It is still amazing to me when a person goes out of their way to advise another person of a harsh reality of life. This is seen as a great gift to the person receiving the advice. The giver of the advice suffered mightily in their ignorance until the fog cleared and reality made itself visible. Now in the spirit of generosity they will tell as many people as possible how difficult life will be for them.
I heard a writer giving advice once that made me cringe. He was going to tell his audience what to expect when writing their first novel. This is how he began: “So, first of all, you’re not Hemmingway or Faulkner. You’re just an average guy so forget trying to write like one of them.” See how generous he was? His audience probably didn’t know they were pack of average guys until he told them so. How lucky for them.
Most of what passes for advice, whether from writers or waiters or teachers, is just complaint. But complaint born from years of experience! Because someone has spent decades deciding that life is at core difficult and frequently disappointing—as opposed to when they were young and they merely suspected it was difficult and disappointing—theirs is not an opinion but a reasoned deduction based solely on an accumulation of sobering facts.
I used to fear the gloomy advice givers. I feared not only the lure to believe their sad song, but their inevitable wrath if I tried to offer a counter-perspective. But if all the grim prognosticators the world over are only complaining or, more likely, worrying, what’s to be afraid of? All anyone can do, whether they’re writing a book or falling in love, is to decide what to do next. People have written bestselling books; people have written books that haven’t sold at all. People have fallen in love for a lifetime; people have cheated on one another on their honeymoon.
Yet all those people, the cheaters and the lovers alike, could only do the next thing—that’s all there ever is to do. Whether events will turn out as you like or not, you still have to do something. If you want to write a book it doesn’t matter if you’re an average guy; it doesn’t matter what the odds of having #1 bestseller are—if you want to write it, then you’re going to write it. That is the reality.