Bear with the martial arts talk. There's a pay-off. :)
When I was taking aikido, I like to worm up with some basic kung fu exercises. I've never had formal kung fu, but I've studied enough longfist shaolin to know some a handful of basic forms, techniques, and exercises to a beginner level. I selected a few that seemed to stretch appropriate muscle groups.
One of my favorites was the toe kick, in which you extend your foot and kick upward, striking with the toes to the opponents groin. As with any kick, during practice you kick higher than your target, so that in actual striking you would kick with sufficient speed and power.
With me so far?
Kicking up with my foot stretched out and pointed.
Note that our form of aikido itself included no kicks at all.
So, one day while I'm doing these kicks, a senior student came up. Speaking to me from his taekwondo experience, he corrected my kick. Never, he said, kick with your toes. You'll break them. He wanted me to do a snap kick with the ball of my foot instead.
I tried to explain my kick, tried to explain what I was stretching --
-- and he was having none of it. "Just do some other stretches then," he demanded. "There is no point in practicing incorrect kicks."
To summary, I was practicing a kung fu kick before aikido class. My aikido senrior corrected and scolded me in fully, righteous confidence drawn from his taekwondo experience.
Let me take out all the martial arts mumbo jumbo:
I was doing something. Somebody who was more experienced in something else corrected me based on knowledge of yet something else.
I was ticked off and offended, and it still sort of riles me up.
But how often do I do the same thing to people? I think it's really tempting with something like writing especially to jump in and correct people. Even if you're not a jerk about it, it could be a misfire.
Advice can be correct, well-intentioned, and kindly delivered and still off-the-mark if the context is overlooked.
I did a beta read for a writer whom I'll allow to remain anonymous. The book itself was outside my genre and my reading level, but it was in a dark tone. I was asked specifically to look at voice and character. I tried really hard to do that and not to stray with my comments into things that are really outside my own "expertise" (such as it is).
It was a strange experience to keep reminding myself, "Don't forget, you know next-to-nothing about this genre and you don't want to assume that such and such is the same."
The experience really brought it home for me, though, how often I do that just casually when I'm talking to other writers. I offer suggestions or comments without thinking, "Hey, wait, what is they're writing? Does this comment actually make sense for someone writing that? Do I even understand how such and such works enough in that genre to make this comment?"
I try to do better about that.
I also try to keep that in mind when I receive comments from other people. I didn't need to second-guess my shaolin toe kick because a senior student gave me an out-of-context tongue-lashing. It's okay to say to myself, "You know, that comment from such and such is a great idea, and I know they were trying to help, but honestly it doesn't really have any bearing on my style or genre or reading level or topic."
So, here are your rules for tonight, put bluntly and harshly so they're memorable:
1) Mind your own business when you don't really understand someone else's.
2) Don't sweat it too much when other people break rule number one. They're not jerks, they're just trying to be nice. But that doesn't mean they're right.