by Brad Whittington
(Originally published 7/6/12)
If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn’t hesitate to do so. -Andre Gide
If one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn’t write at all. – Rainer Maria Rilke
My advice to aspiring writers? Quit now and avoid the rush. –Brad Whittington
I’m going to do something completely unprecedented and disagree with Tosh. (Oh, my indeed!) Last month, in speaking of writers with a neglected novel gathering dust, he said, “Now the time has come to blow off the dust and get back to work.”
I say, “Leave it there and go do whatever it is you like doing better.” Watch TV. Have some pudding.
It’s not considered polite to discourage people from writing. I even have friends who write books to help writers, such as The Art of War for Writers, Plot Versus Character, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published, or Writing Fiction for Dummies. They’re all very encouraging. Not I. Which is one reason no publishers are asking me to write books about writing.
When someone asks for advice on writing, I say, “Quit now and avoid the rush.” If they say that everyone has a book in them, I say, “Let’s hope it stays there.” When they ask for advice on how to get published, I say, “I have one word for you: Google.”
My favorite is when someone says they want to be a writer, I ask them what they’re writing, and they say, “Nothing.” It’s really pretty simple. If you want to be a writer, then write. Problem solved. Wanting has nothing to do with it. You’re either working on something or you’re not.
In those cases, I imagine someone saying, “I want to breathe.” Aside from people with a medical condition, wanting and breathing have nothing to do with each other. If you’re alive, you’re breathing. You don’t sit around wanting to breathe but never finding the time to get around to it.
And if you’re a writer, you’re writing. For a writer, it really is that simple. You write because you can’t stop yourself. Not writing is unimaginable. Writer is not something you want, it’s something you are.
You can want to be a better writer, and who doesn’t? You can want to be published, or best-selling, or award-winning. But if you find yourself saying you want to be a writer more than once and you’ve done nothing about it between those times you say it, you should either grab a pen or spend a few minutes in honest self-examination and figure out what it is you really want, because writing is obviously not it.
So, I do what I can to talk people out of writing. Because if I can talk you out of being a writer, you don’t want it badly enough.
And also I don’t need the competition.
P.S. But if you do want it badly enough, Tosh’s advice about picking up a project in progress is pretty good. 😉