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.