I’m still (and probably always will be) figuring out how to be a writer. This means I spend a lot of time reading and thinking and asking other writers and artists about their creative processes.
Through extremely inefficient experiments (i.e., trial and error and a lot of drafts), I’ve come to realize a few truths about writing—truths that I will, undoubtedly, revisit and revise many, many times.
Value the days when the right words just come to you, but don’t rely on them. They will be hugely outnumbered by the days that you need to search for what you’re trying to say.
You will fail. You will be rejected. You will feel the wind is always blowing east and all you want to do is go west. Tenacity. Patience. The ability to talk yourself down from the giving-up cliff. These are what will get you where you want to go.
Accept early on that there’s no such thing as a “perfect writing space.” Phones will ring, baristas will spill coffee on you, and your apartment could have the acoustics of an elementary school gym. Wipe off your pants, order another coffee, put on some headphones, and write anyway.
If you can, live in New York City for a time, do it. It’s a place of serendipity and heartache and glamour and grit. It’s a place that stays with you always.
If you are reviewing someone else’s art—whether it’s a dance, novel, painting, or piece of music written for kazoos—remember that there’s a person behind the work and that it’s possible to be honest and entertaining without being cruel.
Research writing. Read about writing and writers. Talk about writing with friends. Try out classes and workshops. Be willing to study and work really, really hard.
There are a lot of books out there that will tell you how to write. This is not a list of those books (though many of them are very helpful). Rather, this is a list of titles that remind me again and again why I write. I return to these books when I find myself questioning why I do what I do, when I need to remember how to get out of my own way, and when I need a heavy dose of inspiration.
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.
I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.
Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.
And that’s the first story lesson I ever learned. Use what you know. Draw from it. It doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experiencing it, expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.
For me, going home meant returning to the work of writing because writing was my home ,because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writingmore than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself. And that’s how I pushed through it.