Why I Don’t Talk (As Much) About Writing Anymore


So, I got a nice comment at this very blog a week or so ago, from visitor Delon O’Donnell, and I was going to answer with a comment but thought, y’know, this could be worth a post all its precious own.

Delon’s comment:

A potentially annoying aside: I really miss your blog posts on writing.

I guess writing those was part of your process in the past when you were moving towards your current level of skill, and now it’s not that necessary for you to consciously think about such things? Or maybe the traumatic hectic-ness of the past bunch of years have made it hard to get into the free-wheeling sort of mindset in which you wrote those posts? Or writing three books at once makes idly noodling away at a zero-profit-generating blog post flat-out untenable? Look at me processing here. I just know I got a lot out of those posts, including a kind of ongoing emotional support and humorous brightening of days through the writing process, and I don’t think there’s anybody else out there writing for writers the way you can.

Not that any of that is a reason for you to continue to do so. You do you and go be a superstar bestselling author. I have nothing but gratitude for all the benefit I’ve derived from the good things you’ve given us. Thanks a squillion, Chuck. ^_^

And Delon is right. I don’t really do many posts about writing anymore when once upon a time, that was probably at least half the content you’d find on this here WEB LOG. These days, ennh, not so much. And why is that, exactly?

Well, it is, as Delon notes, due to a handful of reasons and not just one.

First and foremost is, I don’t post here as often. I’d like to, though it’s a bit harder to get traction with BLOGPOSTS these days — I think we should return to that time, as it allows for more nuanced takes than you get on, say, Twitter, where nuance goes to not only die, but be incinerated in the fires of a thousand hot takes. But also, at a certain point, I need to write books, not blog posts. And those come first because it is for them I sacrifice other writers to the Old Apple Tree in the woods uhh, I mean, it’s books that pay my mortgage.

Second, I know very little about writing. In fact, the longer I go as a writer, the less I actually know about it. What I do becomes more mysterious, not less. Which is, all in all, not a bad thing, really, strange as it may sound — I think it’s good to find that my relationship to WORDS and STORIES has evolved to a point of sheer who-the-fuck-knowsery. All is permitted, everything works, nothing is forbidden, as long as what you do is good and necessary, and what’s “good and necessary” is a set of teleporting bullseyes. So, life is short, go write. That’s not to say I don’t still have opinions and thoughts on things — I do, as after all, I am a WHITE MAN IN AMERICA, of course I have opinions. I just know they don’t matter that much and I also don’t want anyone to take my opinions to be gospel.

Which leads me to —

Third, some people take or took my writing advice far too seriously. And that’s in both directions. I’ve had some folks really treat it like gospel, as if they should be following my “instructions” to the letter (even though I like to think I never framed them as instructions). I’ve also had years of “fisking” and YouTube “takedowns” of my “bad advice,” as if I’m out on the street in the village of writers, tooting my hypnotic panpipes, leading all the moon-eyed authors toward the river with my songs of bad advice, where I promptly drown them in the current. (Now I want artwork of me flute-tooting other writers to their watery graves.) I’ve always tried to write my advice in a way that was super-not-serious while also staple-gunning a thousand caveats up about how writing advice is bullshit (but bullshit can still fertilize). But some people were really hidebound to address the advice as if I’m inking a new bible instead of just barfing into the void with half-digested opinions. I certainly don’t want to be a leading voice in this. As Delon hints at, talking about writing was, for me, quite selfish. It was me yelling at me about things that were bothering me — the fact anybody ever listened or gleaned value from it shocked me from the get-go. So, I became a little more gun-shy about stomping around with my Big Writer Boots, telling people how to Write Their Words, even though that’s not what I intended to do.

I never want my writing advice to be taken too seriously. Even the act of writing itself shouldn’t be taken too seriously. You climb way far up your ass and you’ll never find your way back out.

That being said, I’m also not entirely shutting the fuck up. If there’s something pertinent, it might come up here. Furthermore, I have a new shiny writing book coming out in… don’t quote me on this, but I think June 2023, called Gentle Writing Advice. It’s a book that in many ways grapples with the very idea of writing advice, and attempts to counter a lot of the more aggressive writing advice out there (which is advice I’ve given!), particularly in this time of area-of-effect trauma and ambient turmoil.

ANYWAY.

So there you go! An answer. Maybe a satisfying one, maybe not.

Best advice I’m gonna give you is, go write. Write a little, write a lot, write when you’re able, but not when you’re not, and just try to find a time and a place to call your own and to make the words happen.


36 responses to “Why I Don’t Talk (As Much) About Writing Anymore”

  1. Damn Fine Story was my introduction to you, and I loved it – even when it didn’t entirely gibe with my brain output. I mean, after all, you your ownself said “Some of this book will help you. Other parts will be worthless to you. Discard what you find distasteful, and hold the rest to your chest like a beloved child. Do whatever works.” Which was one of my favorite bits. Thank you for it.
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2333801396

    • I’m glad you dug it! And yep, that’s definitely the way I go into these things. Use it or don’t — most pieces of advice will not ring true, and that’s okay, because maybe one of them will. Maybe one will be the thing that matters most.

  2. Suggested subtitle for upcoming writing book: “Wherein the author does not entirely shut the fuck up.“

    Also, I miss the panpipes. Bereft, really. Whither shall we wander without it?

  3. Thank you, sir! Almost always glad to read almost anything you care to share, including the writing stuff. Or not. We like you!

  4. I was literally just thinking yesterday that I missed your writing-themed blogs. I think I always took them with the appropriate grain of salt. Some of it didn’t apply, some of it was revolutionary, but most of it was just encouraging. You definitely always put in PLENTY of disclaimers, so anyone who took it as gospel- that’s on them. But most importantly, the takeaway I got from those posts is that, regardless of not being published, I was putting my butt in the chair, and clacking the keyboard, and that I was (am) a writer. It was validating.
    Everything changes, and I certainly would not make demands on blog post content- cuz that’s nervy as fuck- so I understand that writing posts might not be the thing anymore. But they did have value, and I do miss them. I look forward to the new book. And I’ll happily continue to read this blog. Thanks, Chuck!

  5. I find that your advice to writers often applies to those of us who are visual creators as well. The same excitements, fears, downtimes, and grooves are part of this visual artist s work/play and I find comfort in knowing that the creative weierdnesses I experience are part of the process of doing what I love. Thank you Chuck, and keep on keeping on!

  6. “… the longer I go as a writer, the less I actually know about it. What I do becomes more mysterious, not less.” Now that looks like a fruitful source for a future blog. How does your writing become mysterious?

  7. I’m pretty sure Stephen King, in his book On Writing, essentially says (or perhaps directly says) that most books on writing, and writing workshops, are bullshit, but that doesn’t stop me from coming back for little nuggets of fun in the well-written ones. His advice has always been read a lot, write a lot. The more you read, the more you figure out what you like as a reader, and the more you write, the better you get. I see all of that, with humor, in YOUR non-fiction books. SK’s On Writing has a passage literally describing having his ear drums pierced, weekly, as a child at the doctor’s office. Your books are lot more fun.

    But yeah, I think for a personal blog, Terrible Minds has always had a nice balance of everything. Writing advice is only a fraction of it all.

    It is a little sad that blogs don’t grab as much attention as social media posts but…it is what it is. Folks who are really into what you have to say, will subscribe to your blog and read the entries minutes after you’ve posted them. Your blog is the only one I “subscribe” to. It’s always interesting and never annoying. I’ve always enjoyed the diversity and urgency of your writing here, no matter what the topic. Apples, politics, writing, photography. It’s all fun.

    It goes without saying that now that I know you have a writing book coming out next year, it’s going on The List…so excited!

    I guess, as a summary, I enjoy so much of what you share here, I wouldn’t want you to feel it a chore to share…so share what you like in the moment. Yay!

  8. Oh, that makes me so happy! One of the things I loved about your writing advice was that it wasn’t serious. It was encouraging and amusing, but not serious. I spend so much time listening to serious advice, that never seems to fit me anyway, that yours was just feel good enjoyment. It just made me enjoy being a writer. I tell everyone I’m a Penmonkey

  9. Maybe the best advice is given when someone is trying to not give advice. Writing a book about writing and dealing with writing a book about writing – so obviously useful you’d imagine everyone would be doing it but nobody is! I’m very much looking forward to that.

  10. I miss them too, but agree with the advice to do you. Not being a writer I read those posts with the same enjoyment that I get watching TikTok videos on how to remodel a house (a lot). I live in one, but leave that sort of work to someone else.

  11. I love you anyway dude. Just getting your emails popping up in my inbox makes me happy even if I don’t click on them. There comes a point where you’ve given all the advice you had in stock and it’s fine to lapse into quiet after that. I consider myself blessed that you continue to interact with other scribbly plebs on the interwebs in any capacity. Just keep doing the Chuck thing. You bring joy by merely existing. Much love bruh.

  12. I’m currently writing a grad school paper and this:
    “I never want my writing advice to be taken too seriously. Even the act of writing itself shouldn’t be taken too seriously. You climb way far up your ass and you’ll never find your way back out.”

    is exactly what I needed to get me going and keep me going. Your blogposts always make me laugh. Always. Out loud. And while I find the age of blogs nostalgic since that was the thing growing up, your blog is the only one I’ve ever read for an extended period of time. The writing you produce, no matter if in a book or a hilarious blog post, brings me joy. Every time. Thank you so much for being you and for sharing you with the world. It makes days of writing much more bearable for those of us not so naturally inclined to do so.

  13. Thank you Delon (and Chuck of course!) I too miss the blog of olde… a good Terrible Minds rant was better than a cup of black coffee to get me going for the day. I appreciate the idea of signal boosting as respectful and maybe too much ranting is exhausting as well but… A beautifully worded rant about words or politics or anything I ever read here was an important feeling of connection to the wide world that I miss each time a polite itinerary shows up in my inbox masquerading as Terrible…

  14. I enjoyed your hilarious writing advice.

    Here’s my rant. I am completely fed up with the Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat and other formulas. Any advice that uses only middle grade and YA novels as examples of why their formulas are so awesome are total B.S. as far as I am concerned. The minute I see Harry Potter mentioned, it’s a hard pass for me. Show me how your formula works on Dostoyevsky, William S. Burroughs, Neal Stephenson, or some other author who writes complex novels for adults. Writing isn’t a fucking cake recipe. I wish it was, I love cake.

  15. Thankyou. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed your writerly-process-ongoing-with-caveats posts. They always have felt like the kind of craic that eddies and flows after festival events when the audiences have gone home and it’s just the well-fed and watered writers left at the bar, unspooling after a long day of being ‘on’. Look forward to reading the gentle book.

  16. Ask and you shall receive – I used a (crappy) query on DALL-E to generate the artwork you want as you lead us all to our graves -https://labs.openai.com/e/XTsb53RQArjpwEhHmB9jWMDT – I know links are iffy to click in comments so I may also tweet this @ you. Hope you enjoy 🙂

  17. Such a great post thanks Chuck. It’s interesting, I sometimes think the more you know about this craft, the more your realise how silly writing advice is. So many people say stick to these conventions, and yet, many of the best sellers just …. didn’t, and won’t. Sure, stck to these conventions, and do this and that to write a good book. But the great books, the ones that stick in the minds of the readers forever …? They are not crafted, they first are lived, then recounted, in as eloquent a manner as one can.

  18. ” I am a WHITE MAN IN AMERICA, of course I have opinions. I just know they don’t matter that much”

    Don’t do this

  19. One of the reasons I enjoyed Damn Fine Story so much — and why I revisit it when I need a creative kick to the keester (kiester?) — was how you readily admitted the vast majority of writing advice is steaming horse doody. Far too much “writing advice” acts like it’s gospel, and I guess a logical extension of “take this or leave it as you will” is the eventual fazing out of said content. Which I’m fine with — especially if the trade-off for that is we get more books from you.

  20. FWIW, I always seemed to come across your “just keep writing, dammit!” posts exactly when I needed that reminding.

  21. Couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful response. Though after years of lurking on this blog that first glimpse of my name in one of your posts caused a minor cardiac event xD

    It makes sense that being straw-manned would drive you away from the topic. For what it’s worth I’d bet the silent majority of readers knew you didn’t intend for your tips to be chanted during writing-club initiation rituals. Way too much absurdist comedy for that.

    What you said about your writing process becoming increasingly mysterious is really interesting. There’s this idea in kung fu that you only practice a technique to develop a skill. Once you have skill, the technique can be discarded, and only then do you start to move towards mastery. Maybe writing advice is a little like that? A set of training wheels that can help your conscious and unconscious minds to connect in the right way, but once they do, bam, you can just ride. Er, write.

    Gentle Writing Advice looks awesome (love the cover illustration). Will hop in the queue at month’s end.

    Oh, and the last paragraph of your post was motivating enough that I had to go off and write for two hours, and I think I found my way through a story block that had been holding me up for ages? So THANKS AGAIN AND FOREVER CHUCK. \o

  22. Thank you for all of your posts, Chuck. I have thoroughly enjoyed them, whether about writing, your books, politics, Covid, or anything else. If you choose to write more posts about writing, I will read them with a grain of salt, as I have done in the past. If not, I will still subscribe and enjoy whatever you write.

    By the way, I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Aftermath trilogy and The Book of Accidents. I have Damn Fine Story, Wanderers, and Dust & Grim in my (very lengthy) que and cannot wait to get to them. Keep up the terrific work.

  23. When I see ‘Chuck Wendig’, all I think of is ‘Finish Your Shit’. That post really changed the way I look at writing, and it was one of the first ‘finished, not perfect’ posts I’d come across at the time.

    I still forward that post to my writer friends who tell me they’ve stopped writing past chapter two.

    I can totally relate to Delon, as I too miss your posts on writing. But I can also relate to having to focus on the writing that actually pays the bills.

    Great news on the upcoming book though. You can be sure I’ll have my eyes peeled!

  24. Thank you for this post. It is difficult to focus on writing blog posts on writing while also trying to live life, and write the actual books.

    I appreciate the warning about being between a rock and a hard place concerning any writing advice, despite leaving warnings that your advice is only what you have found to work or not work for you personally. To be forewarned and all that.

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