Mystery Advice

Posted on 18 August 2011

I was going through an old notebook — very old; it has notes for some of the stories in Living Arrangements before they were even stories — when I found a page of random writing advice. It clearly came from some long-ago writing conference I attended, but I have no idea when, where it was, or who was presenting.

I’m a diligent note taker. That explains why I have a record of this mystery advice in the first place, because I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. For example, if I waited until I was in “the zone” to write, I’d never get anything done. And while I agree it’s not a good idea to worry about what others think while you’re still writing, or to put too much stock into the feedback you receive, writers do need to consider the reader. Unless, of course, you don’t want to publish at all and are just writing for yourself. In that case, my hat is off to you because you’re clearly not a shameless self-promoter like the rest of us.

I do, however, like the bit about locking the door. So without further adieu, here is your dose of mysterious writing advice:

  • The only pressure you have is what you put on yourself.
  • What others think of your writing is none of your business.
  • Writers must be in the zone to work.
  • Sometimes, you have to lock the door.
  • The only person to please is yourself.
  • Your plan should be to enjoy what you’re doing.
  • Take all feedback on your writing with a grain of salt. That goes for the both the bad and the good.
  • Young writers are insecure. When you’re older, you won’t give a damn what anyone thinks and you’ll just do it.

Do you give a damn about what others think? Do you take both praise and criticism with a grain of salt? Do you lock the door?

Photo: Ciccio Pizzettaro

8 responses to Mystery Advice

  • “The only pressure you have is what you put on yourself.”

    That’s golden. Not just relevant for writing but for everything in life.

    My new mantra, thanks to you (and your mysterious advisor).

  • amyg says:

    i need to lock the door…but it’s soooooooooo hard for me. i sit there thinking what everybody upstairs is doing. i consider just going up to get something to drink. i let the door get opened and kids come in. “sit in the chair and read while i work, okay?”

    of course, i never end up working. i go sit next to her and read a chapter of junie b. jones aloud.

  • Downith says:

    “Young writers are insecure. When you’re older, you won’t give a damn what anyone thinks and you’ll just do it.”

    I guess I’m a young writer.

  • Deb says:

    My zone comes when I make myself sit and start writing no matter how I feel to begin with. Except yesterday.

  • Lyra says:

    I can’t wait to be a grown up writer. I care what everyone thinks, and that alone stops the flow. Second guessing has kept me from finishing this damn thing for way too long now.

    Love the mystery advice.

  • Averil Dean says:

    I do lock the door. But everyone has a key, so that’s no help.

    And I care like hell what everyone thinks–a novel is not a diary, for crying out loud. The point is to convey a story. Why on earth would anyone write something for public consumption and not care how it’s received?

  • lisahgolden says:

    It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that I do in fact take both good and bad feedback about my writing with a grain of salt. Okay, maybe I take the good feedback with a boulder of salt.

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