Following a recent reading I was asked if I had any advice for aspiring writers. The thing that came to mind was a quote from Dinosaur Jr. that reads as follows, “I’ve got no advice about anything. Just f*ck it up yourself.” Of course, as there were children present, I couldn’t say it, good advice as it was. And still is. Instead I hemmed and hawed a bit before mumbling something about the importance of writing every day (the reading hadn’t gone very well and I was rattled). “Write something every day,” I remember saying. “A journal entry. A blog post. A haiku with too many syllables. Something. Anything. Even if it’s bad. EsPECIALLY if it’s bad.” Except I wasn’t nearly as articulate as all that. Sadly. But as far as advice for aspiring writers goes it’s not bad advice at all even if it does seem wicked self-explanatory. It’s important to write for the writings’ sake. Even if it’s just the word “milk” written over and over again.
Since that day I’ve been thinking about (read:obsessing over) my answer and how incomplete it was. If I had to answer the question again I would add that to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Reading is what made me want to write. Also, and this is going to sound very counter-intuitive, don’t get too caught up in thinking about your audience. I can only speak for myself but if I start out thinking, “okay, we’re going to do a mid-grade novel so the target age is 9 to 12 then . . . .” then I’ve already imposed limits on myself. I’ve already put myself in a box. Just concentrate on telling a good story the way you want to tell it. And finally (at least until I think of something else) never let anyone tell you you can’t.