My Advice to Would-Be Writers

First off, I want to be clear:  I have no business giving anybody advice whatsoever on writing.  That, however, hasn’t stopped a lot of people from asking me for it.  Or me from offering it.

So, with that warning firmly in place, here are two pieces of advice.  The only ones I’ll ever offer, I promise.

  1. Some people write. And a lot of people talk about writing.  They talk about how they’re going to write a book some day.  They already know what it’s going to be about; they just need to wait until they have more time.  Or until their thoughts are more organized.  Well, here’s a newflash:  You are never going to have more time.  Your thoughts are never going to be more organized than they are right now.  Stop fooling yourself.  If you are going to write something, then now is the time to start.  Not when you have a new laptop, or after you’ve created a little workspace for yourself.  Not when the kids are grown.  Not after you quit your job.  Write right now, at the kitchen table, longhand, on the back of a bunch of old envelopes, if that’s all that’s handy.  Until you start committing some words to paper, you’re just one of those hundreds of thousands of people who are all talk and no writing.
  2. Don’t expect perfection. When you write, some of it is going to be crap.  Quite a lot of it, in fact. What seemed really good right before you shut off the computer the night before now seems like complete garbage in the cold light of the following day (at least that’s been my experience).  But here’s what I’ve learned about that…the crap wasn’t a wasted effort.  Don’t let that discourage or stop you. You would never have known it was a lousy idea if you hadn’t made the effort.  Now you’ve got it out of your system, and you can move on to creating something better. And hold on… don’t throw away the failed work.  Save it someplace.  What initially turned out to be an aborted, ill-conceived bit of writing may yet hold something worth revisiting down the road.  Save it in a file someplace or, if you’re old coot like me, print it out and keep it in an old copy paper box somewhere.  I have one of those, filled to the brim with half-finished efforts.  And every now and again, when I’m working on something new, I remember one of those ill-fated projects, and I go back to look for it.  Something that was lousy in its original form turns out to hold something salvageable, a little kernel of truth or inspiration that was just waiting for a better project to come along.

That’s it.  That’s all I got to share.   If this helps in any way, I’m pleased.  And if not, well, don’t say you weren’t warned!


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