In a sea of voices crying out to be heard, whose do you hone in on when you find yourself drowning in the mounting waves of a story or an idea? There are hundreds of books, gurus, classes and courses out there to guide you in the best direction. But, best for whom? What story are you trying to tell, and why must you tell it?
Sure, you need to know how to build a house before you actually set about building one. A weak foundation will only lead to valuable (and costly) time spent repairing and correcting the basic, yet required, structure of the house before you can actually move on to the fun part of making said house a warm and inviting home. And it's the making of the home that we originally set out to do. Yes, this is a pretty long metaphor and, with the whole Real Estate and Home Lending crisis, it might not actually be the best for painting a picture. But I do hope you get the point.
Definitely make sure you understand structure and what it takes to build a safe and secure house (yes, I'm sticking with the metaphor), but don't forget that this is your home and, above all else, it must be a reflection of who you are - your voice. Those of you who have been writing screenplays for a long time have no doubt heard this term thrown around. The voice. Do you have one? Everyone has a voice, even those born without speech. Now, whether you use it or not is a whole other set of questions, the first being - why not? Easier asked than answered and, in fact, you might need a few therapy sessions (no joke) to get to the bottom of that.
However, I do suspect for some writers that they have lost their voice by freely, and in some cases unsuspectingly, turning it over to someone else. When does the advice and opinions of others morph itself into your own thoughts and actions? When do you stop trusting in those instincts and inner voices which have been loyal friends for years and, in some cases, gotten you out of sticky situations before disaster could strike? Does it mean you have to be an island unto yourself? No. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better informed your decisions will be. But remember, you were you, long before what you knew. Those who love you unconditionally do not do so because of your perfections. In fact, it's the imperfections, the flaws, the quirkiness that make us memorable, lovable and, sometimes, forgivable - but, if nothing else, interesting as all hell.
The point I'm trying to get at - yes, take a class, read a book, know the latest guru's method of writing a screenplay or novel in under 30 seconds, but “this above all: to thine own self be true”. Gotta love that Shakespeare dude; he knew a thing or two about writing.