Monday, December 19, 2011

Whose Advice Should a Writer Listen to?

The good news about listening to the criticism that others make about your writing is that even though your work comes out of the locked cabinet of your intimate thoughts, other people can make incredibly insightful comments about your most personal creations. They see things in your work that you can’t even see. This can be surprising, since you produce your writing in private and hardly even expect sometimes that others will follow the thoughts you set down. The bad news is, when people suggest that you change something, they’re right most of the time.

What does this mean for you, that your early drafts, before you show them to others, are almost always chipped, incomplete, and/or undeveloped, even after you spend a lifetime learning to become a skilled artisan of the word? Well, writing is not like shampooing your hair. It’s not the kind of thing that you do a few times, you get it, and then you can do it on your own with no help from others. Writing a book is like building a house from the ground up. You can do it completely on your own, but the odds of your doing everything just right, without anyone else to help you, are not high, even for the most experienced craftsperson. Even if you’re great at woodwork, there’s still the plumbing, the wiring, the wallpaper, and the bathroom tiles. For writing, this might be the narrative, the setting, the development of characters, the music of the language, and so on. It takes help to get all these facets correct. Writing by its very nature is the type of activity that requires assistance from others. 

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe Tanka

Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer

Information for Writers

This is a new blog for writers, to provide useful information. In this blog, I'm going to incorporate ideas that I've tested out in the craft talks that I give at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, as part of their low-residency MFA in writing program.

The information here will include thoughts about how to make the most of your relationship with other writers, including workshops you take part in, and mentors you work with.

It will also provide advice on how to sustain your career, since I've found that is one of the hardest things for writers. The French Surrealist poet Andr√© Breton once said, "Writing is the loneliest road that leads everywhere."  It's crucial for writers to find ways to keep going, since it is such a solitary occupation at times.

I hope these postings will prove useful both to new writers and to writers who've been working for many years.

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe Tanka

Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer