The 9 Best Pieces of Advice I’ve Ever Gotten
Liza Palmer (Conversations with a Fat Girl)
- Build a community
writers groups, IRL or online. Writers groups that write don’t critique - so people aren’t bringing back the same chapter/short story every week and tweaking it over and over. Community based about actual writing, not about telling you what’s how to/not to write. Once in a while, get a big whiteboard and help one person who is stuck and ‘break’ the book until it’s figured out. Meeting twice a month to read aloud your own work.
“A rising tide lifts all boats” - stick with each other. Writers are competitive/jealous, so many external markers for success. If you feel you have to hide your light and people aren’t celebrating, this isn’t the right group. You want those in the trenches with you to celebrate.
You don’t need someone always saying how hard it is - disguises their bitterness as pragmatism.
Finding your ‘tribe’ - those who speak your language and understand you. Writers are ‘outsiders’, observing, so it’s amazing when you find something that’s right.
Online membership groups like SCWBI, Romance Writers of America, etc, retreats and workshops like Do Lectures, Tin House, Fishtrap, Banff Centre for the Arts, etc (Poets and Writers has an entire conference and residencies database)
2) It doesn’t get easier, you get better.
Publishing is always going to be a roller coaster. Yes, always. Anchor yourself somewhere else besides in its fickle waters. That means somewhere internal because the external pressures are never going to go away. You need to be confident, writing itself has to be the reward.
Remember why you started.
“I’m not afraid of storms because I’m learning to sail my ship” Louisa May Alcott (sp?)
3) Say yes and figure it out later. (Tina Fey?)
We pigeonhole ourselves. ‘I don’t write that’, ‘I don’t read that’ - you’re limiting yourself as to what’s out there, or tell yourself what you cancan’t do.
Writing is an apprenticeship. Everything helps your craft, everything fills the well. Step out of your wheelhouse, and take everything in your possibly can.
You are not you genre. You are your voice. Your voice can transcend any genre. IF. YOU. LET. IT.
4) Daniel Day Lewis will never play James Bond
Sometimes it’s not about you.
Art and the Art of Subjectivity. You just aren’t right for the part, so be able to see your work objectively enough to know if it needs another pass. Maybe you are right for the part, you just need to clean up the work a little more.
5) Follow the fear.
Bobette Buster’s Do Lecture (Google it) ‘Can you tell your story?’
Her philosophy is that storytelling is the art form of transformation.
The stories we take into our heart centre around reinvention and/or redemption. (what is the arc?)
How to tell if it’s reinvention or redemption: the moment the character chooses to become fully alive, or the walking dead. Usually that comes at the act 1 break, or the act 2 break. Where that decision is made we know as ‘the dark night of the soul’ (Joseph Conrad’s “Hero’s Journey”)
So how do you find that moment? You follow the fear. The choice you (or your character) makes is the one you resist the most that will set you free. So what is your character’s greatest fear? Underneath that is the underbelly of the hero’s journey.
Example, Shawshank Redemption (act 2 break) Andy leaves Red the harmonica, and Red blows on it - he chooses to accept hope into his life. He’s no longer a prisoner, he’s free.
Is this a story of redemption or a cautionary tale (tragedy/reinvention)? The dark night of the soul is the moment when they take the first baby step towards becoming fully alive or the walking dead.
Bottom line: What people are interested in is to be taken into a world they would never otherwise get to experience and they want to see the ordinary become extraordinary. For better or worse.
resist/resist/resist until they’re forced to make a decision, that opens up the road of trials
6) Go directly to the bar
You go to a party, and you need a ‘job’, so go to the bar and get a drink. That way you have something in your hand, somewhere to be.
7) You don’t win by pretending to be something you’re not
You are the best version of you. - Malcolm Gladwell
What happens when the underdog recognizes their weakness, and then chooses an unconventional strategy (David & Goliath)? They win.
Why fight like Goliath, follow everyone else’s rules? It’s easier. Someone else’s checklist is easier than generating one of your own. You don’t have to analyze yourself, your life. You don’t have to dig deep about whether you’re happy or not. It’s much easier to take the road more traveled.
When you follow the market, try to write what’s popular, follow the traveled road, you trade that which makes you most you. Your voice, your ideas, your passion.
You can feel it when you’re writing something important/good for you, and when you’re trying to write like Goliath. It’s clunky, unnatural.
BUT, like the audience who came to watch two guys fighting each other, they were let down/unhappy to see a pip squeak knock out the giant with a pebble. Doing things your way may not be celebrated. They will challenge the way things are normally done.
8) Just let Mellie be Mellie - a character from Shonda Rhimes’ ‘Scandal’
The truth will out.
People are who they are. Things are what they are. They can’t hide this for too long. They will be revealed.
‘If you wait by the river long enough the bodies of your enemies will float by.’ - Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Don’t stress about what everyone else is doing. It’s not about you. Sometimes it’s just someone else’s “turn”. Let it go.
9) “Do the work, Don.” (Madmen)
Sit down, shut up, do the work. Block out the white noise, set a goal, get to work.
Possible goals: word count, ‘Focus Booster’ (app to download), writing group meet-up, Nanowrimo. Get that deadline and stop giving yourself excuses. SHOW UP.
9.5) “Good luck! But more importantly, prepare well. Visualize each phase, start to end, which probable errors and you actions. Repeat.” Chris Hadfield