The best piece of advice I ever received

“I’ve got a brilliant idea for a book,” I said. “It has been in my head for about five years. It’s all there. I just need to write it.”

“Then why don’t you?” my new acquaintance with seven published crime novels under his belt asked me.

“I just don’t have the time. My job is crazy busy – I’m basically out of the house 13 hours a day to do it. I really want to write it but, honestly, I just don’t have the time.”

My new acquaintance peered at me over his glasses. We’d only just met but his look was disapproving.

“Come on Alex,” he said. “I get it, of course you are busy, but I’ve got a great job too. I’m also busy but I want to write so I find the time.”

Had it been someone else, maybe I’d have dismissed what he was saying but I was impressed with this guy.

At the time he was the BBC’s South West Crime Correspondent. He wasn’t lying. He had a busy job. It kept him working not just long hours but all hours. Yet there he was on a Friday evening, giving an after dinner talk to a bunch of budding authors, 200 miles from home. Not only was he finding time to write, he was finding time to talk about writing!

“What’s your secret?” I asked him.

“Don’t think about writing a book. It’s too big. Just write 250 words a day. They don’t even have to be good words but write them and you’ll get into a flow. Do it every day and by this time next year you’ll have your book.”

I’ve already written 273 words in this post! It’s such a tiny amount that, for a writer, it seems laughable that you couldn’t find the time to write a few paragraphs a day.

The following week, instead of responding to another email on my train journey into work, I left my phone in my bag and pulled out my laptop. I had a 35-minute journey every morning that I was going to repurpose – and I did. I wrote that book! It has yet to find a publisher but – I wrote it and I’m so proud of that achievement. I created something from absolutely nothing.

That one piece of advice turned out to be the best I’ve ever received. It not only gave me my first book, it gave me confidence in the art of the possible and that, transformed the direction of my entire career.

I’d love to hear the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and how it helped you – please do share.
With great thanks to the brilliant @SimonHallNews for his wisdom and ongoing encouragement. To check out Simon’s novels, book him as a corporate speaker or bring him in for a media training session at your organisation, visit

Alex was employed by internationally-loved household brands to craft their words for two decades. She established not A Duff word in March 2017 to help businesses, brands and boards to wordsmith words that work, master their messages to matter and sculpt standout stories. When she’s not writing for business you’ll now find her writing fiction for pleasure. Her blog ‘early words’ is published Thursday mornings at 07:00.

Photo Capture:  Simon Hall (far left) with Alex Duff (far right) at Winchester Writer’s Festival in 2015.

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Alex Duff

Freelance Communications Professional

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