The Only Writing Advice You Ever Need

Google the term ‘writing tips’ or ‘writing advice’ and you will soon find yourself drowning in things you should and should not do as a writer. Write every day. Write when you feel like it. Self-publish. Don’t self-publish. Know your audience. Write for yourself. Write what you know. Write what you like. Other writers will give you advice, and people who don’t write will give you advice. There are infinite amounts of websites and author services dedicated to giving you advice.

And of course, a lot of this advice is important and valuable. If you are new to writing, of course you should seek advice, ask for help, ask for feedback and be prepared to listen to those who have gone before you. The trouble is so much of the advice is contradictory, because what works for one writer will inevitably not work for another. The trick is forging your own, individual path through all that advice and all those tips.

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Take what you need from the writing advice websites and articles, and ignore what you don’t. Because above all else, you have to remember that one size does not fit all. Some writers plan and plot to an excruciating degree before they ever start writing, and that’s okay. Some writers don’t plan or plot a thing, they just start writing and see what happens and that is also okay. Some writers get the concept first and have to create the characters to fit the idea, and some writers get the characters first and have to create the plot to fit them. Both are totally okay. Some writers write every day. Some writers only write when they feel like it. It doesn’t matter what type you are.

The only writing advice I personally think you ever really need is this.

Do what you want.

You can interpret that any way you like. Find your own path. Create your own journey. Do whatever makes you happy. Do whatever the hell you want.

Because above all else writing should make us happy and passionate. We should feel happy and excited and passionate about our writing. It should be, above all else, our happy place. The thing that makes us feel like ourselves. The thing that makes us feel free. And yes, further down the road, you might want to think about audiences, and readers, and markets and blurbs and selling…but before you ever get close to those things, you have to love what you write. You have to love to write. You have to be totally and utterly in love with the act of writing because quite simply, the act of writing is for you. It’s yours.

Its your escape. Your freedom. Your way of interpreting the world. Your way of figuring out how you feel and what you think. Your way of speaking up and being heard. Your way of leaving some kind of imprint on this world. Your way of being you. That’s how writing feels for me. And every time I try to please anyone else, it all gets messed up.

Writing is mine. And I do what I want.

I’ll leave you with this poem, one of many from Charles Bukowski that for me sums up how I feel about writing. Please note, this poem does not sum up how everyone feels about writing! Other writers may not relate to this at all, and that is okay! I just love this poem so much and I feel like Bukowski only ever did exactly what he wanted.

“So you want to be a writer


if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.

if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.

if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.

if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.

if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.

unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.”

Prove Them Wrong

Sometimes I think that the best piece of advice I have received in my life came from a fictional character I created myself. Strange, eh? In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side , Michael is often nudging Danny along by suggesting he ‘prove them wrong’. Now is not the time to go into who ‘they’ are, but I am sure you have your own ‘they’. I’m sure that whatever your passion, whatever your dream, there is or has been someone somewhere expecting you to fail.

When I was a teenager, I called them the Plan B Realists. They liked my Plan A, which was to become a writer. They smiled at it and nodded and thought it was sweet, but they didn’t think it was realistic or sensible. It wasn’t a real plan, they said. There is no money in it, they said. I tried to ignore them at the time but fear becomes ingrained. Not being successful, not being able to support yourself, not making your loved ones proud of you, becomes too much to risk. It took me a long time to realise life is about pleasing yourself, not other people, and that maybe all the Plan B Realists had Plan A’s too once, ones that they failed to follow.

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As well as the ones who like to piss on your fireworks, I’m sure you’ve got a fair share of the eye-rollers too. You know the ones who basically change the subject if you talk about what you do. Fair enough. Then there are the ones who are so impossible to please, you could become the highest earner in the family, own a yacht, buy them a house and still be the person they just cannot see.

Michael’s words come back to me whenever I am feeling unsupported or ignored and whenever I experience doubt in my journey as a writer. The words stir a steely resolve inside my quivering belly and help hold me still. If you sometimes feel like no one is listening anyway and perhaps they never were, like no one sees you or remembers you, like your voice is too small, like it fades away before it even begins, then perhaps you could also take some advice from Michael and tell yourself to prove them wrong. And that really mean proving yourself right.

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Even if it hurts to acknowledge it, and it’s like there is something loose and rattling inside of you that is scrunched up, and batting around from one side to the other, and it’s like you can’t breathe properly when you think about it, when you think about them – it’s like you’ve been running from something that wants to crash into you if you ever let it catch you up – try to remember this. That there might never have been intentional malice in their words or actions, just a carelessness with your soul. That maybe you are family who really shouldn’t be, that you are so different  from each other that it makes it impossible to recognise what you see – Remember that maybe they did the best they could with all that they had, and that maybe they did better than their parents did with them, and remember that you will do better still.

You will never make your children feel less than wanted and valued and longed for, and you will never have favourites, those that shine and those you allow to fade, and you will always allow them their rightful dreams and be there by their side to guard them so that they are never lost to cold realism.

Maybe they weren’t there and didn’t care, maybe they turned their back or simply looked past you. Maybe you were not what they wanted, or not what they needed. Maybe they will see it one day when it is all too late. Maybe they won’t. Maybe one day all of your dreams will come true and you will finally be able to turn around and say look, I did it, I told you I could, and maybe they will still not care.

If they doubted you or mocked you, ignored you or neglected you, if they turned you away because they knew no better, then prove them wrong and do it well. Whatever it is, whoever you are, whatever your passion, do it anyway, and make it your life’s duty and purpose to prove them wrong. Do it anyway and do it well, and do it for yourself, and let their scorn and disinterest spur you to work ten thousand times harder than you would have without it. Let it be the fuel from which you draw the energy to keep going, to hold your head up high, to hear your voice getting surer and stronger. Let it make you harder and faster and brighter and smarter than you would be had you had all the love and support in the world.

Rise above. Move on, and may they choke on their words as you prove them all wrong.

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