Dear Dish-It: I'm A Better Writer Than My BFF

Dear Dish-It,

I’ve been writing since I was three so now I am in the highest level in English. I have finished two books I have been writing so far, with one still on the go, which is about a renegade who doesn't know who his sister or father is and when he finds out his dad dies. My problem is that my BFF says I should write about happy things instead of broken families. Plus she says I shouldn't brag about being in the highest level, even though I don’t! The closest thing I’ve ever done to that is try and give her tips on how to make it up to the same level, but that didn’t go over too well. What should I do?

Free Spirit

Dear Free,

In terms of your best friend telling you what you should and shouldn’t write about, that’s an easy problem to solve. You can:

  • stop discussing your writing with her;
  • tell her you appreciate her opinion (and then do what you want with her advice); or
  • take her advice to heart and try writing something different than you normally do.

  • My personal vote is for the third option. You see, I happen to be a writer, too. My love for reading and writing when I was young has led me to my dream job. So when I give you this advice you have to understand that I really know what I’m talking about, as a professional writer. It’s great that you’re in the advanced English class, but in order to become a truly versatile and multifaceted writer, you’re going to have to start stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while. Trust me, trying to write about a topic or theme you normally would never consider is a good exercise and can really help you to advance your skills and grow as a writer. So your BFF is actually helping you become better at what you do, whether she meant it in a mean way or not.

    Now on to your second issue. If your friend doesn’t like getting help, simply stop helping her. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how you offered your advice to her, but my feeling is she either took it the wrong way or you used a tone of voice or said it in a way that made her feel like you thought you were superior to her in your writing ability. I’m not saying you meant to be mean, but the fact is she took it badly. So, like I said, you may just want to back off in the advice department when it comes to writing. Or, try approaching her as an equal rather than someone who just happens to be at a lower skill level than you. Besides, you seem smart. Writing is totally arbitrary. I could read a published novel and love it, and you could read the same book and think it’s a piece of trash. Does that make the writer good or bad? Everyone writes differently and, in my opinion, most people write decently. Sure, there are rules of spelling, grammar, voice, syntax, consistency, etc. that may have to be learned or acquired, but everyone’s got a unique and active imagination that, when written down on paper or a computer, can become a pretty good tale for some readers.

    Finally, I’ll say this. If you truly want to help your friend, you should be conscious enough to know that giving advice only works when you’re willing to take it from other people, too. When she offers you her opinion on how you can evolve in your own ability as a writer (i.e. taking a shot at trying to writer a happier story), take it and thank her for being such a caring friend. Maybe that way she’ll be more open to taking advice from you.

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