Yo-Yo #mfwauthor

For  week 51 of the Marketing for Romance Writers yearlong blog hop, the writing prompt is:

Advice to New Authors

I can’t find the original anecdote, which I heard decades ago, after I decided against majoring in music. I’m changing the names. My apologies to Yo-Yo Ma.

An aspiring young musician (we’ll call her LindaEllen for the simple reason that it’s the first name that pops into my head) took a master class with Yo-Yo Ma, the world-renowned cellist (for the simple reason that he’s the first name that pops into my head). After playing her heart out to the master, LindaEllen asked him whether he thought she had what it took to become a professional musician.

His answer: “You’re close, very close, but no. You don’t quite have what it takes to reach the heights.”

This was hard news to swallow, but LindaEllen was nothing if not realistic. She changed her major from music to finance and went on to make a lot of money and live a happy, successful life.

Years later, she met Mr Ma for a second time. She thanked him for the excellent advice he’d given, which saved her from years of sorrow and strife. “I’ve had a good, satisfying life.”

He nodded. “I remember you well. You played like an angel. Rarely have I heard better.”

LindaEllen’s fingers curled into claws. “But then why did you discourage me? I could’ve become a great cellist like you!”

He shook his head. “No, you could never have done that. Becoming a musician is incredibly difficult even for the most gifted, with disappointment and dismay a million times more common than encouragement. It requires an unshakable will and a massive tolerance for pain. If it was at all possible to discourage you, it was my job to do so before heartbreak did it for you.”


This anecdote has nothing to do with writing, of course. I don’t even know why I bother to bring it up.

Do you ?

What about you?

My, I’m a downer today. I’m sure some of the other writers taking part in this blog hop will have more upbeat advice for you.



  1. But you’re NOT discouraged! You’re here almost every day, writing new blog posts and I’m sure writing more great books.

    Cheer up! You have at least one fan! ;^)

    1. Nope, I’m not discouraged. Well, sometimes, sure. But this is advice for NEW authors, not tired old gunslingers like me.

  2. Actually, I think its very appropriate to writing. You have to believe in yourself, keep going against the odds, and handle rejection. And told in a story. Perfect.

    1. Thanks, Shari. I agree.

  3. Hmm…who’s the genre author equivalent of Yo-Yo Ma?

    1. Not sure. Maybe Jane Austen? Yo-Yo is a very big name, the kind of artist who’ll still be know a century from now.

  4. Hi Ed, like your anecdote, writing is not for the faint of heart. A person who considers a career in writing needs to be able to take a lot of criticism, lots of work, research, etc., without giving up on their dream. Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Well, I’m glad you took it as encouragement. But then, you would. You’ve been through enough discouragement and yet you’ve kept coming back.

  5. Cathy Brockman · · Reply

    Very great advice and loved the story.

    1. Becoming an artist of any stripe is surely no easy road to success.

  6. Ditto to what Alicia said! If you don’t have the thick skin to paper your walls with rejection letters, or keep going after receiving a stinging criticism, then this business isn’t for you.

    1. I’m sure many writers out there have had my experience in critique groups: the most talented writer is NOT necessarily the most successful. In one case I knew, the most talented writer in the group couldnt bring herself to submit anything.

      1. The anecdote not having anything to do with writing? You are kidding. :} I think it describes the future of an author perfectly. Good job.

      2. Yes, I said that bit about ‘not having anything to do with writing’ with tongue squirreled in my cheek.

  7. The anecdote is totally relevant to writing! We all have to hang in there. I’m sorry you didn’t major in music, if that was your passion, but it can be a tough field in which to make a living (gotta be practical even if it hurts).

    1. Spoken like LindaEllen . . . or me. Frankly, I’ve never been one to starve for my art.

  8. This is certainly relatable to a writing career. The last paragraph of the anecdote says it all.

    1. Yep. Making it as an artist, any kind of artist, is really difficult in our culture.

  9. That was the most unexpectedly wonderful piece (def about writing, if you ask me) I’ve read all year! My mind instantly went elsewhere near your punchline, but then your words brought me back to earth 😉 Thanks, Ed!

    1. Wow, Raine, what a wonderful thing for you to say! Merry Christmas.

  10. My husband is a musician and was in rock band for years, he often compares the struggles and heartache endured to my writing. We must have the passion to do it for the love of our art while knowing it may never be appreciated as we would like. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I suspect Yo-Yo’s advice applies to any kind of artistic endeavor. North American culture is skewed very powerfully against creative people.

  11. Very true advice Ed. You have to love what you do in order to stick with it.

    1. And you must also love banging your head against brick walls.

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