Bad Advice

You should stop following.

Dawn Gernhardt

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People hatch similar ideas without contact in unison — simultaneous inventions, hive mind, collective consciousness, and zeitgeist. Moore’s Law explained how innovation builds over time and Lemley’s “The Myth of the Sole Inventor” considered creativity to exist atmospherically with availability to all.

The phenomenon happens in every field. From artistic expression to scientific discovery, sparks fly and burn everywhere. The first to market typically gains the most success. And some discoveries were initially considered absurd but later gained acceptance. Lightbulbs were deemed ridiculous and airplanes categorized as toys. As long as people create, there will be like-minded competitors and critics.

My industry is writing.

We writers are crafty, sometimes paranoid, and usually hardworking, imaginative, and sensitive souls. Creatives need other people to help us grow and learn. Sometimes we trade reciprocally in workshops through the exchange of feedback. Other times writers invest in professional help and guidance. A lifetime process of mastery with many routes.

In a master’s creative writing program, the director assigned us to advisors. We also shared our work with other student writers and professors. My thesis goal included authoring a novel. I invented a character who wrote a story, privately shared the manuscript with three trusted people — best friend, another writer, and a writing professor — then died. Each character tried to publish the dead guy’s work as their own…then what happened?

I don’t know, yet.

Why?

I haven’t finished the story.

Why?

I lost eighteen years after listening to and acting on some bad advice. Then, the opportunity passed.

Master’s programs are all different. I didn’t know then how much they varied. To meet the graduate degree word-count requirement at my private university, students could submit one first-draft manuscript or multiple short essays and stories. During monthly submissions, my peers generally enjoyed the story within a story. My advisor’s comments took me by surprise.

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Dawn Gernhardt

A writer: nonfiction in Random Sample Review and Pink Panther Magazine and humor in Defenestration, Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. Working on a novel.