The road to becoming a better writer starts with admitting thaaat… say it with me, now…

That’s right.

You know nothing. And that’s okay.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can roll up our sleeves and dig in.

So, why is it so great that you’re here?

Because you’re now one of the Crusaders For Better Stories!

Consider yourself inaugurated 🤝

If you’re one of those writers who gives text for feedback with a note saying, “Be brutally honest, don’t worry about hurting my feelings!” and then proceed to get upset when you get what you asked for: this isn’t for you.

Help yourself to as much food and drink as you like, and then see yourself out.

Good writing takes effort, and if what you’re looking for is praise you didn’t receive as a child and for yes-men to tell you how spectacular of an artiste you are in a little circle jerk, this isn’t the place.

This is the place where we get raw and honest about what works and what doesn’t.

Where we take that rough draft of yours and subject it to enough pressure to come out the other side a diamond.

So, please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and let’s get this show on the road.

I have 2 basic rules when it comes to writing.

#1 Debate is a tool for bringing out the best in a story.

And that means being mature enough to accept critical feedback.

Can you whimper? Yes. Can you cry? Of course, you can.

So long as you get up and get back at it.

But don’t let discomfort stop you from becoming a better writer.

And when I say ‘critical feedback’ I mean just that; critical feedback that fights for the story to become better.

I’m not talking about the cheap seats flinging rotten fruit at you because they’re bitter it’s you up on that stage instead of them.

#2 Time is a critical part of creative work.

Good doesn’t become great by rushing it.

If you get tired, learn to take a break. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Understand that creating worlds by using your creativity as the only resource is consuming. And remember that time and research fix most things, even writer’s block.

This is a journey to become a better writer than you were yesterday, to tell more engaging stories and do the characters that you find along the way justice.

Before we get to business, I want to share a wonderful letter from Kurt Vonnegut to some high school students:

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

To prove his point, Vonnegut drew a doodle at the bottom of his letter:

And you can hear Sir Ian McKellen read the letter here.

You still here? Outstanding!

Next: Let’s begin by letting go of our inner critic >>

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