|Another 2013 book tour picture--
in Cullowhee, NC with Paul and Lynn Digby--
Lynn behind the camera on this one...
R. T. aka Tim asks about advice for writers in his latest post, and that is a thing that changes each time one answers, so I thought that maybe it is time I answer that question once again; it's a question one often receives. So I'm going to muse on the e-page and find out what I think at the moment. I hope not to sound like a book-mad Mrs. Polonius. (Feel free to argue, add your own advice in the comments, etc.)
|And here I am with painter Lynn Digby,
Paul behind the camera
Come back next year and I'll probably think something different.
- Be a crazy, obsessed, wild reader at some time in your life, whether childhood or adulthood.
- If you have a tragedy in childhood or a difficult family, you don't have to be happy about it, but you have grit that may become a pearl. The world may not be your oyster, but you might be your own oyster, sooner or later.
- Don't worry about it if you are a woman and have children and can't meet the omnipresent "write every day" demand.
- Your challenge is to make a thing that holds life in a net of words. This is almost impossible. There is no dishonor in failing, and even a failure may be transformative.
- Just be quiet and do the work.
- Better yet, don't be a writer! (If you must, you'll do it anyway. And if you don't have to be one, this advice might save the world a lot of pedestrian books and some pernicious bestsellers.)
- And remember that worldly success is not the same thing as making something full of grace and truth.
- If you believe in your innocence that worldly success must come, you may be destroyed by this belief. I have seen it happen to people, and such bitter change is tragic.
- Do not abuse the dead (particularly historical figures) in the creation of characters.
- The world owes you nothing. Do not expect something. But if it comes, say thank you.
- Listen to your teachers but later on show them that you can do the thing with flair that they said not (no, never!) to do.
- If what you want is worldly success and money, do something else entirely. It's a lot quicker and more sure.
- Read your novel/poem/story/thing-you-made aloud when you think you're done, particularly if you have what is known as a tin ear. Of course, nobody will tell you if you have a tin ear, so do it anyway.
- Grow bigger on the inside as you go along.
- And make your poems/narratives bigger on the inside as you go along.
- Don't apologize for your work.
- Forget about "finding yourself" or finding any other hard-to-pin-down quality. Just make the thing. You'll be making yourself, too.
- If you are a woman and a writer, do not think that you simply must be a superwoman. With hard work, it will be possible for you to do two large things well. (For me, that was first teaching and writing and later on raising three children and writing with a few events now and then on the side.) Be sure you choose the right things. This choice may be costly in a worldly way. Be clear on what you are about when you choose because regret in such situations can be strong.
- If you are a woman and choose to do more than two large things well, know that at least one of your pursuits will suffer. Make sure it is not your children, or you may be raising another generation of poets and writers. (That may happen anyway, but why tempt fate?)
- Do things you suspect you might not be able to do.
- Push off the edge of the known world.