Some unconventional advice for aspiring writers

by look i have opinions

“First: figure out who you are—at any given moment—and do what works for you. Don’t assume that what works for someone else will be the best approach for you. Don’t even assume that what worked for you a month ago will work for you today. Pay attention to your own identity, priorities, passions, and habits.

“Two: Don’t listen to people who make you feel bad about yourself or your work, because they can’t help you. Even if they’re making you feel bad because you’re more thin-skinned than is ideal, they still can’t help you. The first and lowest bar for any teacher or reader is that they not turn you off your own work but help you relocate why it excites you. No amount of craft can be learned if you just plain old hate your projects. I’ve said versions of that before and been accused of suggesting that people eschew criticism. I can only say, my students would laugh at that idea. I am plenty critical. But if I make people feel hopeless or confused or like giving up, I am not doing my job, and they should put their hands over their ears singing ‘lalalalalalalala.’

“And third: When you feel unable to write, instead of trying some behavioral approach, like forcing yourself to write every day, consider instead trying to figure out who in your past has tried to silence you, and what liberation there might be in telling them to go fuck themselves—which is what the act of writing is. I don’t know a single writer who didn’t feel significantly silenced in their youth, and it’s that early silencing, I’m convinced, that shuts some of us down. Most of us don’t fail to write because we have bad habits. We fail to write because we aren’t sure that we are entitled to. Figuring out if that’s true of you can be a big step. And then getting angry is the next healthy step…. Then write something down.”

—Robin Black (x)

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