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.
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.
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.