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Deflecting Unsolicited Writing Advice: Tips from a Pregnant Lady

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A few months ago I told WU’s Therese Walsh that I wanted to write about writing while pregnant. It’s one thing to write when you’re feeling your best (or just feeling normal); it’s another thing altogether to write when you feel as if another being has taken over your body (it has). She challenged me to come up with an angle that would apply to the larger WU community. It took me a minute, but I think I’ve figured it out.

When you’re pregnant you get a lot of unsolicited advice. Even people who don’t have kids, who have never given birth, offer words of wisdom. People tell you what to eat, to exercise, or not to exercise, and that you should start planning for the next one. They tell you what to feed the baby, when to feed the baby, what kind of detergent to use on their clothes. Digesting all this advice has led me to get very good at deflecting conversations I don’t want to engage in.

We get all kinds of unsolicited advice as writers: what we should write, when we should write, and how we should approach our careers. Some of it comes from fellow writers, but a lot of it comes from individuals who have never attempted to write a few paragraphs.

The next time someone gives you unsolicited writing advice I challenge you to try these tactics that have worked for me as I’ve navigated the minefield that is pregnancy and baby advice. For example purposes, let’s say someone tells you to write the next Harry Potter. The next time you hear this, below are some responses for you to try:

  1. Thank the person, full stop. For example, say, “Thanks for your suggestion. I’ll consider it.” Usually this is enough to shut people up.
  2. Pretend you didn’t hear the person and change the subject. This tactic is a little rude, but effective. Instead of addressing the writing advice ask, “How’s [insert hobby of theirs] going?” Or say, “We’ve had [horrible/awesome/unexpected] weather, haven’t we?” Most of the time people will take the hint.

  3. Bore them with facts and data until they change the subject. For example: did you know that over 2 million books are published every year? Statistically, even if I were to write the next Harry Potter it would have a 0.0005% chance of becoming a bestseller and turning into a theme park. My agent says…you get the idea. Just keep going until their eyes glaze over.

  4. Tell them you’ve tried and failed. People will often move on once they realize their advice has taken a negative turn.

  5. Tell them you’re working on it, but it will take years to finish it due to the sheer number of characters and maps involved.

  6. Lastly, here’s a radical idea – tell them the truth. Say, “I actually prefer to write about characters and topics that are interesting to me. I don’t want to copy someone else.”

I hope one day I get to the place where I’m honest without hesitation, but until then I’ll keep using tactics one through five. I only have a couple weeks of pregnancy left, but I’m sure I’ll continue to get parenting advice and writing advice indefinitely.

What have you found to be effective when trying to deflect unsolicited writing advice? Share your ideas in the comments.


About Deanna Cabinian

Deanna Cabinian is the author of One Night, One Love, and One Try (aka The Thompson Series). She writes YA, middle grade, and sometimes dabbles in adult fiction. Her writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Writer Unboxed, and School Library Journal. She is a graduate of the Writing in the Margins mentorship program and is represented by Penny Moore of Aevitas Creative Management. When she isn’t writing she works as a consumer marketing director for a global media company. She lives in the Midwest but dreams of living by the ocean. Find her online at deannacabinian.com.


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