I did two signings at Barnes & Noble this weekend and chatted with a bunch of people about writing. One of the other authors there, the lovely Meg Medina, told the audience that the business of writing breaks your heart, so you have to love the process of writing. And that's true. But for all the heartbreaks, there are also the moments that open your heart and make it grow. I never doubt why I write: for my characters and their stories, and for my readers and their stories. Getting the chance to speak to readers is always an incredible privilege that makes me remember how flat out lucky I am to get paid for making things up.
Because I was asked so many times this weekend what advice I would give to aspiring authors, I thought I'd do a quick post and share my own advice, briefly, as well as some beloved words from authors far wiser.
Take your time. Learn your craft. Enjoy the opportunity to experiment with voice and character and genre and story. Find yourself on the page before you go out looking for an agent or a book deal. You won't get that time once you're on deadline--and after the first book sells, you are always on deadline one way or another.
Read something every day. Learn something every day. Write something every day. It takes longer to get to the end of the book when you write 100 words a day than if you write 1000 words a day, but you still get there.
Believe in yourself. Invest in your art, your craft, and your spirit--you need all of them to make your pages true.
My Favorite Advice on Writing
"Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that - but you are the only you." ― Neil Gaiman
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can't put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.” ― Erin Bow
"Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ― Alan W. Watts