My Advice for Writing x 10

In the spirit of the post below, where luminaries provide their rules of fiction, I thought I would come up with my 10 bits of advice on writing. If you’d like to take this meme and run with it, please do! Let me know in the comments, and I’ll link to it. (BTW, it is 9:33 am and I should be writing…)

1. Don’t use your blog as a way of procrastinating. (I don’t follow this rule. I procrastinate every morning until 9:30 or even 10:30. Don’t follow my example.)

2. Read lots. This is not procrastinating. Honest. It’s honing one’s craft. Or something like that.

3. You have the right to earn a living. Writing is hard work. Therapists make $100 to $200 an hour whether or not their clients feel like it’s working.

4. Be proud that you write. You’re a producer. You aren’t just shoving paper around. You aren’t a service provider to someone who may or may not benefit from it. You are creating something from nothing. And then it is read and enjoyed. What can be better?

5. Question all the things that society tells writers. Why does a book have to sell a million copies for a writer to feel worthwhile? Does a doctor have to cure half the patients in the world? Does a dentist have to fill a million teeth or a lawyer represent a million clients? (At least the dentist’s patients go away without a toothache!)

6. You only go through this life once. You might have other lives (we’ll leave that as an open question), but this one is unique. If you have an urge to write, do it. If you have an urge to travel, swim, have kids, sew, bungee jump (well maybe not that one), do it. Why not?

7. When it comes to love, people say there is an old shoe for every sock, a cover for every pot. There is a reader for every book. I don’t know how many, but there is at least one and that one is you. Is it worth it?

8. Writing changes you. At least it changes me, every time. This is how I grow in the world. It isn’t the only way, but it’s one of the most important.

9. Writing is my gift. Is it yours? That is no guarantee of fame or fortune. Nor is there a way to measure how great a gift it is. But everyone has gifts, and we are here to express them.

10. At the end of the day, we die. Can we say we did our best? Can we say we did all we could with who we were in this life? Yes. I am certain you can. That’s all anyone can ask and if that includes writing, you’ll know it. It’s now 9:50 am. I’m off to write.

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Categories Book Stuff, Writing LifeTags

11 thoughts on “My Advice for Writing x 10

  1. Great tips! I especially like #5, and think it applies to readers as well. I know people who read “the Western canon” just for the sake of saying they’ve read “the classics.” I won’t debate whether or not they’re good books, since that’s a subjective call anyway, but the books that have most stayed with me are not on that list.

  2. Thanks Fannie! #5 is probably good advice to apply more generally to what we’re taught, especially what we’re taught implicitly, to take as given.

  3. These are great tips, and I like the philosophy expressed as well. My favorite is #9 – let’s express our gifts, whatever they might be!

    1. Thanks, Becca. There are so many varieties of gifts, many of them not recognized at all, and the ones that are recognized, sometimes only under the American Idol mentality. But my guess is that lots of us could have more equanimity about those if we recognized the full value of all that we bring to this world in a touch, in a story, in a song, in a laugh.

  4. This was timely, Lilian! So, thank you. I particularly like numbers 2, 4 and 8. The others are great as well, but those three spoke to me this afternoon.

  5. Michelle, I’m so glad. I exercised #2 myself yesterday, giving myself permission to guiltlessly finish the book I was reading.

  6. #2 is great advice. I indulge frequently in that one, too 🙂 I find that reading law review articles helps me be more articulate in my writing. Reading science fiction reminds me that I don’t always have to be so literal. And, as I’ve been slowly and tentatively trying my hand at fiction-writing, reading a wide variety of different fiction helps me so how other writers handle things like point of view, “showing instead of telling,” and dialogue.

    1. That’s great, Fannie. Wonderful that you’re branching out. From your blog, I know your non-fiction writing is so lucid. I also think that reading can remind me that I’m part of a community of writers. It’s important to get away from the idea that writers are competing.

  7. These are wonderful! I love them all, but especially the one about questioning what society tells authors and the one about living only once. We should spend our time doing what we love to do. That’s excellent advice for everyone, not just writers.

    1. Thanks Dorothy. Sometimes, when I’m fretting, I ask myself is this something I want to be the centre of my life–this particular fret? Or do I want love, light, my family, creativity at the centre?

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