Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If you could go back...

From an interview with author Cassandra Clare at cynsations:

If you could go back to your apprentice writer self, what would you tell her?

"Don't be so hard on yourself," I guess. I thought everything had to be perfect before I could show it to anyone, which means I never got any feedback on anything, and without feedback I couldn't work on improving. It was a vicious cycle. Eventually, I learned to share work with people even when it was in its rough stages without worrying that they'd be filled with scorn and hatred. After all, I can read their rough work without turning on them like a wildebeest."

First of all, I love her answer. Second, I still am an apprentice writer. Always will be. Third, if I had to answer that question, I would say:

Get comfortable with NOT KNOWING. Not knowing where you are going. Not knowing if you will succeed or not. Not knowing if "it will all be worth it."

When I was younger, the thing I wanted most was TO KNOW. I loved books where a character was given her Destiny, or her Quest, and then the adventure began! I thought it mightily unfair that no one ever appeared to me and told me what my Mission was.

I had no idea that not knowing is actually a physical state that you can put yourself it, keep yourself in. That it is a place to seek out, not to avoid. When you DO NOT KNOW, you are headed out on your mission, your destiny, your quest. Otherwise, writing would just be a trip to the grocery store.

For a good post about teaching kids to be comfortable in the not knowing zone, see this one, Chase the Challenge, from the blog, Unwrapping the Gifted (part of Teacher Magazine's online content.)


  1. Good answer, I think.
    My dean in college -- I was angsty even then -- called it "Being in the wind." I've always loved that, thinking of the freedom that connotes to just change my mind with every breeze.

  2. Beautiful thoughts, as usual. Another one I'll print and tape on my wall of writing. Well, right now it's my at-work-over-desktop-metal-file-cabinet-door of writing, but you can see how awkward that is to write.

    I think I maybe I'll move it to a wall.

  3. I am even MORE of an apprentice and agree. My best work comes from meandering over a blank page.

  4. "Get comfortable with NOT KNOWING."

    Good advice for life, as well.

  5. I did find the fairy tell word in your name. :)

  6. This makes me think of this from Rilke, which I had to go look up, though I've practically committed it to memory:

    "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

  7. My apprentice self needed to hear that today.

  8. Great post (and the one you linked to, as well)! Thanks.

  9. Thanks, you guys. I love an interesting question, and this certainly was thought-provoking. I guess I was one of those bouncy kids who loved answering questions and had my hand stuck up in the air all the time. :)

    MR: I love that you have a wall of writing.

    And Jules, I'm using that Rilke quote in my presentation now that you've reminded me of it. Thank you! TadMack, I'll have to figure out how to work in Being in the Wind, also. So appropriate for the breezy weather we've been having.

  10. I loved that Cassandra Clare interview, too. I wish I were better at the Not Knowing. One of my art professors in college once said (not to me, but to the class) "Do not be afraid to step into the void." That's one of my favorite bits of advice ever.


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