Sunday, April 22, 2012

Remember, Always - no, wait! Never...

by Jeffe Kennedy

This is feeling like nostalgia week for me, so I decided to include a pic of me at the book launch party for Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel, lo, these many moons ago. Look at me - all rosy-cheeked with excitement. Makes me want to pat me on the head.

So, as some of you know, I've been over at all week, talking in installments about my history as a writer. You can see the index here. It was illuminating for me, to review the path I've followed and see all the choices I made. I think that, as we're going along, we don't always see that we're making choices. We just do the best we can each day and hope that we're getting closer to what we want.

But we do make decisions. Every day, every time we sit down to the keyboard, we make certain choices about where we want to go as writers.

When I think about advice, being a child of the 70s, I recall Steve Martin's Grandmother's Song, which gives all sorts of instructions. It includes gems like "Be courteous, kind and forgiving," "criticize things you don't know about," and "be purple, obsequious and clairvoyant." He often gave spurious advice during his stand-up routines. One started with, "Remember: Always -- no, wait! Never..."

That's kind of how writing advice is. We're looking for guidance in making good choices, to becoming better and more successful and people mix up their "always" and their "nevers."

They're absurd concepts anyway. Sometimes I read lists of writing advice and growl. So, this is my vote for Worst Writing Advice:

Anything that includes "always" or "never."

Or that even implies a hard and fast line. If someone tells you to never use adverbs or always follow instructions, for example, pitch that out the window. Any Rules, with a capital R, really beg to be avoided completely.

Okay, so, now that I've just nuked 95% of the writing advice out there, what is the Best Writing Advice I've ever received?

Write Every Day.

Yes, I know this totally smacks of Always. It doesn't HAVE to be every damn day. You can take vacations and sick leave, okay? But otherwise, yes, writing every day makes a difference. It can make all the difference in the world. If you want writing to be your career, you have to show up and do your job every day. You want weekends off? Fine - as long as your butt is in your chair on Monday morning without fail. You need to do research? Fine - as long as it doesn't become a reason not to have to write. You're editing? This totally counts, as long as you're working on your edits in a steady, professional way.

That's what it comes down to. You want to be a career writer? Then treat it like a career.

Remember, you must always-- dammit, no. You must never-- No! I had it the first time.

Always keep writing.


  1. Great advice!
    Also: be purple sounds like good advice as well ;-)

    The worst advice I ever got was from my creative writing teacher. He was very set in his ways and had some prejudices that influenced how he rated our writing.

  2. Yeah - those creative writing teacher Rules... Run away!!

  3. Now that's some advice I can get behind. Great post, Jeffe.

  4. I have been loving your novelspot posts! And, that's great advice. With the adverbs thing, I sometimes think, well, even adverbs are there for a reason, or they wouldn't have evolved!!

    Yes, every day!!

  5. Thanks B.E.

    And I'm glad you've liked those posts, Carolyn. You should totally do it, too! Grr - the adverb hate really annoys me. Everything in moderation, people!