Recently I’ve been binge-listening to the NPR podcast The 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop. In it, the host, Virginia Prescott, interviews famous writers about their writing process. She begins each podcast with the question, “Which is harder to write—the first sentence or the last?” Many of the writers chuckle and answer, “the middle!”
Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the hours I’ve spent listening to these talented writers over the past couple weeks:
1. The best way to become a better writer is to be a prolific reader.
2. The other way to get better at writing is to write. There are no shortcuts to sitting in your chair and doing the work.
3. The worst thing new writers do is give up.
4. You have to find what works for you when it comes to daily rituals (though most wake up very early in the morning to write).
5. Every writer said the final product is usually far different from the first draft. They spend a lot of time editing and revising their work. It’s okay to write a shitty first draft (as Ann Lamott talks about).
6. Don’t just write what you know (like so many people advise).
7. Sometimes saying something simply is the best way to say it.
8. When they are stuck, they mix up the routine: go for a walk, change locations or switch from a computer to free-writing in a journal.
9. At least five writers mentioned Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life as a book for writers to read. Other books mentioned more than once were The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. (I’ve read them all and agree!)
10. Many writers expressed that the work takes on a mind of its own and that they are simply a conduit for the words to get themselves onto the page and out into the world.
If you are a writer, teacher or student of writing, I would highly recommend this podcast for ideas on finding your writing flow. Each time I listen, I walk away encouraged and more motivated to share my words with the world.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Which of these tips most resonates with you at this stage of your writing career?
Check out this podcast to hear quick, fascinating interviews with some of these writers: Salman Rushdie, Alexander McCall Smith, Anita Shreve, Patti Smith, James McBride, Joe Hill, Judy Blume, Jodi Picoult, Colson Whitehead, Krista Tippett and many others!
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