By Simon Ogden, Tellwell Editor
Welcome to the band, we’re delighted that you’ve decided to join us. We’re a bizarro group and legion; all of us completely, utterly, fantastically, bewilderingly unique, except for one very specific idiosyncrasy—we all have a story screaming and punching and kicking inside of us that we need to yank out and release into the world. There are people out there with the same constipation as us, but they may let it loose through interpretive dance or by singing it out or painting it or by yelling it into the faces of people in line for the bus. But not us. Not we. We’re the scribes, the men and women of letters. We adore specificity and nuance. We love the tranquility of words nestled onto a page, the calm, rational and quiet way they float over to our audience. That alchemic translation of feelings and imagery and diaphanous emotion into the solidity of language. We’re the Hobbits of the storytelling tribe and we don’t give a fig if you haven’t yet been paid for your writing—if you’ve somehow managed to set a word down on a page and followed it like a tentative footstep into the great unknown with another, you’re one of us and are welcome here. Make yourself comfortable and we’ll put the kettle on.
The first thing you should be very clear on as a brand-new author is that all those concerns you have right now about what comes next and exactly how this whole writing puzzle works … samesies! We’re right there with you, in one way or another. This, like all the great and worthy art forms, is a mentorship trade. Like sculpture or carpentry. The longer you do it, the more sense it makes and the more your own lovely, unique, necessary voice rings out clearly and melodically to find its way to those readers who need to read that thing in that way at that exact time, and they will be grateful in ways none of us can hope to fathom. And delightfully, unlike most mentorship trades, our mentors are all around us: our bookshelves groaning under their weight, our end tables apile with them, our bathwater occasionally reshaping them for us
READ AND FIND INSPIRATION
So, the all-time, number one, pin-it-to-the-top-of-your-list chunk of writing advice from anyone worth listening to will always be to get your nose in as many books as possible. Find the authors that talk in the way you want to be talked to and ingest their work.
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE
The second piece of advice towards becoming a better writer is—no surprises here—to write a whole bunch. It’s a close number two but make no mistake—number two it is. It would be hard to build a nice house if you’ve never been inside of a nice house, no matter how many nails you’ve hammered into a board. However, following these two rather obvious pearls of wisdom the sea of writing advice starts to get a little choppy. What is revelatory for some from here on forward may be pure bilge for others. There is a freakish amount of writing advice out there to shovel up if you choose to go digging for it. Give it all your best consideration but understand as you do that there is no specific method that originates from another artist that is also your method. This is the very essence and provenance of art. If some “genius” advice doesn’t resonate with you, it ain’t your soup—chuck it and move on.