The Artist’s Way: Week 3 Check-In

Welcome to Week 3 of my ongoing series on The Artist’s Way with Erin @ Flappers and Philosophers! In case you missed it, here is my intro post, explaining what the project is, why we’re doing it, and what you can expect.

The short version is, Erin and I are both going through The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course in self-discovery and creative recovery. Throughout the next three months, we’ll be sharing weekly updates on how it’s going, what we’ve learned, and how this process has affected our creative lives.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Week 3 was a mixed bag for me, honestly.

The theme of Recovering a Sense of Power seemed to fall a little flat in my life. That being said, I tried to keep in mind the idea that “growth occurs in spurts.” Just because I’m doing The Artist’s Way doesn’t mean I’m going to be experiencing Huge Changes right away.

Things definitely started to pick up a little later in the week; I had a three-day weekend away from work to catch up on writing and generally just get myself together. This week, I started to focus on crafting a morning routine that’s geared toward not just productivity, but taking care of myself. I start by drinking water first thing, and I’m trying to get in at least some yoga and meditation before I do anything else. So far I think it’s really helping my state of mind, and I like the feeling that I’m building healthy habits.

Week 3: The Check-In

How many days this week did you do your morning pages? How was the experience for you?

I did morning pages all 7 days this week! Once again, I felt like I was repeating myself a lot. This week’s writing seemed to focus around my obsessive need to feel productive, and the accompanying guilt complex that keeps me from really letting go and treating myself to moments of nurturing.

Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?

On Wednesday, I did a sort of artist date at home. Instead of making myself go out and do something adventurous, I decided to indulge my inner child a little bit. I spent almost two hours coloring and listening to music. I also did this 10-minute face mask I found at the grocery store. Even though it felt weird to do this kind of deep, purposeful self-care, I know it sends a signal to my brain that I am important and deserving of nice things.

Were there any other issues that you consider significant for your recovery? Did you experience any synchronicity this week? Describe them.

At first, when I read this question in the check-in section of Week 3, I wasn’t sure that I did experience any synchronicity. I’m…honestly not great at paying attention to signs from the Universe (just like I’m not really all that good at believing in Source Energy/God/whatever you want to call it). As I thought about it, I realized that my synchronicity happened later in the week. I went to coffee with a good friend and coworker (whom I’ve convinced to do the Artist’s Way!) and while we were talking I had a small breakthrough with my WIP.

Because I’m such a Type A person, I’ve generally always been a planner when it comes to writing. I like to have a solid, detailed outline before I get started, and I generally write each scene in the order it will appear in the book itself. I realized that I don’t need to write this story in order though.

I just need to write the pieces for now; Future Me can worry about putting the pieces together. Right now I just need to focus on showing up to the page.

Have you ever participated in The Artist’s Way? How was your week? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!

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The Artist’s Way: Week 2 Check-In

Welcome to Week 2 of my ongoing series on The Artist’s Way with Erin @ Flappers and Philosophers!

In case you missed it, here is my intro post, explaining what the project is, why we’re doing it, and what you can expect. The short version is, Erin and I are both going through The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course in self-discovery and creative recovery. Throughout the next three months, we’ll be sharing weekly updates on how it’s going, what we’ve learned, and how this process has affected our creative lives.

Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

“You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires, and interests announce themselves.”

Overall, this week was about settling in for me. This week’s theme focuses on identifying people in your life who are helpful vs. harmful to your creative recovery and developing a sense of open-mindedness to the universe. I started working through some of my major issues when it comes to my current WIP as well as some deeper issues that are blocking my creativity.

The most exciting thing that happened in my creative life this week is that I finally started writing toward a draft of my WIP. I sorted through a lot of my qualms, as well as decided on a course of action and POV. Mostly, though, the triumph is that I actually wrote 1500 words this week, which is much better than nothing.

Week 2: The Check-In

1. How many days this week did you do your morning pages? How was the experience for you?

I did morning pages seven days this week, although I did fall slightly short of three pages a few times. At first, it felt like a chore to wake up and sit down at my desk and purge my brain. By the end of the week, though, I definitely started to feel like I’m getting into a groove. The pages give me a chance to assess and work through issues that I can’t really access at any other time or in another medium. I did feel like I was repeating myself a lot, and I noticed that my issues seem to fall into the same category: I need to learn how to fight for myself/my art, but I don’t know how.

2. Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?

On Tuesday, I went to my favorite coffee shop again. This time, I used the time for myself to work on my writing. While I initially planned to go through and revise a novel I finished writing last year, I came to the conclusion that I more or less need to re-write the same story in a completely different way. I had a really nice time actively investing in my writing. I do still hope to take more unproductive artist dates as the weeks go on.

3. Were there any other issues this week that you consider significant for your recovery? Describe them.

I wrote about my God concept in the morning pages, which was definitely an important breakthrough, and something I’m going to keep talking about as the weeks wear on.

In keeping track of the time spent on various activities this week, I realized that I might actually spend too much time reading. It’s not that I don’t love reading…but I think I’m filling the well with too much of other people’s words and not enough of my own.

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Have you ever participated in The Artist’s Way? How was your week? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!

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The Artist’s Way: Week 1 Check-In

Welcome to Week 1 of my ongoing series on The Artist’s Way with Erin @ Flappers and Philosophers!

In case you missed it, here is my intro post, explaining what the project is, why we’re doing it, and what you can expect. The short version is, Erin and I are both going through The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course in self-discovery and creative recovery. Throughout the next three months, we’ll be sharing weekly updates on how it’s going, what we’ve learned, and how this process has affected our creative lives.

Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety

193BBC44-CCBD-45F5-AF0E-8016C42F40E4“This week initiates your creative recovery. You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical.”

Week 1 of The Artist’s Way encourages you to think about the people in your life who have hindered or encouraged your creativity, whether it’s parents or other family members, art teachers, friends, exes…anyone. Julia Cameron talks a lot about how important it is for creative beings to feel that they’re supported, and how dangerous it is for us when we’re not supported.

Throughout this week, I felt pretty hopeful about the process. Since I’ve gone through The Artist’s Way before, my main goal is to continue to be open to change, even when things seem a little hokey and out there.

Week 1 Check-In

1. How many days this week did you do your morning pages? How was the experience for you?

This week, I did morning pages 7 out of 7 days. For the first time, I actually wrote three full pages in my spiral notebook (aka Christine’s Sh*t Book—because it’s full of miscellany and my unedited thoughts).

I’ve been journaling for a long time, so it’s a little complicated for me to do morning pages. I am so good at writing about what’s going on in my head, but I tend to do it in an oddly formulaic way: I write what’s bothering me, then try to sort out a solution (almost as if the page is my therapist).

This week, I tried to combat that tendency by ending each morning’s pages with affirmations from pages 36-37 of The Artist’s Way. Some of these are really cheesy, whereas others seemed to resonate more with me. At the end of my pages each day, I worked through the next three affirmations and recorded my brain’s reactions to them. It was interesting to see how much of my “blurts” are really just Depression Brain, popping in to remind me how much I suck.

In general, I feel like the morning pages feel a lot harder when I’m thinking about having to do them. Once I actually sit down and get the pen moving, I’m reminded how much healing can take place on the page.

2. Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?

A confession: Artist Dates are actually really hard for me.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy time spent alone—I actually prefer being alone most of the time. It’s more that I’m not really well-practiced when it comes to doing nice things for myself without any purpose other than just taking care of myself.

For Week 1, I decided to start off pretty simple: I took myself out to coffee at one of my favorite coffee shops. I succeeded in purposefully hanging out with myself. I did find myself a little too concerned with appearing/actually being productive: I ended up working through some of the Week 1 exercises in my notebook, and I even wrote a little scene from my past. I’m proud that I took the time to spend with myself and invest in my creative recovery, but I’m hoping that by Week 12 I am better about spending completely unproductive time with myself in play.

3. Were there any other issues this week that you consider significant for your recovery? Describe them.

Without getting too personal:

  • I realized that I definitely need to work through my God concept (or rather, lack thereof) in my morning pages.
  • I discovered that to this day, my exes are still affecting my sense of creative self-worth.
  • I learned that I need to work on learning how to play at creativity without giving in to the itching need to be productive.

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Thanks for stopping by and keeping up with my progress on The Artist’s Way journey! Are you participating with us? Do you think you would give The Artist’s Way a try based on my recommendation? Let me know what you think, and happy creating!

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Announcement | I’m Doing The Artist’s Way with Erin @ Flappers and Philosophers!

Hello bookish friends! Welcome back to Lady Gets Lit!

Since I started this blog in January, I’ve been trying to find unique ways to get involved in the community while also staying true to my unique interests. I’ve also been really struggling lately to figure out what I’m doing with my writing life (something I explored in my series of discussion posts about writing, which you can find here.)

Which is how I came up with an idea: doing a collaborative blog journey with one of my long-time internet friends, Erin @ Flappers and Philosophers!

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The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron that provides a path toward creative self-discovery.

It can be used by artists of any sort, be they writers, painters, DIY-ers, you name it. Beyond that, Julia Cameron encourages anyone to take this journey because everyone is a creative to some extent. She encourages people who haven’t ever considered themselves creatives, people who’ve denied themselves the opportunity to view themselves as creators because it’s impractical, people who “only dreamed of being somehow more creative.”

The Artist’s Way is also a spiritual experience. While I no longer consider myself religious, the power of doing The Artist’s Way is that it’s a process of “creating pathways in your consciousness through which the creative forces can operate.”

The Artist’s Way is more than just a book; it’s a journey.

Each week, you read a chapter on a specific aspect of creativity, and participate in creative “tasks” to challenge yourself and open your mind to new opportunities. All in all, it’s a time commitment of about 7 to 10 hours a week, depending. Throughout the 12-week process, you make use of Cameron’s basic tools: the Morning Pages, and the Artist Date.

Morning Pages are pretty simple: each day you wake up and write three longhand pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. You do this before you do anything else that day, and you do it until the pages are filled, regardless of what they’re filled with.

The Artist Date entails taking yourself on a weekly date, just you. Whether it’s going for a long walk in the park, adventuring to a new coffee shop for some writing time, or even going thrifting. Ideally, you just go and do something fun with no object other than spending time with yourself.

I am actually indebted to Erin for encouraging me to try The Artist’s Way.

Erin and I have known each other online for several years (since back when Tumblr was actually friendly to writers – lol). We’ve each been through blog rebrandings, moves across the country (her from NY to OR and me from OK to PA to NY and back to OK), cat adoptions, relationships, and more.

About a year ago, Erin posted on Instagram about The Artist’s Way. I messaged to ask what the whole deal was, and she encouraged me to give it a go. Starting in May of 2018, right around my birthday, I took on the 12-week process. I’m so glad I did.

The Artist’s Way changed the way I look at my creativity, and I’m excited to do it again.

There’s something extremely powerful about making a commitment to yourself for three months. Yet, participating in The Artist’s Way really only takes a few hours a week. Although it feels daunting at first, doing morning pages quickly becomes routine. Instead of constantly critiquing yourself for the messiness of your thoughts, you learn to let them out and let them be.

Doing the Artist’s Way taught me that it’s okay to write crap sometimes, that it’s through writing crap that you get better. If you don’t create space within yourself to make messes, you will never be able to reach your full potential as a creator—which is what you’re meant to do.

For the next 12 weeks, Erin and I will both be taking the creative journey outlined in The Artist’s Way, and we’ll be sharing weekly thoughts on how it’s going on each of our blogs.

We decided to keep track of our journey on our blogs as a way to hold each other accountable and track our progress. Hopefully, we’ll inspire each other to keep up the good work, but we also hope to inspire some of you, our readers!

We would love for you to follow along and share your thoughts. If you’re feeling brave, maybe you’ll even join us in doing the Artist’s Way yourself! After all, as Julia Cameron writes, “There is no such thing as being done with an artistic life.”

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Have you ever participated in the Artist’s Way? What’s a goal you have for your creative life this season? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

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On Revision: What do you do when you’ve laid a bad egg?

This is the fourth post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” —Ernest Hemingway

If there’s one quote that incites my writer’s guilt complex, it’s this idea that writing is rewriting.

(Or so we’re told.) Most of us know that a rough draft is just that—rough, not to be seen by other eyes until it’s been cleaned up. No one ever stops at the rough draft, or even the “first draft”. As young writers, we’re told that the best way to become a better writer—aside from just writing more, every day if possible—is to keep revising our own material.

It’s no secret that I hate revisions.

I hate them with a fiery passion, mostly because I’ve never figured out how to successfully revise without wanting to light myself on fire in the process. Revising signals Depression Brain to lump on a healthy dose of Self-Doubt in the extreme. Once I reach that state, I’m not motivated to work on the story whatsoever. I usually ignore it for a couple of days, which only makes me feel more guilty for not writing, before I admit that I’m just not feeling the story anymore.

I’ve done this process of halfway revising, only to ultimately give up, more times than I can count. Each time, I’m stunted for weeks or even months afterward. Each time, I feel more and more like a fake writer. After all, if I was a Real Writer, I’d be able to revise my own stories, right?

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I “rescued” this book from being sent back to the publisher and I’m so glad I did.

Then I read Mark Edmundson’s Why Write, a long-form essay in which he discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing. For the first time in my life, I read someone who countered the idea that revision is absolutely, always necessary. There are times, Edmundson argues, when the best thing to do with a piece of writing is let it go.

Sometimes the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is simply to walk away from the nest. Get gone. Throw the darned thing out and start something new. You can advance by leaping from endeavor to endeavor, as well as by trying to repair the broken-down model that’s on blocks in the driveway.

When I first read this passage, I’m pretty sure tears came to my eyes. For the first time, I felt completely and totally okay with who I was as a writer—a person who needed to let go and move forward.

The fact of the matter is, revision is an important skill to have as a writer. Nothing comes out perfect the first time, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Revision is a skill I do want to acquire, eventually.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge my relative age as a writer. I talk like I’ve been writing for 15 years, and I have, but that’s small potatoes compared to most successful, bestselling authors. I have a long ways to go before I’m writing at that level. I have decades ahead of me when it comes to growing as a writer.

The best way for me to grow as a writer isn’t necessarily as simple as I once thought.

Sure, I could invest years of my life in an attempt to revise the same few novels I’ve had under my belt so far. Or, alternatively, I could let go and see what comes next.

Maybe there isn’t anything shameful about having trunk novels; maybe they’re just sign posts along the way of my growth as a writer. Maybe it’s true that any writing is a good thing as long as it’s moving me forward. Maybe my trunk novels don’t have to define who I will become, but rather can represent a small part of who I was at one point in time.

Maybe the best thing to do when you’ve laid a bad egg is let it go.

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How do you feel about revisions? Got any tricks to share? Want to be writing buddies? Let’s chat in the comments!

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writing toward recovery

This is the third post in a series of posts on writing—my journey as a writer, what writing means to me, and what I’m working on now. To see other posts, check here.

I have a confession to make: I feel like a fake writer.

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It’s weird, considering I’ve been writing fiction for 15+ years and I’ve been calling myself a writer pretty much as long as I can remember. It’s weird that I am this insecure about the one thing I’ve always known I could do. But it’s not weird when you look at what the rest of the world thinks writing is.

Last week, I talked about the kinds of “advice” people like to give writers: how we should all get creative writing degrees and then self-publish and everything will be hunky-dory. Obviously, I have a lot of image issues when it comes to who I am as a writer—because I haven’t done what they said I should’ve done. Part of being a writer, to me, means going my own way, but the cost is that I’m constantly questioning myself.

So yes, I feel like a fake writer: because I’m still unpublished outside of this blog; because I don’t have a writing degree; because this blog is mostly me shouting into the void, still, and I’m not savvy enough to gain a real Twitter following; because I go long periods of time where I’m between major projects; because I’ve decided to go back to school and become a teacher until such point as this writing thing pans out for me.

I feel like a fake writer, but the reality is that I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a writer.

It sounds dramatic, but learning to express myself in writing was the best thing I ever did for my mental health, back before I even knew what depression was.

In ninth grade, I started writing to myself in black-and-white composition notebooks.* I poured out all my angst toward my parents, frustration toward peers, and pining over guys who didn’t know I existed. I let everything out onto the page and I realized that writing about my thoughts and feelings really did make me feel a bit better. Sometimes I would come to the page with a problem and leave the page feeling at peace about the situation, either because I’d found a solution or simply the relief of not holding it all inside my head anymore.

The deeper I tread into the sinking pit of my adolescent depression, the more I wrote. I switched to 5-subject spiral notebooks, which I filled in a matter of two or three months sometimes. I repeated myself almost constantly, talking myself in and out of a feeling or a thought pattern. Yet, for all that repetition, writing was there for me when literally no one else was.

By the time I reached adulthood** keeping a journal became a lifeline. I went longer between entries, but the page was always my last resort when I was feeling particularly down and occasionally even suicidal. Writing about depression didn’t always solve the underlying problem*** but it kept me from hurting myself. Putting my feelings down in words enabled me to deconstruct my negative thought patterns—even when I had to deconstruct the same thoughts over and over again.

*which I named Martin B. Sneed, for reasons I literally can’t remember.
**aka the point at which I was out of college and paying my own bills, I guess?
***I still made horrible choices when it came to relationships, but that’s an entirely different story.

Writing fiction has also been an integral part of my depression recovery.

When I was in college, I got involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older guy. I was incredibly open about my feelings for him, but he refused to admit to feeling anything beyond lust. For years, we went back and forth and around and around the marry-go-round of turmoil before I finally moved on.

It has been seven years since I’ve so much as spoken to him and I’m in a much better place now.* Still, there is a part of me that’s haunted by this bad relationship. For years after this guy abruptly stopped talking to me, I tried to write my experiences into a novel. It took, two, maybe even three goes before I came up with a finished draft, a hundred thousand words or so.

This draft is still sitting on my computer, collecting dust; each time I’ve tried to revise it for potential submission, I can’t do it. Writing Brain tells me that the story needs a lot of work, but that it can certainly be done. Depression Brain, on the other hand, tells me that no one would want to read a story about a girl who lets this kind of relationship happen to her. Even now, I get this odd ache in my chest when I think about this story. It’s the one closest to my heart but the one that pains me the most to read over again.

*I’m literally marrying my favorite person in the entire world next week!

There are some stories we write that just need to come out.

I firmly believe this. I had to write the most personal story I’ve ever written, because I had to get it down, somehow. That doesn’t mean that I need to show it to anyone, or that I should suck it up and edit it so I can publish it. Not everything we write has to be shared. Sometimes, we just need space to come clean.

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Do you struggle with feeling like a fraud as a writer? How has writing helped you cope with life? Let’s share tips in the comments!

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the most harmful writing advice I’ve ever received

This is the second in a series of discussion posts about my writing life. If you want to follow along, check here!

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connect with me on instagram! (@lady.gets.lit)

For some reason, as long as I can remember, people I hardly know have felt the need to advise me on my writing career.

I know, deep down, that most of these people mean well. They ask questions and make suggestions because, on some level, they care about my success. Many people I meet are also readers, so they’re fascinated by the other side of the coin. Still, whether it’s because they think I don’t know what I’m doing, or they thing writing isn’t a real career until you’re making loads of money, people always seem to have something to say.

I recently read this post by Elizabeth @ Redgal Musings, and it made me laugh tears of frustration from being put in similar situations. I started to realize that I’m not alone in being annoyed by my parents’ neighbor who leans over the fence and asks if I’m published yet. I was inspired to compile a list of some of the more frequent—and often harmful—advice I’ve received over the years.

“Write what you know.”

As a kid, I really struggled with math.* Fortunately for me, my dad happens to be an annoyingly brilliant electrical engineer** who was perfectly willing and able to walk me through math problems. He always started by having me read the word problem and then write down what I knew.

“Write what you know” is probably one of the most ubiquitous pieces of writing advice out there. It’s the reason personal memoirs is an exploding market*** and shows why #OwnVoices books exist in the first place: people writing about their own experiences, what they already know about the world. Don’t get me wrong—I seek out #OwnVoices stories because I trust the validity of the diverse representation, and because there’s a level of passion that goes into writing about your own experiences. But “write what you know” is so oversimplified.

Here’s why I think “write what you know” is harmful, at least for me: it encourages me to stay inside the bubble of my life experience, limiting the kinds of ideas I allow myself to even attempt to write. Trying to stick to what I know takes all the fun out of imagining what it would be like to be someone else…which if I’m honest is half the reason I started writing in the first place.

*Especially those dreaded word problems. Ugh.
**whose favorite class in college was differential equations. I don’t even know what those are.
***hell, anyone can write a book these days, as long as they’re already famous and/or they have a compelling life story.

“Why don’t you just get a degree in Creative Writing?”

I’m going to tell you a little secret: when I was in high school, I was convinced I’d never go to college at all. By the time I was 15, I was dead set on graduating high school and moving as far away as I could think of without leaving the country: New York City. I was already halfway through my first novel so I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to write. What did I need a degree for? It’s not like you need a degree to write novels!

Spoiler Alert: I ended up going to New York. But I ended up going to college first. I got my B.A. in English and Women’s Studies* and I have absolutely zero regrets. Here’s why: I loved getting my degree. I loved taking literature courses and reading obscure books no one had ever heard of. I loved taking a wide range of social science courses and learning how to think radically outside the box I grew up in. And while I took two creative writing courses in undergrad, I didn’t really love taking those classes.

I’ve never been one who believes writing can be taught; I think it’s just something you do over and over and over again until you suck slightly less than you did when you started. Still, having people question my choice of degree year in and year out, sometimes it stings. Sometimes I start to question myself.

*I can’t believe I graduated almost 7 years ago

“You should just self-publish! Everyone’s doing it, and look how successful they are!”

Here’s the thing, and I’m not trying to be an asshole*: I don’t want to self-publish.

I want to traditionally publish in part because that’s been my dream as long as I can remember, but it’s more than that. I don’t want to have to do 100% of my own marketing, find someone to do cover art, spam people’s twitter feed with self-promo, etc. etc. I don’t want to run my own business, which is what you have to do to self-publish successfully…and I don’t think I would be successful as a self-published author.

I know that people mean well, but I don’t think they realize that I’ve thought this thing through. Self-publishing is great—for some people, not for me.

*Although I’m probably coming off that way anyway, who are we kidding?

“You have to be able to self-edit to really make it as a writer.”

Okay, so this one might be partially true. If all I can do is slap a bunch of word vomit into Scrivener and call it a day, I can’t expect to just be handed a book deal. I have to do the grunt work of editing too.

My issue with this bit of advice is that editing for the sake of editing hasn’t really helped me. Every time I’ve tried to knuckle down and really edit my own work, I’ve ended up more discouraged and less enthused about the story to begin with. Sometimes, it’s enough to just leave a draft in the metaphorical writer’s truck.*

*More on this in a couple weeks…

“You can’t just write about your own experiences and call it fiction. You have to make things up!”

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: but Lady, didn’t you just say that you hate when people tell you to write what you know? Yes. Yes I did. But the opposite—writing only ever outside of your own experience—doesn’t work for me either.

A long time ago, I had a very unhealthy romance with an aspiring poet who thought he knew everything there was to know about writing* and that it was his job to tell me about it. In fact, he was the first person who told me to get a creative writing degree (because that’s what he was doing). He was also the first person who implied that it didn’t count as fiction if I was writing about things that had happened to me.

Here’s the thing: realistic fiction has to be based at least partly on what the writer intimately knows, on what her views of the world are. Granted, I can’t very well write my own autobiography and call it fiction. But I also can’t write your biography—at least, not without doing some serious research. In order to write realistic fiction, I have to find a balance between writing from experience and thinking outside the box.

*despite the fact that he almost never read anything. No, seriously. He was a writer, who didn’t like reading.

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What’s the weirdest bit of harmful advice you’ve ever received about your choice of career? Do you think creative writing can be taught? Do you prefer to write more about your experiences, or make things up completely? I’d love to know your thoughts!