The following represents all of the advice I have on this weird craft of writing. I’ll update it as pearls of wisdom hit. Those pearls hurt sometimes.
+ Read because you love to read, not because you want to study what the author did and mine their work for the hidden secrets of “method” and “advice” and “tricks” that you can then apply to your own writing.
+ The secret to writing? The big trick? The one that you seek when you read because you want to study? Somebody had more endurance and more discipline than you. So sit down.
+ Stop aspiring. Be or don’t be.
+ Follow your own path.
+ Readers/viewers/etc. only care about what you’ve done. Your job is to care about what you’re doing. No one cares about what you are going to do.
+ Ideas are made good or bad by the person writing them. The good ones possess you to the point that the only means of exorcism is writing.
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow
+ If you want to write, read. Read everything.
+ Learn everything you can, then forget it and just do. You often have to do this at the same time.
+ Never stop learning.
+ Never stop loving to learn.
+ Find a writing time that works for you and stick to it.
+ Take care of yourself physically; I maintain a six day/week exercise regimen to offset my love of pizza, beer and candy.
“I’ve tried to write faster and I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the process… No fun for the writer, no fun for the reader.” — Donna Tartt
My Essential Writing Library:
Strunk & White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE
Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD
King’s ON WRITING
Murakami’s WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING
Chandler’s THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER (essay)
McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS
Lynch’s CATCHING THE BIG FISH
Madden’s 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY
Suzuki’s ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND
Dillard’s THE WRITING LIFE
Le Guin’s STEERING THE CRAFT
Bradbury’s ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING
Steinbeck’s WORKING DAYS: THE JOURNALS OF THE GRAPES OF WRATH
+ Trust your gut.
+ Shortcuts are bullshit.
+ Be wary of writing classes and groups.
+ #amwriting means #noyourenot.
+ Write what makes you happy, not what you think will make others happy. People have fickle tastes; they often don’t know what they want until you put it in front of them.
+ If someone says, “you should write about me,” run. Or, tell them to read this page and write it themselves.
+ Being published changes very little. You get up, you do the work, same as before. You just have one more book on your shelf.
“Listening is writing’s occasionally overlooked and undervalued companion, and when not clacking away at the keyboard, comes the chance to sit in sometimes awkward, sometimes painful silence with the characters and world you’ve struggled to create. Even if not a single word is written, you have shown up, you’ve affirmed the simple fact that you care and have the patience to endure” — Dinaw Mengestu
+ The hardest part is sitting down. The really hard part is staying there.
+ You can’t compare yourself to others. It’s a pointless exercise.
+ All that matters is the words on the page.
+ Find a hobby.
+ Writing is a craft.
+ Don’t romanticize what you’re doing. You’re doing your job. You happen to have a cool job.
Writing is waking up alone on the hard floor of a dark house you’ve never been in. Even though you can’t see a thing, you can feel that you’re in a house; the vibe is in the air. You decide to hunt for light. As you wander through the room, your head brushes past a lightbulb dangling from a chain in the dark. You reach for a way to turn on the light, but you don’t find one. You feel around the room, run your hand over the walls, and finally, you find a light switch. You flick on the switch but nothing happens: the bulb is out. So, you have to feel around all of the other rooms and all of the cabinets in the house to find one. The room you’re in is the only one with a light switch; you try to find it in other rooms, but you don’t; there are no bulbs dangling from the ceiling. You accept the darkness and get on with finding a lightbulb. You feel and touch and eventually find where the bulbs are kept: some really odd place, behind the dog food in the bathroom closet. Then you find your way back to the room in which you began. You know the way because you’ve felt it out in the dark. When you return to the bulb dangling from the chain, you grip the old bulb too hard and it shatters in your hand. By this point, you’re so tired of being in the dark that you grab the shattered bulb and the broken glass cuts your hand but you twist anyhow and out pops the old bulb and in goes the new. You see the room and now, because of the light in that one room, you can see the outline of other rooms, and all of the other rooms that at first didn’t have light switches now have light switches and broken bulbs dangling from chains and because you went through the first bulb-hunt at least now you know that the bulbs are behind the dog food in the bathroom closet. So, you go room to room, switching on lights and replacing bulbs until finally, the house is illuminated. You see that the house is in need of repair–but at least the foundation is solid–so you set to work painting and filling in holes in the walls and re-doing the flooring and your cut hand aches and you have to change bandages but you keep going until finally you’re done and you see that you’ve built your dream house out of the darkness. And then you put a “for sale” sign in front of your dream house, massage your scarred hand, and wake up alone on the floor of another dark house, ready to begin again. – TW, 24 April 2014
+ Write what you care about. If you don’t, don’t write about it.
+ Ghostwriting is nothing to turn your nose up to.
+ If you do ghostwrite, be up front about what you will and won’t write. Stick to your values, if not your name.
+ Don’t tell anybody how they should do their jobs. Everyone has their own methods.
+ If you have to collaborate, collaborate with people who will make the final product better than you envisioned it.
+ While the right negative comment can be just as effective as the right positive one, don’t be a dick.
+ My perpetual New Year’s resolution: write more, write better, care less.
+ Outlines are fine if you use them. I don’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” — Octavia Butler