The best writing advice I've heard from multiple authors, teachers, and lovers of art- write unapologetically. Write from the heart, stories that are true enough to feel but false enough to make you dream, the things that would cause a ruckus at the family reunion...that is the kind of writing that moves the soul. The kind of writing that people dissect for decades, that people know how it makes them feel yet they can never really put it into words...
This is something I have lived by most of my life.
Write what you know, research the rest, and if you need help, ask.
It doesn't take much to sit down and write something, anything that travels through your mind. But it does take time to learn, to discover diverse ways to say the same thing one reads in the thousands of novels, and millions of poetry laid out before us. That's where the Internet comes in handy, but even then, not even the Internet can give you what you need.
That's when you start asking questions of your peers, friends, family, and continue reading other well-established authors.
Here are some other simple tips:
Set a set time to write each day, be it five minutes or five hours, and stick to it.
Accept criticism, be it good, bad, or indifferent.
Carry a note pad with you when out and about. Jot down things of interest Consider what you write to be somethings useable for background info for you, be it vegetable, mineral, or human.
Get money out of your head. Write because it pleases you. If you think money first, your writing will be shit. Craft it, think of it as your best friend, or even your most private lover.
Don't settle to write in one genre. Expand yourself. Challenge yourself.
Another phrase I have is "Less is More." Oft times the less you say in writing, the bigger the impact on the reader.
And I, like my favorite author, Stephen King; use less adverbs in your writing. "He closed the door firmly." Firmly doesn't need to be there as he closed the door. Words like firmly, gently, softly in most cases doesn't need to be used. It's known as over emphasizing. "He shook his head" you don't need to follow that with "left to right". Get the idea?
Lastly, always remember why you write. Each writer has their own reason. Perhaps just to release tension, create a personal diary, that all-American great novel, or perhaps because they want to entertain the reader.
Entertain the reader. And that is what we do on Prose.
Alan Watts speaks to me from the grave
"Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone."
Keep It Moving
I was privileged to know the late, great Southern writer, Walker Percy ("The Movie Goer," "Love in the Ruins," etc.). (https://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/11/obituaries/walker-percy-is-dead-at-74-a-novelist-of-the-new-south.html)
He read my first novel and although he enjoyed several parts, his main criticism was that many included elements, while entertaining in their own right, did nothing to "move" the novel or the story.
I've used this advice ever since to discard sections that didn't really contribute to the novel as a novel or the story standing on its own. The advice: get rid of the stuff that doesn't move the story. It's amazing how much there is that can be discarded for the betterment of the work. And if the stuff that's junked is good, keep it and use it somewhere else. To this day, I have several "orphans" of writing that are waiting patiently for a home in which to land.
Upon fair shores, where milky waters meet,
A wanton creature, to thine eyes concealed,
Beside the cypress grove, in shadows fleet,
As enigmatic as the moon, revealed.
A voice that echoes in the songs of night,
So sweet, and soft, as honeyed morning dew,
Whose verses sing of love, and lost delight,
Yet, in their hearts, hold not a word of rue.
When twilight dances on the edge of day,
And fiery sunbeams kiss the earth once more,
From waters deep, this creature swims away,
And leaves behind a voice that all adore.
In dreams and shadows, let mine eyes not falter,
To seek th' elusive muse, the sea's sweet daughter.
Upon a gentle hill, where willows weep,
And silver brooks do graceful dances play,
Doth Nature's canvas bear a scene most deep,
Wherein a thousand tales of love convey.
The azure hue that paints the boundless sky,
Doth cast a veil upon the verdant earth,
And in the twilight glow, where shadows lie,
The tender seeds of melancholy birth.
Yet, lo, amidst this scene of sweet despair,
A radiant bloom doth pierce the veil of night,
And with a gaze, so bold and yet so fair,
Bestows a kiss upon the fading light.
So let us too, in Nature's grand embrace,
Find solace in the beauty of her face.
One blue sock
"It used to drive him crazy when a sock went missing in the laundry. He had a drawer just for single socks. Occasionally a companion would turn up stuck to a sheet or some underwear." Having emptied all the drawers, I dropped onto the bed. "I can't believe this is happening."
My best friend, Liz, said, "Hon, we can buy a new pair of blue socks..."
"No, it has to be these," I moaned, holding up one blue sock with a yellow fin tuna down the side. "They were his favorite socks." I paused. "They go with the suit."
She sat down next to me. "Didn't he hate suits?"
I half-smiled. "And I made him wear a tux at our wedding. Torture!" We laughed. "And for 15 years he had to wear a suit to work." I put my head on her shoulder. "I haven't seen him in a suit since he started his own business."
"What's that? Twenty years ago, now? He didn't wear one to Billy's wedding?"
"Nah. I wish you could have come. They got married in Ally's parents' backyard, so he argued against a suit. He won. He wore a nice pair of khakis, leather Converse sneakers by Varvatos...and his favorite socks." I started to cry. Liz hugged me. "How can I bury him with only one sock?"
I wanted vines to grow over the spotted railing. My mom and aunt clipped the weeds and painted it instead.
That's what we do. What we've done for a hundred years.
We paint over the ugly flecks of brown and orange, eating away at what was once secure.
We paint over it, ignoring the shifting texture of shuddering metal.
We paint it white, a color unsullied but easily filled by filth.
We paint, again and again. Masking the slow destruction.
One day, it will fall, heavy with layers and withered by time. And I will whisper gratitudes as it crashes dully into the overgrowth.
My boots will stomp heavy, avoiding the pits left by the crabapple tree, crushing dandelions beneath my heels.
I will walk, down the hill, down the street, to the crossroads, to new homes on new streets. My eyes will linger lustfully over renovated houses and fresh, modern fixtures. Envy will turn to pride. Shame is transmuted between sighs of relief.
One day, I will look off into the distance, over the hill, past the church. The collapsed railing will be long out of sight but the wind will roll in softly, crooning tales of nature and her tenacity. Her songs will tussle my hair and set it down gently upon my neck, a story of lightning storms and hallowed ground.
An angel weeps quietly upon my shoulder.
I find her despair misguided.