It only makes sense to seek advice from those who’ve achieved success. Rather than reinvent the wheel, why not just imitate the inventors? Or at least listen to what they’ve got to say about the subject.
I’ve been the grateful recipient of a lot of advice over the more than 40 years I’ve toiled as a newspaper journalist and, more recently, a novelist.
I once worked for a sports editor who set an indelible example for work-life balance. His advice: Come in early, bust your butt to finish the job and then get the hell out of Dodge.
I’ve been equally fortunate to receive excellent advice from some talented mystery writers, among them Kevin Wolf and Mark Stevens. I’d do well to follow their examples in telling compelling tales set in Colorado.
It’s probably true of people involved in most vocations. But writers seem an especially generous lot in sharing their time and talents, not to mention their encouragement.
A friend who pens both long novels and short stories — I’m writing about you, now, Mike Caulfield — recently shared a link to a post on the Literary Hub website. The post collected some of the best advice Ray Bradbury offered about writing.
Bradbury is perhaps best known as the author of “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and his collection of short stories in “The Illustrated Man.” One of my favorite books, though, is “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” his haunting fantasy about what happens when a traveling carnival shows up in a Midwestern town.
I admired two related bits of Bradbury advice mentioned in the post:
“Don’t write for money. Write because you love to do something. If you write for money, you won’t write anything worth reading.”
“Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. … If it’s work, stop it and do something else.”
It might seem counterintuitive for someone who’s spent most of his life more or less writing for money to agree with his advice not to. Or, for that matter, that writing isn’t a serious business.
So let me add what I consider some important caveats to Bradbury’s advice.
Don’t write JUST for money. While I’ve been blessed to make a living writing, it’s never been about the money. It’s always been about the stories I’m privileged to tell.
While writing is indeed serious business that demands hard work, it ALSO should be fun. And it is. I can think of few things more fun than using a word that’s just right, brandishing a well-turned phrase or completing a scene I can’t wait to share with readers.
As is so often the case, good advice applies more broadly than initially intended.
The business of business, for example, is to make money. It’s an existential objective. Operating a business requires hard work and plenty of it. But it also should be a labor of love, one that’s fun.
It’s been my experience writing news stories as well as fiction that those who enjoy their work are more likely to enjoy success.
At least that’s my advice.