Writing with teeth

“If ever there is a good time to let art be subversive, it’s now. … Some of the best art, the best fiction, is stuff that has teeth, that’s willing to bite the hand that takes away its food and its shelter and its rights.”Chuck Wendig



“You’re indescribable.

We writers spend our lives trying to conjure you from every angle.

We get close enough to keep trying.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Writing is human storytelling

We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are all specialists of some kind and that you can’t really be a writer unless you’ve got something like a master’s degree. Obviously, we want dentists to be trained, but writing is human storytelling and everybody does it. (Margaret Atwood)

A “Strange Balance” for Writers

“With writing, I think you need to find some strange balance between confidence and humility. You need to start from a place of confidence, from the belief that you have a story worth telling and know how to tell it—you have to set out from this place with gusto. Then immediately open yourself to humility and the certainty of some kind of failure.” Will McGrath

Writing the Impossible

“…. sometimes in a man or a woman awareness takes place — not very often and always inexplainable. There are no words for it because there is no one ever to tell. This is a secret not kept a secret, but locked in wordlessness. The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through — not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can’t be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible.” John Steinbeck (via Brain Pickings)

Believe in yourself (but not too much)

“Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly. There will be many mistakes, many things to take out and others that need to be added.” Anne Lamott

Writing Small

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of a big thing, and you work off the resonance.” Richard Price

Does overnight success really happen?

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day when I stumbled upon this piece of advice:

The most valuable thing I’ve learned as a writer: working your ass off actually pays off. Overnight success is rare. 20-year success? Real.

And later:

There’s such mythology around the idea that This Book Is The One That Makes You. Untrue. Every day at your desk is the one that makes you.

Both these tweets come from a writer named Maria Dahvana Headley. I eventually found my way to a Storify collection of her tweets on this subject, and I highly recommend that you check them out (link here).

I know that hard work and persistence and essential to achieving success in many areas of life, and writing is no exception. The thing is, I have a hard time putting the time into my writing that I need to if I want to accomplish anything. I have ideas, but I don’t have the patience to see them through, or the faith that they will amount to anything even if I do.

I guess I’m going through a bit of a dry spell when it comes to my writing, if I’m being honest. Part of me wants to feel guilty about this, and part of me wants to take more of a big-picture view of things.

That part of me says that life is long, that I’m still young, and that I have time to figure things out. After all, many writers and authors came to their success later in life, the voice inside me says.

But (as Maria Dahvana Headley has reminded me) I don’t know how long those writers were working and writing before they achieved their success. It’s true that some people do change careers later in life and go on to be very successful authors, but how much writing were they doing on their own, quietly, before they took that jump?

I can’t expect to coast though my life and then magically find success the moment I decide to get serious about writing. However, feeling guilty about all this doesn’t seem to be a terribly helpful strategy either.

Maybe someday I will figure out how to manage my creative energy and find a balance between all the various methods of creative expression I want to engage in. After all, life is long, and success (in any area) doesn’t happen overnight.