain. And given they were massively ignorant, magic was everywhere. However, some rude individuals grew dissatisfied with that magic, supernatural mambo-jumble, and set out to find more reasonable answers.
They succeeded. And in the span of a few centuries, the earth was demoted from being the universe’s center to being a small planet orbiting a quite common type of star pertaining to a peripheral galaxy. Then came the theory of evolution and the man was put back in its place among all the other living beings. And now we have neural nets and AI systems able to learn by themselves. And someone is already speaking of how consciousness could emerge from inanimate things.
Of course, magic is alluring in its simplicity. Magic offers a halo of mystery one can hide behind. Magic is only for the initiate, and on and on. However, the truth is quite different. Writing is something we humans learn when we are children. As a result, while there are various degrees of individual ability, like it is the case for everything else, there’s no magic involved in writing, and everybody can greatly improve their performance.
A time-tested solution
In any case, too much writing advice, contrasting writing advice, and so on represent only a minor problem. A problem that can’t be solved limiting the freedom to teach and disseminate their ideas of those who think they are outstanding teachers — or of scammers.
In fact, at the end of the day, if a guy is equipped with the tools of critical thinking, they can always tell when a piece of advice smells like a barrel of rotting anchovies. And, as a worst-case scenario, only now and then they will be uncertain about the quality of the information they’ve been provided.
And being uncertain isn’t a bad thing. Sure, being uncertain can be stressful, but it’s also a highly instructive experience. Because it forces you to work hard to come to a conclusion. It forces you to behave like those above-mentioned rude guys who kicked the earth from the center of the universe and put us back into the pen with all the other animals (here are two interesting articles about all this. 1 – 2.)
Besides, being able to reason in a sound and effective way is a skill that comes in handy in every aspect of life. Not just when you have to discern among contrasting writing advice. Critical thinking is really the key. It has helped us progress from caves to space stations. Now it can help prevent us from getting back into them damn caves.