Writing Advice

Writing requires both talent and craft. Talent is something you are born with (the recent tendency to reject this comes from confusion regarding the origin of human value), but it’s worthless without the hard work of learning the craft.

Having a talent does not make you a better or more valuable person. But it is a gift, a calling, and you should treat it with reverence.

Story is more important than ego. Make the choices the story needs, not the choices that make you look good. You are not trying to impress, you are trying to create.

Never write for the market. Write for God, for the Muses, for the City of Dreams. Even if you don’t believe in any of that. We don’t get enough transcendence in this world as it is; don’t give away the little scrap that you’ve been blessed with.

Challenge yourself. Read constantly. Read outside your field. Read obscure theoretical texts. Obsess about history. Read silly stuff, too. Never only read one kind of thing, or your brain will rot.

Think about structure. Spatial relationships between bits of text. Shapes in the reader’s mind. A text is like a building, and if you don’t get the design right, it’ll collapse.

Writing is music. Sentences have rhythm, melody. Words are sounds even when they’re not spoken. You’re not just describing events, you’re telling a story, like a bard or an epic poet of old. Even on paper, this is a performance, and aesthetics matter.

Demand more of yourself. Compare your work to the classics. Be insanely ambitious. You might fail, but so what? Try harder next time. Strive for greatness. This is your contribution to humanity. All the authors of the great classics were also just people like you. Why should you aspire to less?

Take your work seriously. Do not take yourself seriously. Do not wink at the reader. Do not bullshit the reader. Whether you’re writing a magnum opus or a one-liner, a powerful drama or a light comedy, make it as good as it can be, and never apologize.

Never listen to writing advice. Not from the internet, not from books, not from famous authors, and especially not from teachers or academics. You can listen to feedback (critically), but never listen to how other people think writing should be done. Even when they’re right, as I am.