Advice on getting out of your own writerly way, from author Andre Dubus III.
The Daily Post is taking a much-needed break for a few days, but we don’t want to leave you high and dry. We’ll be sharing some of our favorite quotes about the creative life.
(And yes, Daily Prompts, the Writing/Photo Challenges, and Blogging 101 will continue through the week — we’re not very good at taking breaks.)
Here’s Andre Dubus III, on how to get our of your own way when writing — it’s aimed at fiction authors, but the underlying idea applies to any writer:
Read more from Andre and other writers like Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, and Jonathan Franzen in The Atlantic.
This was my main problem when I was just starting out: I was trying to say something. When I began to write, I was deeply self-conscious. I was writing stories hoping they would say something thematic, or address something that I was wrestling with philosophically. I’ve learned, for me at least, it’s a dead road. It’s writing from the outside in instead of the inside out.
But during my very early writing, certainly before I’d published, I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f**k off. It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy. And all these years later, that’s the thrill I write to get: to feel things start to happen on their own.
So I’ve learned over the years to free-fall into what’s happening. What happens then is, you start writing something you don’t even really want to write about. Things start to happen under your pencil that you don’t want to happen, or don’t understand. But that’s when the work starts to have a beating heart.