This week I read at the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University. A young alumna of the MFA program drove me around and asked me if I had any words of wisdom for her as an aspiring writer.
I came up with a a lot of advice while talking to her, and then thought of more while flying home. Here are my top 10 tips.
1. Keep your day job. You’ll earn a living, and the real world is great material.
2. Work on more than one project. If your novel doesn’t pan out, it’s wonderful to have something else in the oven.
3. If you want to write (and get something done) while taking care of kids at home, you’ll need childcare. Nobody says this, but it’s true.
4. Try not to talk about your ideas. Let your subconscious work in peace.
5. Don’t force yourself to write a certain number of words a day. It’s so much better to write a great paragraph than a messy five pages. Go for quality, not quantity, and you’ll save time in the long run.
6. Read your work aloud.
7. Revise as you go, and then revise when you’re done, and then put your work aside and revise again.
8. Don’t let other people rush you.
9. Enjoy yourself. You don’t have to be miserable to make art. Misery and self-loathing are optional!
10. Read, read, read. When you’re tired out, let other writers carry you.