I have an ambition to write a great book, but that's really a competition with myself. I've noticed that a lot of young writers, people in all media, want to be famous but they don't really want to do anything. I can't think of anything less worth striving for than fame.
There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.
I always ask young writers, 'Are you certain you want to be a writer? If you're absolutely sure, then do it.' If you really want to write, writing has to take precedence over everything else, except for taking care of your loved ones. It has to be more important than any possession, more important than fame. We hear about just a few writers who get famous, but most of them don't. It's got to mean more than that.
I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That's like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest. Short stories help you learn your craft.
The writer learns to write, in the last resort, only by writing. He must get words onto paper even if he is dissatisfied with them. A young writer must cross many psychological barriers to acquire confidence in his capacity to produce good work-especially his first full-length book-and he cannot do this by staring at a piece of blank paper, searching for the perfect sentence.
It's not possible to advise a young writer because every young writer is so different. You might say, "Read," but a writer can read too much and be paralyzed. Or, "Don't read, don't think, just write," and the result could be a mountain of drivel. If you're going to be a writer you'll probably take a lot of wrong turns and then one day just end up writing something you have to write, then getting it better and better just because you want it to be better, and even when you get old and think, "There must be something else... Read more »
So if I were talking to a young writer, I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.