When you're told how to write, don't listen. When you're told how to make your art, don't listen. To those who with good intentions attempt to steer you toward the right way of writing, turn deaf. Those who tell you that you have an odd plot, characters that can't possibly exist, descriptions that are ludicrous, flip a finger. Even to this blog, don't listen. To what I say, don't listen. Hole up, tell everyone to fuck off, and create, create, create. Create the way YOU want to. Why? Because YOU want to create this way. Because YOU say it's right. Because only YOU can be the judge of your own work, nobody else. YOU know when you produce shit or something good. YOU have the ability to distinguish between something that stinks and something that sings. Everything else is mote. Everyone else's advice is bad nostrum. Bad juju. Bad kaka.
Feel. Feel your words. When you write them, feel them. How do they feel to you? To YOU? Not to your uncle Joe, not to Sarah from your writer's group, not even to your readers. How does it feel to YOU? Does it satisfy YOU? Do YOU like it? If not, fix it. Only YOU can decide when to stop fixing it and to let go. Only YOU have this power, nobody else. Not the critics, not fellow writers, nobody. Nobody has this right. It's YOUR art.
It's easy to fall into the trap of listening to big important people or people with experience. Don't. We already have enough of King and Rowling and Gaiman and Atwood and Martin and a ton of other brilliantly fucking, or fucking brilliant, writers. The world doesn't need another one by that name. The world needs YOU. And the only way for you to be you is, well, to be YOU. And the only way to discover who YOU are is by erecting high high walls and hiding behind them, with yourself, on your own, until the silence becomes unbearable, until boredom drives you half-mad. Until you become the hewer of your own words. Stone by stone, wall by wall, YOU will surround yourself with your own creation, and you will rise out of your enclosure with it. You will create the necessary propulsion, and the energy generated from it will carry you through the shitstorm ahead. And the shitstorm is coming, trust me. The judgement. The reviews. The comparisons. The conclusions. The reminiscing, the finding of the meaning (which, by the way, you never planned and find yourself surprised to read about). The emulations. The insinuations. The frying of your prose in a crucible to extract some kind of an essence. You know what all this is? People trying to understand your art. But you know why they're wrong? There is no understanding of art. There is only feeling it.
And if you feel nothing when creating your art, those who will look at your art, will feel nothing. Those who will read your books, will feel nothing. Here is the paradox. When you yourself don't quite know how you've written your story, but felt it, those who will read it, will feel it too. They will attempt to understand it, and they will stumble, but they will be unanimous in their love for your work. And what they will say won't matter, because they will feel YOU. They will know what you were trying to say, without needing to know it. It will go from heart to heart, bypassing the brain. Only we don't like it. Fear has taught us to analyze everything, so we fucking analyze. We will analyze the shit out of it. And here is the trap. This is the trap all beginning writers fall into. Well, I don't want to lay claim to ALL writers, so correct me here if I'm wrong, but I've seen it happen many times. And I have fallen into this trap as well. And this trap is, thinking that you have to somehow fit in and follow the rules. Here is one rule for you.
No, you don't have to be good at anything. Grammar. Sentence structure. Idioms. Plotting. Dialogue. Nothing. None of it. Hard to believe, right? Well, guess what. The only thing you have to be good at is to feel. And as humans, we feel a shit-ton, so you're good at this already. That's it. Now the only other thing you have to do is, write. A LOT. And read. A LOT. That's it. Shield yourself from the outside world. Let YOU grow. The way YOU want to grow. I can't stress this enough. The major reason many writers never finish their first book is because someone has derailed them. One conversation. One criticism. BAM. Just like that. You missed a chance to be YOU, because you decided that YOU are not good enough, because someone told you so. Or hinted at it, and you completed the thought. What else can I tell you to convince you that the way YOU write is the right way? What YOU have to say is the only right way to say things? YOUR story is the only one that matters?
A writer's is a lonely job. Yes. But despite what some people think, despite the negative connotations the word "lonely" has, it's not bad at all. We writers love it. Because we love to be left alone. Because then we have the courage to descend into our own world and create. Because we're very fragile, and any little thing can snap us out of our bubble. Learn this, then. To write, you have to protect yourself, shield that YOU inside a cocoon and not let anyone inside. Until you know who YOU are. As an artist. Until no criticism can shift you off base, can throw you off balance. No insult, however egregious. No friendly, or unfriendly, offense. No provocation. Nothing. Until then, you should not listen to anyone. Only to YOU. To YOUR instincts.
Why? Because you do. Because you see the world the way you see it, only the way you see it. Like nobody else. Yes, some things are very similar to us all, but don't be afraid to say it how it seems to YOU. Don't be afraid to call a mountain a giant earth nipple, because it's how you see it. Fuck prudes who tell you it's wrong. Or call it a girl with a skirt, a stone skirt. Flirtatious. You know who said a mountain can lift her skirt? Tom Robbins. Read him, if you don't believe me. THIS is why you have to read a lot, to gather courage from those who already broke the rules, their own way. They will give you courage to break rules YOUR way.
As an artist, your job is to share YOU with the world, and how can you do it, if you yourself don't know who YOU are? What YOU are made of? You can't. It takes time. Be patient. You won't find out overnight. Get ready. If this is what you want, to write, get ready to sacrifice everything else. Money, travel, parties, restaurants, clothes, everything. Plan to survive however you can, to have undisturbed periods of time to grow as an artist, on your own, to write. Yes, some people prefer to go to groups and mingle and support each other. I may be the outlier here and may be frowned upon, but I say, not much growth happens at those gatherings. If you want to grow fast, you have to do it alone. It takes a great deal of concentration. And being one on one with yourself.
I noticed something, something that sparked this rant. You all know about the tragedy in Isla Vista, you all know about the response on Twitter, the #YesAllWomen hashtag. You all have read them, here is a sample selected by Times. I saw it, just when it started, and I didn't read them at first. You wonder why? I, of all people, should have. With my history of sexual abuse, I should have. But something new happened. I stopped myself. Because I knew what was going to happen. I knew that it would kick me out of my usual creative place for at least a day, if not more. On the second day I couldn't ignore it anymore, and tweeted some, and then really got into it. And I paid for it. Dearly. Yes, I'm a sexual abuse survivor, and I do talk about it. Some people asked, why don't you talk more? Were you afraid of attacks from men or something? And my response was, nope, I'm not afraid of any attacks from anyone anymore. I'm afraid of losing my hard-earned shell. My newly sprouted shell within which I'm pink and soft and vulnerable. Very vulnerable. I was afraid to poke it. It took me almost 2 years to build it, and I did poke it. Some of me leaked out. I got trashed for the rest of the day. I'm not ME enough yet to withstand news like that, so I shield myself from it. And to anyone who tells me I should read news and I should speak up more, here is my response. WHY don't I do it? Because in order for me to create, I have to have space and time and a presence of mind to do it, to be ME. And it's a hard battle for me. A hard battle, every day, for that quiet space, to hear my own stories. Other stories kick me out of that place, that's why I have to protect it.
So it is for YOU. I don't know your background, but if you're a writer, I assume you've been through some shit in your life. Most people turn to writing to shed that shit. Well, don't listen to anyone's advice. Do what is right for YOU. If there is only one thing you will take away from this post, let it be this. I believe in YOU. I know YOU can do it. Because I had someone believe in ME when I started. My boyfriend, relentlessly, unquestionably, believed in ME. If not for him, I would've never even tried. If you don't have someone like this in your life, someone who will believe in YOU no matter what, I will be that person. Okay? Now go write, and I shall do the same.