Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever heard has come from authors, given for the sole purpose of encouraging others who write. That’s me, and if you put your thoughts to paper—whether you’re published or not—it’s you, too. But I think the advice can be applied outside that arena.
Below are a few quotes as part of series I’m starting on encouraging myself and other artists NOT. TO. QUIT. in pursuing our collective, creative dreams. For me, its writing. For you, it might be dancing or singing, or acting, or fine art, or maybe even mathematically proving the ABC Conjecture theory, (don’t ask) because that would be beautiful, too.
The writers (below) aren’t necessarily in my top twenty favorite author pile, though some are. The point is that those of us who create are family. And those in your family can sometimes say things that inspire, motivate, aid and comfort you. Yeah, that’s me pretending that Stephen King cares if I finish my book or not. Whatever. Maybe he does—or maybe only as long as I lay off adverb-packed sentences …
I guess what I’m saying is that like-minded people bond over the all the intricacies of a shared passion. I respect the authors on this page. They love the written word, as do I, and have expressed similar feelings about writing. How do I know? Because their words resonate with me and many like me. Us. The family.
I thought I’d share some writerly wisdom that I’ve found particularly helpful or inspiring in my own endeavors.
I hope you enjoy!
“The trouble with a lot of people who try to write is they intellectualize about it. That comes after. The intellect is given to us by God to test things once they’re done, not to worry about things ahead of time. What can we writers learn from lizards, from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth dead-falling or tiger-trapping.” ~ Ray Bradberry
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can definitely spend too much time over-thinking a first draft. This quote gives me permission to write quickly and not worry about how much is drivel. If I get my entire book written, I can go back and edit later, ad nauseaum. But the book will be written instead of this partially formed, half-done thing wasting away in it’s Word-doc-test tube. You know?
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.” ~ Stephen King
I love this quote. I don’t typically think of myself as a fearful person, but when I step back for an objective look, I’m a kitten in a room full of big dogs when it comes to writing. Some days, I write a chapter or two and then lean back, arms folded over my chest, and decide the room is no longer big enough to hold my genius. Then, the next morning, I sit down at my computer and re-read those pages only to lift my head and scream at the ceiling, “I suck! Eat worms and die, crappy author!” Eloquent, I know. The beauty of King’s quote it to admit we’re all afraid of something. So? So, get over it. You can do it, and so can I. We are, all of us, magic.
“Even if it isn’t the piece of work that finds an audience, it will teach you things you could have learned no other way.
And just because it didn’t find an audience, that doesn’t mean it’s bad work. Writers should find joy in the fact that they’ve even finished a story. The discipline involved in finishing a piece of creative work is something on which you can truly pride yourself. You’ll have turned yourself from somebody who’s ‘thinking of’, who ‘might’, who’s ‘trying’, into someone who DID.” ~ J.K. Rowling
Thanks, J.K. Thank you for reminding us that failure is often viewed as unacceptable, because it is wrongly associated with a final, permanent outcome. The truth is that most of us rarely have one shot at our goal. So what if it takes three tries or a hundred? It doesn’t matter if it takes us one year or ten. Did you hear me? It doesn’t matter. Failure has it’s own kind of beauty. We grow and improve with every attempt. Failure means we had the courage to try. Failure is learning, and most importantly, failing at something doesn’t make us failures as human beings. In fact, the opposite is true. We tend to admire and respect any person who pursues their dream, despite the obstacles, and does not quit. Why does it take us so long to learn that?
“Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.” ~ Mark Twain
Be comfortable with yourself. *Sigh* To accept yourself as you are and for who you truly are can be a long and difficult road. There’s so much freedom in understanding your true identity, not the one the world gave you when you were a kid. You know, the day your teacher told you that you were smart or dumb, when the kid standing in the lunch line behind you said you were pretty or ugly, or when your soccer coach said that you were athletic or should take up knitting—and you wore that label for the rest of your life. Reject the lie, my friends. And if you thought the kids that were told they were pretty or athletic had it easier than the ones who were told they were ugly or needed to knit, (and what’s so bad about knitting anyway?) you’d be wrong. Not if ‘pretty’ is the only value you think you have. Not if ‘smart’ is a life long pressure to live up to. And if those labels prove false or fleeting, what is a person left with then? Listen to me, none of us are ONE thing, humans are wonderful in their differences. Too complex to be boxed. Find out who you are, be brave enough to like yourself, and then bless the world by being you!
“Some day, there will be a story you will want to tell for no better reason than because it matters to you more than any other. You’ll give up this business of delivering what everybody tells you to do. You’ll stop looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re keeping everybody happy, and you’ll simply write what’s real and true. Honest writing always makes people nervous, and they’ll think of all kinds of ways to make your life hell. One day a long time from now you’ll cease to care anymore whom you please or what anybody has to say about you. That’s when you’ll finally produce the work you’re capable of.” ~ J.D. Salinger
I stinking love J.D. for the quotes he left us!!! < Why yes, there is a shocking overuse of exclamation points here. Your art is a gift to you, that you in turn, may choose to share with others. It’s the best type of re-gifting, unlike the elf-covered flannel pajamas you got from that new girl at work’s white elephant Christmas party. I’m not saying that creating something new is a laugh a minute. I am saying that if you find yourself more blue and slightly unhappy than not, there’s something else going on. Dig around inside that head of yours and figure out what. Creating can be acutely frustrating, but should also bring you amazing joy and satisfaction. If it doesn’t, why do it?
The other thing J.D. says to me, is basically, don’t be a pansy. Write (or dance or play your music …) with honesty. Don’t apologize. Don’t worry about trends, what “works”, sells, is marketable, or popular. Don’t try to please others, not that you’ll purposely try to shock or offend anyone either, seriously. I just mean be truthful about your art. People can always choose not to read, watch, or listen to what you create … that’s the beauty of freedom and making decisions for yourself, isn’t it? But if what comes out of you has never been done before, if it’s shocking or different, so be it. Don’t compromise. Your work will suffer.
To me, the advice means dare to write the books I’m meant to write. The ones I could talk myself out of writing if I worry too much about overreaching, pleasing everybody (which can’t be done), conveying a message beyond my ability to express, being too ambitious.
These writers invite us to ditch our fears and try. Fail. Succeed. What do those words even mean? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Then take the plunge and create. I’m going to make something new.
I invite you to do the same.