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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Mom’s Writing Advice

One summer when I was ten or eleven, my mom gave me a solid piece of writing advice. But neither one of us recognized that’s what it was at the time.

It started when I made the mistake of telling my mom, “I’m bored.”

“Call Shirley,” she said, nicely enough considering she was undoubtedly working on some household project and didn’t have the luxury of summers off.

Calling Shirley was the logical solution. Back in the day, moms didn’t drive kids to soccer practice, play dates, computer camp and all the other things that fill kids’ and parents’ schedules today. We were on our own for transportation and entertainment, so our friends were other kids in walking or biking distance. Shirley was my next door neighbor and best friend.

“I don’t wanna,” I said, scuffing the toe of my sneaker on the kitchen linoleum. “I’m bored,” I repeated.

“Well then, you can do the ironing. Or vacuum. Or wash the breakfast dishes.”

Faced with those undesirable choices and an endless litany of other equally undesirable distractions, I got to the heart of the matter: “I’m mad at Shirley.”

My mom was smart enough to not even ask why.  “Well, you’ll just have to make up with her.”

“But Mom, Shirley said –” 

“You better make up. You’ll just make yourself miserable until you do.”

Fast forward to today’s recognition of Mom’s writing advice.

If you write fiction, fighting in your writing is a good thing – conflict and unmet desire are the heart of fiction. But whatever genre you write, fighting with your writing is never a good thing.

Sometimes we fight with our writing process – we flirt with other interests, we ignore our writing, we have unreasonable expectations, or we sit down and wait… and wait… and wait until we realize we’ve been stood up.

Sometimes we fight with the writing itself – we’re critical of the words on the page or disappointed with, mad at or frustrated with them. We complain and try to manipulate the writing, but the writing never seems to cooperate.

We could waste time and energy analyzing why we’re fighting with our writing. We could distract ourselves with the breakfast dishes, vacuuming, ironing and an endless litany of equally uninteresting distractions. Or we can be smart enough to not ask why and just go to the solution: We need to make up with our writing. We’ll just make ourselves miserable until we do.

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4 Comments on “Mom’s Writing Advice”

  1. rosannebane September 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Too true! And I get to tell her so on her birthday this Sunday.


  2. Michael Kelberer September 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    The older I get, the more true it becomes that mom knew best.


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