I’m constantly learning about, re-examining, adjusting, and experimenting with the writing craft. In the process, I pass on information to other writers in the hope that it will be helpful to someone else. Through the process, I’ve learned that a writer needs to be in the right place at the right time to receive helpful advice. One of my favorite things to hear in the feedback I receive is that my post came at exactly the right time. I’ve even found that I’ve been given sound advice, but it sometimes takes years before I’m ready to put that advice into practice. For example, the first time I heard that if I wanted to have a career as an author I needed to create a website and a blog, came two years before I started this blog. I wasn’t ready before that.
One of the things I enjoy doing is listening to other authors talk about their passion, their interests, their habits, their writing journey, and the tips they have for other authors. The thing that I’ve really started paying attention to in the last few months is that there are so many similarities and just as many differences. If a best-selling author gives a blanketed statement on what every writer should or shouldn’t do, you can bet there’s another best-selling author with the exact opposite advice. It doesn’t mean one piece of advice is good and the other bad, I think authors make blanketed statements about writing because that is their truth. It’s just not every writer’s truth.
Regardless, I have found that there’s something to be learned from every author. Eventually, when an author is speaking about what they are passionate about, there’s something that resonates with me. Whether it’s writing advice I already knew but needed the reminder, or something I’d been thinking about myself recently, or even something new that hadn’t yet occurred to me but came at just the right moment. Even those moments where I disagree with the advice, but stewing about it brings me to a revelation about my writing. These are all gems that I look forward to hearing when listening to an author speak.
Several months ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of authors talking about their writing journeys and the writing craft. I thought I’d share some of the things they spoke about that struck me and maybe they will resonate with some of you as well.
I went to an event called Literary Connections, put on by a nearby community college. The first speaker was Sharman Apt Russell, a nature/science writer from New Mexico. One of my favorite things she said was about how the industry likes you to limit the genre in which you write to just one, but she’s always been a person of many interests, so she says she’s a promiscuous writer. She writes about what interests her, regardless of the genre the story may fall.
Here are some other interesting pieces from her speech that I wrote down:
- Harmonious, complex, and interconnectedness is what writers are trying to recreate. Writing is a way to engage with the world and it helps clarify what we’re thinking. Writing is about discovering things about the world and about ourselves.
- Writing is hard because you set high standards and you don’t always meet them.
- When it comes to writing, do one thing at a time.
- The trick is finding the easy and natural path for your writing.
- When you write something, it can have more meaning than you are consciously aware, and the full meaning of underlying themes may not be revealed until the piece is done.
The second author who spoke was Craig Johnson from Wyoming, and he writes a series that was turned into the TV series “Longmire.” I believe his 13th book in the series came out in September. If you ever have a chance to listen to him speak, he is quite the entertainer.
Here are some of the points I wrote down from his speech:
- On getting in your own way: A writer will start writing once they finally run out of excuses. Every writer has an editor who tries to strangle the writer before he ever gets started.
- On writing descriptions and settings: I need to know about environment, not inventory.
- You think you know what a book is about when you start writing it, but you really don’t know what that book is about until it is finished.
- Being an author is a lot like being an astronaut. The odds are against you.
Have you been to any events within the last year where an author spoke, whether at a conference, book signing, literary event, etc.? What was some advice or experiences that they spoke about that really resonated with you? If not in person, is there a book on writing or a blog post that had advice that really resonated with you or changed the way you approached something in your writing.
Since this is my first post for this year, I want to wish you all a beautiful, productive, and successful year!