advice to the writer

A dear old friend has recently been introspectively lamenting the writing process, and I’ve been wanting to give advice. As a blogger — strike that — as a writer of some fame, she elicits lots of support and response from readers, and so when she wonders aloud what to write about next and where to take the writing process, suggestions abound. So much, though, doesn’t acknowledge that sometimes we get tired: moving across the country and starting a new job, for example, isn’t just a new opportunity, but a complete rearrangement of the psyche. I advocate that people can and should take breaks, or at least acknowledge that sometimes we just need a sabbatical, even a small one. (Everyone and every profession should have sabbatical time programed in, but that’s another editorial.)

Then again, I didn’t want to actually stop reading what my friend had to write, so I, like the other readers, wanted to encourage more writing. Others suggested the author recounting some past events; some prompted her to start in the present; and still others imagined some other new exercises and topics. So much easier it is to suggest what to write about than to actually do it yourself. Some of us make an entire profession out of this act.

As I’ve been wondering myself, wanting to help and hoping to reveal some new truth in three paragraphs or less, I had gotten only to this point. The question is not just “what to write about,” but a deeper question of “who am I?” and “where do I find meaning?” and “how do I connect to the rest of consciousness of this universe?” Who am I to think that I have even a beginning prompt, not to mention any real advice? And then this morning, in my daily email notification with a poem each day, came this advice (originally for “young poets,” but I suspect it’s good advice for any writer of any age):

Advice to Young Poets
by Martin Espada

Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head

Better advice you will not find, here nor elsewhere.

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2 thoughts on “advice to the writer

  1. By far the best advice I've received so far.

    It's so true that the real question goes much deeper than what to write about, hitting at its core upon identity and meaning. What I really want to do is answer those questions by writing about my life.

    Today's post is going to be about how much I hate cleaning. What better way to discern the meaning of life?

  2. I suspect that our hatred for cleaning, grading, and short people (for you, me, and my mother-in-law, respectively) tells us a great deal about ourselves. Maybe more than we want to admit.

    Keep looking for the answers.

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