True this. Every discouraging word. But we look at it like this: Obstacles you know about are easier to overcome, and after reading this, hey, you’ll know:
by Michael Nye
[Recently] the writer Cathy Day linked to an article on Forbes by Jason Nazar titled 20 Things 20 Year Olds Don’t Get, giving grumpy advice to the new generation of workers. With the autumn semester set to start in about two weeks (I know, right? First: two weeks?! Second: nothing labeled “autumn” begins in August, yeah?) I thought that twenty bits of advice, given from someone who isn’t nearly as grumpy, might be a good way to prime emerging writers for their upcoming workshops and lit classes. And if you’re out of academia, and working on the Next Big Thing, perhaps some of this is helpful too.
However, twenty pieces of advice was a tall order. As with most advice, as I get older, I find there are fewer things that I’m certain of in the first place, and so my advice tends to be grandfatherly and broad, so we’re going with ten items, not twenty, and Imma aim to be a bit more specific. That’s okay, right? Right.
You’re Talented, But Talented is Overrated. For better or worse, there is a sense of competition among writers. This happens naturally in the writing workshop environment. But it also happens long after the MFA degree is over. Thanks to social media, we see what other writers are doing all the time. Someone, somewhere, is publishing something new and wonderful. The writers achieving success are hard working. Being the most talented writer doesn’t necessarily translate into publishing success, which really comes from methodical and consistent work rather than raw talent.
Ignore the Clock. I’ve yet to meet the writer who was, in hindsight, happy with her/his first publication. In the rush to get things published, in whatever venue, it’s easy to forget publishing isn’t the ultimate goal. Publishing your best work is the goal. Anyone can publish. No one is waiting for your next great masterpiece. You might as well take the time to make your work the best it possibly can be.
Put Down The Phone. One of the biggest challenges for writers, a group of people (broadly) who are more introverted than most, is being social. Making it to readings, talks, and other community events, is an important step but you also need to be socially engaged. Hey, you already left your home to be out in public anyway, right? Take a moment to speak to the writer, the organizer, the other attendees. Believe me, this is not easy to do: I know I really struggle to say hello and shake hands too. But these small bits of engagement and consideration are not soon forgotten. Save the texting for another time.
Don’t Wait To Be Told What (or When) To Write. There comes a point where no one is going to tell what you should read, what you should write, and moreover, no one is going to point this out for you. Making time to write is not easy, but until we all get crowned with Guggenheims, we all need to carve out a few hours each week to focus on our writing. Protect this time with your life.