Monday, March 8, 2010

Sometimes I'm glad I listened to other people

Well, I was going to give the obvious answer, but since I’m the only guy on this site, I’m going to err on the side of caution.

This week’s topic is the best advice I’ve received about writing.

I’ve had two pieces that really hit home with my writing – one professional and one for my fiction.

Professionally, I remember  my college journalism instructor who told me “You’re going to make mistakes. Just learn from them and move on.”

It really helped my journalism, especially that time I quoted a coach who said her high school volleyball team’s loss was the fault of one player (I got suspended by the newspaper). I still write sports, but am a lot wiser since then. I still follow the advice, though I wish certain parents and coaches would have listened to those words of wisdom, as well.

But, anyway, what has stuck with me for my fiction writing is something my father told me: “If that’s what you like to write, then write it. Don’t let anyone change your mind.”

The cause of the advice: some, no, many of my friends and relatives had been on my back about giving up on science fiction and horror. According to them, science fiction wasn’t profitable. I would be better off writing regular fiction or children’s books (for those that know me, that’s a frightening prospect) or sports books (aside from the fact that I was already writing sports several hours a day). Black people don’t write science fiction.

I was really getting discouraged and then I got the advice from my dad.

I buckled down and plugged away at doing science fiction. It led to my short stories being published and to my novellas. It also led me to discovering that black people do, indeed, write science fiction and horror – Tananarive Due, Samuel Delaney, Octavia Butler, Maurice Broaddus and George Schuyler, to name a few. They kept my dream alive.

And, now, I have not only published science fiction and horror, but I also get to blog about it.

To this day, I’m glad I followed my dad’s advice.


  1. Good advice! My dad has given me some of the best advice I've ever received in my life as well. He was the one who told me to keep blogging and accept the fact I was now a "public figure." I'm still not so sure all of what that will entail, but I'm very careful now when I write something online and wonder how it can be twisted against me later.

  2. Kudos to your dad for keeping you going. Dad's are wonderful! My best advice came from my Dad, and he doesn't even know it.

    I read "They Call the Wind Muryah" last week and loved it. So I'm glad you've kept at it, cause I can't wait to read more of your sci fi & horror.

  3. It's good that your dad supported you in your pursuit and even better you listened. Alas, I think it will take proof of some sort on my behalf before my family considers writing a worthy use of my time.

  4. Harley D. PalmerMarch 9, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    I am so glad that you followed your Dad's advice. The world would be missing out on some great stories if you didn't! That is really sound advice for any writer - as I told a friend just the other day - write what you want to write - no matter what 'they' say!

    *shakes fist at 'they'*

  5. I'm sure they'll come around. Writing is one of those things that people see as a longshot so they want you to go into a regular job. But, they don't understand that trying to discourage something that you love to do can backfire on them. Maybe you can find out the kinds of things they're passionate about in their off-time and razz them on that. If they oject or try to defend their leisure activities, then you have the ammunition to defend writing.

    I say "Stick to your guns."

  6. [...] Greg Marshall Smith, Sometimes I’m Glad I Listened to Other People [...]

  7. This is a new site to me, so you are mostly new writers to me, but you've given me reason to look for your work. Oh, and to visit your blog again, if that's okay.
    Work. About fathers and advice. In my generation (boomers) moms stayed home and dads went to work. My mother was always on me get secretarial skills. My father, who worked for a large manufacturing company, had one piece of career advice: Don't be a cog in a wheel.
    I'm glad you guys listened to your fathers, too. You got good advice. Keep after it.