Advice for New Writers

I recently sat on a panel of queer writers at Books & Books for Pride Month.

I feel sort of funny about writing two advice posts in a row, but I do want to share the list of tips the panel moderator asked us to compile for new writers. I tried to think about what I would have liked to hear five or eight years ago. I didn’t include some of the most common good advice out there like “write every day.”

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Don’t listen to other people’s advice unless it makes sense for you.

  2. Get as much advice as you can.

  3. Protect your right to feel deeply.

  4. Surround yourself with people who support your dreams.

  5. Pick a partner or partners who unequivocally support you as an artist.

  6. Let go of jealousy. The stage has infinite space and there is room for everyone.

  7. Identify collaborators.

  8. Get good at performing your work.

  9. Turn off your phone sometimes.

  10. Always carry a book with you.

I often think about what fiction writer Dean Bakopoulos said years ago during a Q&A: how he sometimes longed for the years before recognition, where he was writing just for himself, and how there’s something special and sacred about that period of time. That advice came at just the right time for me.

I also think about another mentor, Angie Trudell Vasquez, who years earlier talked to a group of us about the significance and importance of walking through the world as a sensitive person. I was in high school when she said that. It was one of the first times I heard someone say that being sensitive and feeling deeply was valuable.

My list of advice is based on what I’ve learned from these and so many other mentors.

What advice would you give your younger self?

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