Words From the Wise: Advice from Writers

Close-up image of typewriter keys

Image of a typewriter by flickr user Ak~i

Image of a typewriter by flickr user Ak~i

Need a little Friday inspiration? Take a look through this collection of advice and wisdom from writers we've interviewed through the years.

“I think the less you can think about the reader, and the more you work on behalf of others, I really believe that it puts you in a state of grace.” —Sandra Cisneros

"This might seem contradictory, but the advice I give to young poets is not to treat poetry as a career—to stay an amateur, a word that comes from the Latin amare, to love." Tung-Hui Hu

“A poet writes poetry because they are longing to be understood, and that search for mutual understanding is essential to the larger discussions that we need to have as a society.” —Kiki Petrosino

“Everything in the world, especially in the United States, is designed to make you not write. Everything is designed to get your attention, to get you to buy stuff, to watch something, to check a screen, to go out and have fun. In order to write, that really just involves your own integrity, your own effort, your own attitude. It’s a habit that you have to develop, and no one can do that for you and everything in the world will try to keep you from doing that. You need to develop a thick skin—I always call it arrogance—to say that I will sit down every day whether it’s 20 minutes, half-hour, an hour. I’m going to sit down and I’m going to try to write something, and I don't care what anyone has to say about it.” —Hugh Martin

“What you can control as an artist is that you're creating, because if you don't create the work it's never going to reach its audience, it's going to stay trapped inside of you. You have to speak your truth, you have to write your truth, and send it out.” —Jennifer Givhan

“If we can all embrace critical thinking more, and the nuance of everything, we would be in a better place in every segment of our society, I would argue.” —Alison Rollins

“When you go back and think about the writers of the past and their obsessions, I hope that we recognize that their obsessions also say something about the society that they lived in.” —Reginald Dwayne Betts

“We tend to underestimate the psychic costs of writing lyric poetry. It’s already a dangerous effort that requires considerable amounts of character and self-awareness. And when we consider that the fear of coming to terms with one’s own unique humanity is a major hazard in the writing process, it’s thrilling to discover what becomes possible when that fear is diminished.” —Gregory Pardlo