Things I wish I had known
I still can’t get over the fact that I can subscribe to a substack and the ongoing thoughts & works of someone like Joyce Carol Oates will show up in my email. It makes me not quite hate technology as much.
Tom, I am so sorry to hear that!
writing is so intense, it's possible to burn out.
but we all come back....eventually.
for some of us, personal life is the great challenge. I think this is not the case with you.
I am sharing this journal entry with my entire writing group. It has such warmth and wisdom. Joyce is a contemporary and guided me as I entered my love of reading and writing. I often passed her childhood home while raising six children on a neighboring road. When I finally started to write myself, (when my children were all out on their own) hers were my guidebooks. She is an inspiration! I went to NCCC when my own children were in college and was fortunate to have a caring Creative Writing professor who showed me the way to express myself. It changed my life dramatically. I completed my degree at UB at the age of 70 and started to write seriously. My writing group has encouraged me and we have published an anthology and are working on a second. I have two novels in the works.
what a fascinating letter! where did you live, near Millersport?
would love to know more about your life.
my email address is email@example.com
Joyce Carol Oates
Even a list with writing advice turns into something moving in your hands. Perhaps because it comes from so much experience. Thank you for your encouragement, I’ve learned so much from this. I was feeling a bit down after finishing a long short story that required a lot of intense work, I published the first part very pleased with myself and then I started to doubt everything, the story, my writing, and wonder if I’ll ever be able to write anything good. Your list brought me back to the main focus which is to simply write and put everything I have into it.
Love! Thank you and I have subscribed. 15 and 21 speak to me loudly. 15 because I am inspired to respond to stimuli everywhere; wanting to write, and then share it
21 because I have written about my daughter, whose life was taken at age 5 via brain tumor. I wanted to share her perspective, her strength, and her joyful view of life with the world.
Thank you for this, I plan to print it out and keep a copy of it where I write
“seclusion, quiet, no interruptions”--so crucial. Often writers get caught up in writing groups and events that disrupt rather than enhance their writing. There is no substitute for the long, repeated, solitary hours.
I love this advice. For now, I am staying in the reader category. I write a poem once in a while but they aren’t very good. I’d love to write fiction. I’m still too in the weeds enjoying the prose and/or plot and I’m not rereading and taking note of the how of the novel. I like the idea of no interruptions. Next year I plan to move to a place where I will be truly alone. If I don’t write then, I never will.
Fantastic points. I absolutely agree with #14, and I am in love with Zanche.
I enjoyed your list. Much of it resonates with my own experience at writing. On the subject of contemporaries, I sure wish more of them actually read fiction! (Writing on substack and sharing it with my friends has made me realize how few of them ever read novels or stories.)
I've lost the heart to write lately, but I enjoyed reading your list.
Thank you. I simply love you - admire you -
You inspire me in a variety of ways.
Thank you for years of pleasure I’ve gotten from reading your books
This is so helpful, Joyce, thank you! But what did Oscar Wilde mean, “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
And don’t give up until your writing is perfect, which is never.
Do we have to be so reverential about it? Not being snarky. It’s a quality I tend to dismiss. I don’t pray to literary gods. They can go hose themselves. I find tension there. I find truth in killing sanctimony. A writer isn’t a collective. She’s an individual. This isn’t social justice or a commune. It’s not social science. I hear so many writers driving that direction. With an earnest thank you for the essay.
Point 5 is my nemesis. There never seems to be 5 minutes of peace and quiet on our farm. But I have ear plugs now, so that should help (I hope).