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Taking advice vs. snatching the pebble

“When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.”

Master Kan, Kung Fu

If you’re not familiar with this little pop culture gem, then pretend I made this up. Really, it’s okay. I’m that clever so it’s believable.

A young Kwai Chang Caine is a pupil of Master Kan at the Shaolin Temple. He is told that when he snatches the pebble from the Master’s hand, then he has learned all he can in the temple. To continue his lessons, he must set out on his own and let the world be his teacher.

I could bore you with musings about Master Kan’s wisdom, and Caine’s youthful bravado, but the bottom line is Kan’s a bad mother[bleep] and Caine isn’t good enough to take the pebble. Yet.

Again, if you’re familiar with this, you know what eventually happened. If you’re not, continue thinking that I came up with this great metaphor about writing advice on my own.

Caine trains, becomes wise in the ways of Kung Fu, and eventually snatches the pebble from Kan’s hand.

It’s time to step out on his own.

If you’re serious about your writing career, eventually, you’ll have to as well.

Your teacher can only take you so far…

I’ve had the opportunity to be mentored by some great writers, some of them are my personal heroes. They’ve been gracious enough to answer my informed questions about the business…

[We interrupt this blog for an important message]

Notice the emphasis the previous sentence. Informed. That means before I ever approached any professional writers for advice or to simply converse about the publishing industry, I did my homework. There are so many sources of information available to get a newbie writer started. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something, but you can’t be lazy about getting information that is available to everyone.

Am I not making sense? Let me clarify. Real working writers don’t have time to answer the following questions:

-How do I get my book published?

-How do I get an agent?

-Can you read my story and tell me what you think?

If you’re asking a pro questions of this nature–questions that can be answered with a simple Google search–you’re not ready to snatch any pebbles. You may not be able to find a pebble. In a rock garden.

[We now return to our regularly scheduled blog ]

As I was saying, I’ve gotten great advice from great writers over the years. I couldn’t have gotten as far as I have without their help. But, there comes a point where there are no more questions for them to answer, at least not at the level you’re currently at.

You have to snatch the pebble, get a moving truck, and get your futon out of the Shaolin Temple. So to speak.

Young Grasshopper no more…

As a writer with pro aspirations, you have to recognize the point where your skills have surpassed what the internet can teach you.

And what your mentors can teach you.

And what this blog can teach you.

However, there should never come a time when you’re beyond taking good advice or accepting constructive criticism.

Caine was not a master when he left the temple, but an advanced beginner (don’t misunderstand, to re-use a phrase from earlier, he was still a bad mother[bleep]). Being that, he was able to apply the lessons he learned with sound judgment while still adding to his skills and wisdom in the face of new challenges.

You have to have the confidence to go into the world on your own and take your lumps. That means no more obsessing about perfection. Finish your drafts in a reasonable amount of time. Learn about the industry while you hone your craft.

Snatch the pebble, then go kick some publishing ass…

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