Words of Wisdom: Abandon Hope!

I really like getting writing advice from great writers.  Yesterday, this pearl came from David Sedaris, who, I realized as I reflected after reading the article, is really my writing idol.  Every year at Easter, we mark the day by listening to David read “Jesus Shaves.”  It is one of the funniest slices of life I’ve ever read.  I would include a link, but it would take attention away from my own slice, and that seems like a bad idea.

The interview, of course had lots of traditional advice.  David has written in a diary every single day for 30 years.  Blah, blah, blah, I mean who hasn’t, right?  And then there was this one:  he keeps a little notepad in his front pocket to jot down observations throughout the day.  How quaint!   I mean, sure, I could do that, but I don’t, because I have a smart phone and an iPad so I have, like seven different apps that I could use to type, jot, record, sketch, photograph, or slo-mo video any moment that might happen in my life.  I mean, I don’t, but I easily could.  Notepad. Hmmph.

Later, he suggests rereading the notes in the notepad, doing a little synthesis, before transferring the new observations to his diary.  Uhh, I’m gonna have to get back to you on that one, David.  I’m not sure it fits with my own special brand of mental synthesis, which I practice while I’m watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.   Just the other day, that process led me to combine and transform a nagging worry from a March challenge I’ve undertaken and one of the things I had just observed on the show:   Eureka! I immediately bounded upstairs and reheated a slice of pizza.  See what I did there, David?  Again, this is not groundbreaking stuff, you’re sharing.  Where’s the new idea, the brilliant tip, or what I really want, the easy fix to my writing deficiencies?

Well,  it turns out he does have more to offer. After all those cliche author moves, he actually drops this original tip toward the end of the interview:  Abandon Hope.

What?!  I never thought of that, before.  Is this possible?  I am always full of hope.  Not.  But, as a writer, maybe I am.  Is this a problem?   Seriously,  abandoning hope is a strategy?  Please, tell me more.  David actually does.  He says that it’s important to abandon hope while you are writing.  If the whole time you are writing, you are saying, “Gosh, I hope this turns out great.  I hope this is my big breakthrough.  I hope this gets me that Pulitzer Prize (or Pulit Surprise, as I used to think it was called), then you are probably going to try too hard or not let the words and ideas combine and grow naturally, or you  might not take chances.

Isn’t that interesting, though?  Abandon hope.  Go into the writing with no expectations,  no mentor text, no fancy learning progression descriptions or visions of being the next Danielle Steele.  Just write in your own flawed, mediocre way, and it might  turn out great.  It’s the most liberating and inspiring author advice strategy I’ve ever read.  Who knows, it might just work…but I’m not getting my hopes up.

10 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom: Abandon Hope!

  1. I was wondering how the title would pop up in this Slice; very informative! I had to giggle at your comments about David’s writing habits; we all know what we should be doing, but so often fall short of actually doing the tasks. Thanks for the morning smile today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Abandon hope. I think I actually love this. I mean, he’s really saying: just write! We’re almost midway through this slice challenge, and this might be just what I needed to hear. Some evenings (which is when I write) I careen wildly between writing, imagining my audience, checking comments, making comments… Abandon hope and just write. I can do that. Also, I love David Sedaris and have every intention of going to find “Jesus Shaves”. Around here, our tradition includes listening to him read “Six to Eight Black Men” at Christmas time. I still laugh till my sides hurt.

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    1. That is also one of my faves. Yes, I agree. The message is funny but actually true. Often for me, the overthinking gets in the way. I need to just throw it down on the page. I’m guessing though, that he’s not sending all of his drafts out there to the world. A lot are deemed dead ends or “come back to this later” pieces. Slices are a bit more public, but the quick deadlines sort of encourage the “what the heck I’ll put this out there” attitude, which is good, I think.

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  3. That might be the most important piece of advice about anything. To go into writing (or basketball, or nuclear physics) for the love of the thing itself, rather than because you want to be a famous writer (basketball player or nuclear physicist) seems to be the right way to take on the world.

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  4. Love this for so many reasons. One because I saw the David Sedaris piece but didn’t read beyond the first four sentences – distracted. Thanks for summarizing with a PvE twist. I agree that sometimes its best to just do it – no expectations, no hope. I start many runs with no expectation, no hope – just run – it is good advice, I believe! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. First of all, you certainly have picked a great idol. Sedaris is so clever, so funny, and so good at what he does. But abandon hope? I’m interested, but I know this is going to be so hard for me. I am always hopeful when I write – hopeful that the slice will work, that the audience will like it, that it will be well crafted, etc. I am quite sure that my writing would be significantly better, though, if I let go….let it take me somewhere….let it surprise me. OK, if David says it’s a good idea, I’m willing to give it a try. Thanks for the advice!

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  6. What I love is a post that makes me laugh the whole darn time. You gave me extra reading yesterday. Why not today too? You are funny like David Sedaris in that slightly sarcastic way. I can see how that abandon hope theory has legs, though personally never considered my writing even in the same universe as the pull hister. ( misspell intended)

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  7. This is great. I really like your writing style. I loved the bit about going upstairs to reheat pizza. I could definitely relate to that. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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