Things to believe in

A short manifesto.

  • To write you must write.
  • No one wishes to believe this. Most think that to write you must have good ideas.
  • No one wishes to believe this, either: ideas are cheap.
  • Execution matters most.
  • The writer who has brilliant ideas but never writes is not a writer, they’re a think tank.
  • The writer who writes but only has modest ideas is still a better writer than the one that doesn’t write.
  • Everyone can have great ideas.
  • Try meditation.
  • Self-care is a form of defiance, and all writers, in their way, are defiant.
  • I give you permission to care for yourself. (And thus, I give myself permission.)
  • Self-destruction in the pursuit of art is overrated.
  • So are ideas.
  • Coffee is not. Coffee is vital.
  • Even decaf.
  • Never underestimate a good punchline.
  • Writer’s block is what happens when you are so deep that your psyche fears for its safety. Sit with it, write something else (for a time), console yourself, wallow for only a few minutes a day, trust it will pass.
  • The best writing happens when your psyche fears for its safety.
  • If you think you have writer’s block, try this: write “I” on a blank page, and then finish the sentence.
  • Finish things. You will learn more from finishing one thing than from starting a thousand.
  • Yet to write is to learn, with every word.
  • The writer who has stopped learning suffers a worse condition than writer’s block.
  • Whether or not writer’s block exists is a matter of debate. Why don’t we hear about gardener’s block?
  • Always reserve the right to change your mind.
  • Every writer should read Beckett, Butler, Cavafy, Sappho.
  • Every writer should develop their own list of should-reads.
  • For heaven’s sake, try not to overuse the “to be” verb.
  • Every once in awhile, write something with someone else.
  • Every once in awhile, write something just for yourself.
  • To be a writer is to court both death and fame.
  • Read everything you can.
  • Screenwriters should study poetry, essayists should study novels, novelists should study short stories.
  • Poets should study sculpture.
  • The moment you believe you cannot write without a certain tool, abandon that tool forever.
  • Support your local library.
  • Try to write with many different tools. Ballpoint pens and typewriters and Word and Highland and Scrivener and yellow legal pads and beautiful little notebooks you carry with you.
  • Every writer should keep beautiful little notebooks with them, wherever they go.
  • If someone asks you about your process and you have a definite answer, you are about to live in interesting times.
  • Write everyday, even a single short phrase.
  • Also, don’t neglect to take days off.
  • Take long walks and offer no apologies.
  • To be a writer is to observe. So practice observation.
  • Walk your dog, or someone else’s. Observe the way they observe the world.
  • If Shakespeare could do it, you can, too.
  • Be an agent of chaos, then constrain that chaos into order on the page.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit. Remember that ideas are cheap, and so are words.
  • Words are also the most precious resource we have, and the most explosive. Never waste them.
  • Don’t forget to practice version control.
  • The you that begins to write will not be the you that finishes.
  • You cannot practice version control for your Self. I’m sorry, but this is the reality you signed up for.
  • Understand that to tell stories, you must endanger your characters.
  • Understand that your characters are always a part of your Self.
  • The danger to the writer is real, and this is where the myth of writer’s block comes from.
  • Jump into the lava anyway.
  • I will hold your hand if you need it. We will evaporate together.

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