Saturday, 12 May 2012

The old adage we hate to love...

Any writer who's ever read any advice on writing has heard the old saying "Write what you know". This was the first lesson taught to me what I began formal writing training.

Considering I was about 20 at the time, it was empowering and limiting all at once because I was about to read a rather disheartening column aimed at growing writers (supposedly).

A girl had written in and asked about a rejection letter she had received where the publisher was refusing her submission because she was too young (from memory she was about 19). Was this unfair? Was it discriminatory? Was it biased when they didn’t know her?

Obviously this is a good example of how not to pitch a book and explains why only the most select and savvy details must be given when pitching, yet the reply to her letter from the help column was insightful.

‘How can you write persuasively and powerfully when you haven’t lived enough to know how?’

That was the gist of it. Dang. I wasn’t that far off her own age but felt I could write something worth reading. Did I now have to wait until I was thirty or even forty so I could submit something more experienced and viable?


I needed more life experience. How does one get that?

Answer: It takes time.

In the meantime, I could write what I knew, and I did. The feedback was encouraging and so I continued to a point where stronger criticisms could be given without me passing out and my prose and knowledge of the craft I love have vastly improved.

That old adage cops a beating from people who don’t like being told what to do, but if you can grasp it to get you to a new place, the training is immeasurably valuable. If you’re going to write with authority, first you have to practise and that requires knowledge. The bonus is that information can easily be found and people are always willing to tell what they know to help you learn.

If you’re 19 and disheartened, don’t give up. Everyone can vouch for experience, and there are some experiences that can simply never be used, so don’t wait. Just write and persevere, and don’t be afraid of the rejection.

Decide: Can you persevere? If not today, maybe tomorrow?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16v33

Il fallait que je vous dise aussi cela pour que vous trouviez la paix en moi. Dans le monde, vous aurez à souffrir bien des afflictions. Mais courage! Moi, j'ai vaincu le monde.

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