Bad Advice for Writers and Artists.

I wrote over on Medium about the eh, non edible nature of the promise of exposure as payment for work. See that here.

Over the years I have been given a metric ton of awful advice. Some of it has come from a really kind, loving place, people who want me to live the artist’s life.  Some of that advice as loving as it has been to put it kindly tone deaf and as if people don’t know me at all. Or it has come from a loving place full of shiny privileges.

If you’ve been here for a minute you know I’m not the one for that.

So let’s talk about bad advice.

Actually first I want to show you a couple of things. This article about how some very popular positive thinking adages can turn into gaslighting. Read it.

Next I want you to read this by one of my favorite writers Daniel José Older. This is my favorite part:

Beginning with forgiveness revolutionizes the writing process, returns it being to a journey of creativity rather than an exercise in self-flagellation.  I forgive myself for not sitting down to write sooner, for taking yesterday off, for living my life. That shame? I release it. My body unclenches; a new lightness takes over once that burden has floated off. There is room, now, for story, idea, life.

My dearest homies. I used to be one of those self-flagellation writers. I really believed that my perceived failures were because I had “excuses” about not writing. Never mind being half homeless, hungry and desperate. Never mind my jobs and hustling. Never mind all of it. The Pantheon of The Most Successful of Us say you write every day. No matter what, otherwise, it’s your own fault if you’re not having the success they have.

I’ve said it before and will always say it. Suffering or hunger or poverty or stress etc don’t always make for the best work.

So no you don’t have to write every day on a work schedule. This is the type of advice that while well meaning ignores things that matter to a lot of us. Jobs we work 12 hours a day, kids we need to care for, school etc. Thing is, these are not “excuses” in that shame inducing sense that you are not trying hard enough or are just being lazy.

So yes, I consider the whole worship of daily writing as being the One Twoo Way to be bullshit.

And frankly if you are gaslighting the fuck out of yourself how can you produce your best most wonderful work?

That said, write as much as you can.

We here at Be That Shit University believe that it counts.

Did you do work on your novel?

Fuck yeah.

Did you write a shittastic poem?

Fuck YEAH.

Did you write a blog post?

FUCK TO THE YEAH!

I am not a believer in fetishizing the process. Finding the perfect chair and the perfect 2 hours of silence or music.

It is a huge privilege to be able to have your ritual and have it be the all of your process.

A lot of us just do not have the time for that.

We don’t have the energy.

We have bills to pay and children to raise and spouses to love and selves to care for.

How about some good advice?

  • Don’t ever stop learning about your craft. Comedy, writing, editing, painting whatever it is. The beautiful thing is that if you can read this, you can googlefy some shit and learn something new any damn time you want to. The gatekeepers of knowledge about your art are not as strong as they used to be.
  • Read promiscuously. Let everything you read leave a mark. If you are a writer especially, you must be a reader. Read outside of your own experience. Read POC, read Queer folks, read YA, just read. If you don’t have time or energy for full books, read blogs.
  • Write that shit. If you have to write on a notepad doc on your phone (AHEM ME), if you need to write with pen and paper, if you need to write a listicle about why Shannon gives such fucked up advice, get it.

The thing is, the proverbial Artist’s life is not for all of us. It would be awesome it it was. It is a life I think I’d like to lead if it were possible without being homeless and starving because neither of those things is fun to me.

Also if you are an advice giver, understand where you’re flinging your advice.

Don’t tell a poor author (like me, this is what spurred this entry) that if I’d just go to more events (that cost me money and don’t pay), took the exposure (that also doesn’t pay or feed me), take more classes from other writers (that costs me money) etc and then be surprised when we don’t react well.

At this point my reaction is always, how much are you paying me, are you paying the equivalent to my wages from my dayjob if I have to try to leave early, are you going to also help me take time off to recover? Paying for transportation? Kicking in so I am able to eat lunch all week?

This is also brought to you by the fact that I would like to create some downloadable writing courses that are inexepensive, accessible to folks, and not just for writers trying to get published. Something low cost enough to be open to most people.

So yeah.

That is the sorta content I’m working on figuring out HOW to make that shit happen.

Now my darling loverfaces.

My official AWP author appearances thing will be going up tomorrow. And I’ll make sure if you’re gonna be around you know how to find me so we can selfie and I can maybe be your literary pusherman.

 

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One thought on “Bad Advice for Writers and Artists.

  1. I just got bad advice from a book on the genre I write in. It made me think I had totally screwed up my novel. It just turns out the author writes in a formulaic way and my novel doesn’t fit the formula. Thank heavens for critique group friends telling me that!

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