Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dear Aspiring Writer, DON'T LISTEN TO ADVICE! (Patty Blount)

So, you want to be a writer.

Great. Go write.

It's that simple. And, also that hard. Oh, not because writing is hard work (though it is). No, it's hard because every time -- Every. Single. Time -- you say "I want to be a writer," you'll get the look.

It's part cringe, part sigh, part grimace. It's a look that says "Keep working on it, sport."

Your parents will worry that you'll never make any money at writing. Your friends will roll their eyes and think you just want to laze around in a bathrobe all day instead of doing 'real work'. Your teachers will focus a lot on mechanics and structure and all the other rules -- do NOT hate them too much for this. You have to know the rules so that later, you can break them.

Don't listen to all the advice about how writing can be a great hobby but you need something real to fall back on. Because here's what's gonna happen:

You'll listen to your mother and spend two miserable years in nursing school because that's a 'real' profession and write in your spare time. You won't show anybody those stories because you're just fooling around. You'll eventually quit school, bum around in a series of boring and low-paying jobs and you won't write for many years -- not until your first baby is born and you needed something to occupy yourself while he watched Disney movies on infinite loop.

Those stories, you'll share. And you'll be astounded that everyone likes them and wants to read more. But you have a full time job and a family to take care of -- when are you supposed to write? Somehow, you do -- you squeeze writing time out of lunch hours and sports practices and the mornings when everyone but you sleeps in.

You'll wake up one morning and realize your life is half over and you never did become a real writer. But instead of crying over it, you remind yourself that there's another half of your life that hasn't started.

And that's when you get serious about writing. You stop squeezing minutes here and there and devote time to your projects. You join writing groups and take classes and slowly, you begin to rebuild the confidence you had when you were a kid, before everyone started giving you that advice.

One day, you find the guts to query one of those projects and land an agent. So you do it again and this time, an editor expresses interest. At the time, it feels like things are moving in slow-motion but trust me on this -- the years pass quickly. Suddenly, you'll have a book with your name on it sitting on shelves in book stores.

Suddenly, you'll be a real writer.


  1. Patty, this sounds suspiciously like my story, except instead of nursing I went into teaching. More practical. Writing was a crazy dream, etc. Three cheers for second chances and late bloomers!

  2. *rasies glass* I ended up not finishing nursing and switched to IT, where I still am today. Ironically, I became a technical writer and was thrilled to be able to tell my mother "YES, I can get paid to write." Later, she would become my biggest fiction fan but sadly, didn't live long enough to see my debut novel released.

  3. All I needed to read was your title, and suddenly I was thinking, "Uugh. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to forget the lessons / writing advice I learned in college. All of it."