I hate those words. Hate them. A new study says means you are about to be regaled with some sort of pseudo pop-science junk news that is designed to either make you feel totally cool about your horribly bad habits (“eating lots of chocolate helps you lose weight!”) or make you feel like total shit about your horribly bad habits (“Drinking beer will kill you stone cold dead in five minutes!”). Most of the time the studies aren’t rigorous (never use control groups) and the interpretation of the study by the media has been twisted out of proportion to what it proved (no, it didn’t prove that wheat grass was the “cure to cancer”, only that eating wheat grass has some benefits that may or may not prohibit certain other things that might CAUSE cancer).
Folks, here’s what you need to do. Try to eat healthy. Try not to overeat. Try to get some exercise. Try not to smoke. Try not to drink to excess. Be in love with someone. That’s it. We’re done. You can now safely ignore all that study bullshit, particularly if you don’t see the words “control group” in the article some place.
I like to apply this same methodology to sites that want to regale you with “10 facts about…” something. “10 Reasons Why Sex After Fifty is Good For You.” “Fifteen Ways You Can Increase Your Earnings… and You Won’t Believe Number Six!”. Most of this stuff is moronic, stuff you already know if you have half a brain. But we like to cling to the words of others to tell us we’re living a good life, we’re doing all the right things, and yes, the quiz I just took told me that my Disney Princess self was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Facebook, I’m looking at you for propagating all this crap. Right at you in your smug blue header…
However, there are times I come across some good lists. When others post them in forums I read, I do like to check them out to see if there’s any value. This one with 44 Writing Hacks From Some of the Greatest Writers Who Ever Lived would normally tweak my “oh for god’s sake” button, but I gave it a shot anyways, and it turned out there’s some decent stuff in there. Again, most of it is stuff I’ve heard before, but if you haven’t been writing wrong and want some advice, it won’t steer you wrong. Not mostly anyways.
For example, you can complete ignore sentences like “walking isn’t exercise.” Bullshit. Walking is decent exercise and a valid method of keeping your weight in check, plus less damage to your knees and feet than running. The only additional benefit to running is the extra cardiovascular improvements you get from the faster pace, and you do burn calories a little faster. But if running isn’t your thing (and I love you, my beautiful wife, but we both know you run like a woman stuck in a quagmire), then walking is perfectly fine. Do it at as quick a pace as you can, and realize you’ll have to walk a little longer than you’d have to run to get the same amount of calories burned.
Good advice includes: read everything; write down ideas when they come to you; software doesn’t make you a better writer (it doesn’t… no, really, it doesn’t… great books came out of great minds not scrivener and evernote); realize everything around you is fodder for your stories and you can use it all; commit to some goals (x words per day; x stories per year); when you get stuck, don’t stop writing, but feel free to turn to something else for a while and come back to it; do your research ahead of time (world builders will love that advice).
The rest you can take or leave as you see fit. Like most advice, it’s there for you to look at, think about, and decide if it works for you. I see things I think are stupid and won’t contribute to my getting words down on page, so I’ll toss them.
Remember folks, don’t lead the media guide you. Because let’s face it, wheat grass tastes like shit, so leave it for the horses and cows and go get yourself a six pack at the liquor store. You only live once, and you ain’t the control group.