I’ve had really smart agents and unnervingly good editors, but I don’t need THEM to lead me astray; I will happily do that to myself. I write about culture, and sometimes I’m soaking in that shit so much that I don’t notice how flaccid and limp my prose has become, how bland and dumb I’m getting, how little faith I suddenly have in my voice. I start thinking I should write shit that I hate, in a tone that I cannot fucking get behind, because maybe that will make my financial picture a little less stressful.
That’s when I call my friends and talk their sad ears off, and mewl and moan and piss myself until they have to pretend their cell phone connections cut out just to get off the fucking phone with me.
You know what I need to do though? Put the phone down and ask myself who in the whole wide world is supposed to take responsibility for what I write if I won’t do it myself.
The above, by Heather Havrilesky, contains some of the best writing advice (or, maybe more specifically, living/working advice for people who write) that I’ve read in a very long time. Lately I’ve found that the more questions I’m asking, the more I’m throwing my messes at other people in hopes that they will be able to name and untangle them for me, the more it’s time for me to shut up and just do the work my own damn self. See also: Renata Adler, “Writers rant. Writers phone…” I tend not to phone—it’s more frantic, long-winded emails—but the work-averse impulse is the same. Having good, solid friends and mentors and various other types of ears you can put bugs into at all hours of the day and night is hugely valuable, of course. But undersold, I think—to young writers at least—is the importance of being able to call your own self on your own self’s probably very real and abundant bullshit.