Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Best-selling author Ryan Holiday, who calls wanting to be a writer "mistake #1", nevertheless offers some very good advice on ... how to become a writer.
Holiday clearly doesn't mean that nobody should want to be a writer, but he plainly wants to counter what he sees as a flood of bad advice on writing. I don't agree with everything he says -- for example, he sounds like he undervalues the formal study of writing -- but he draws attention to something more writers could stand to hear: the relationship between good writing and motivation.
Holiday rightly rejects a tendency among writers of an academic bent to focus too much on writing as a craft, and not enough on experiencing life:
Write all the time, they'll tell you. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer's groups. Send query letters to agents.Holiday goes on to show us why this is important:
What do they never say? Go do interesting things.
What matters more now than any other single thing is that what you're saying is different-that it's interesting, that it provokes some response from people. You'll only accomplish this if you've got something you have to say. Better yet, you need to have something that you can't NOT say. If what you're writing is a compulsion rather than a vehicle for your display how smart and well practiced you are.How can one know what one must talk about without experience? How can one relate what he learns about to others without developing some sense of how to relate to others? How can a reader become interested in prim, well-crafted verbiage that never really goes anywhere? That's all "writing" is when it is not a vessel for passion.
So think about it one more time. Is it that you want to be a writer? Or it's that you have these things inside you that you want very badly to communicate to people and writing is the best way to do it?
Getting the answer to that question right is the day you really become a writer
Those are vital considerations for anyone afflicted with the desire to write.
10-31-13: Corrected several misspellings of "Holiday".