Flood Of Advice

Tony always wanted to be a writer, but like so many others with that dream, he came the long way around. After a twenty-year career in business and raising three soon-to-be college graduates — okay, helping raise — okay, fine, supporting Ashley who raised three soon-to-be college graduates, he was ready to make to leap into writing. It can’t be as difficult as managing a multi-billion dollar company, can it?

He did what he had always done when he had a new project…he cleaned his study and organized. Now that he was retired, this task was simple. His study was already empty. Devoid of any life in it. Ashley used to comment how empty the house was when the kids left home, but Tony never really understood her new found interest in thrift stores, antique auctions, and craft fairs until just then. Without a purpose, the house was an empty shell. Ashley found her new purpose, and so did Tony.

He looked at his empty study and sighed. It was too empty. “Think of it as a new business venture,” he told himself. Tony stood in the doorway, took a deep breath and nodded. “Yep, that’s what I’ll do. First thing I would do in a new venture is learn everything about the market.”

It was a fifteen-minute drive to the local bookstore where Tony found an entire section on writing and editing. It never occurred to him that there were so many books written about writing. It seemed like such an easy concept. Think–write–edit–publish–get paid. Easy. “There must be close to a thousand books here,” he muttered to himself. “Right. Best of the best are probably those ones on stands by themselves, right?”

Flashbacks of clothes shopping and accompanying Ashley to the grocery store on one, and only one, occasion flashed through his mind. He shivered. With a shrug of his shoulders, he picked up all sixty-two books in the section that were on focus stands. The clerk looked shocked when he brought up stack after stack of books. She knew better than to ask though, as her manager said to never really think about what the customers are buying. That was exceptionally good advice when it came to the adult section.

Even though it was only a thirty-minute round trip, nearly four hours had passed before Tony got home. It took him six trips from the garage to his study at the top of the stairs on the third floor to deliver all his reference materials. He was tired after all that, grabbed the top book and retired to the couch downstairs to wait for Ashley to get home from another auction.

“The Art of Writing,” he read, sitting his drink on a coaster and settling in on the couch. “Sounds just like one of my old business books. This will be easier than I thought.”

The introduction was very professional and made Tony feel like the author was an authority on writing, which increased his immediate liking of the book. “Step 1,” Tony read aloud. “Take notes.”

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.”

Tony went back upstairs to his study and found a blank notepad and a pen, then returned downstairs. He knew how to take notes. Can’t survive in business without knowing how to take notes. After completing the first chapter, the notepad was full of notes. He rubbed his achy hand and stretched his aching back. “Step 2, read as much as you can. One cannot be a writer if they are not a reader.”

Tony sighed and started flipping though the book. This was exactly like his business books. Still, the notes he had from step 1 was good, right? Tony liked to read, but as much as he could? He liked to do things other than read. Why does someone need to read, if they are trying to be a writer? Doesn’t that seem defeating? What if you had a great idea, but then read someone else’s book that had a similar idea? Would you still write yours? It seemed too much like business. He enjoyed business, but was happily retired so he wouldn’t have to think about market share and business models anymore.

He took the first book upstairs and was more selective this time. He flipped through the stacks of books until he came to Write a Novel in a Weekend. What? Now that sounded like a book he needed. He returned downstairs, fixed a new drink, and started reading. “Chapter 1: Character Development.” Tony grew excited. Finally a book on writing that actually discussed writing. He began reading and everything made sense. Know your characters. The more you know the faster you can write. Then came the worksheet. “Complete a worksheet for each character,” Tony read aloud, then sighed.

Back upstairs to his study for more paper, then back down to the couch. He did as the book suggested and wrote the character’s full name, age, height, hair color, eye color, hair style, weight, physical characteristics, earring/tattoos, sex, gender, preferred pronoun, where they went to school, favorite food, favorite movie, favorite tv show, favorite book, manner of speech, hopes, dreams, fears, shoe size, clothing style… The list went on and on, so much so that Tony gave up when his notepad was filled with answers for just one character.

Back upstairs to his study with that book. He dug through again, and found one on flash fiction. He read the back cover and flipped through the pages. Nice short book. This time, he was smart, and took down a fresh notepad. The book turned out to be just like all the others. Filled with opinions, recommendations, and more forms and outlines to fill in all before the writer even starts writing.

It took six trips up the stairs and down the stairs to the garage to put all the books in there in case any of his kids wanted them. While in the garage, he found an old fishing rod that he inherited from his father and took it up to his study. He sat in his comfy office chair and opened his laptop. He opened tab after tab of fly fishing techniques and ties. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally, people who know how to really give advice.”

Ashley returned home well after dark and was surprised to see Tony still at his computer. “That must be a good story you’re writing.”

Tony looked at his wife and thought about all the books in the garage, and shuddered. “I’m going to be a fly fisherman instead.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s too much work being a writer. Everyone giving advice on what to do, what not to do, how to do it, and how not to do it, that nobody seems to actually do any writing unless you ignore all the advice and just get on with it.”

He shook his head, while Ashley laughed. He could still her laughing all the way down the stairs and into the kitchen.

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