Being a legendary writer is no easy feat.
In fact, being even a half-way decent writer is hard.
It requires bravery, honesty and gumption. Above all, it requires you to be resilient and immune to criticism—both external and self.
What makes a writer successful? And what can be learned from literary legends past and present?
Below are seven lessons from the all-time greats.
Charles Bukowski (also known as Buk) was an American author and poet – renowned for his raw and candid language. Buk wrote about poverty, alcoholism and bedding beautiful women.
Buk’s writing advice:
“If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.”
How can you put Buk’s writing advice into practice?● Don’t write for the sake of writing. Write because you have something to say.
Jack London made a name for himself writing fiction for famous magazines. He was also a journalist, an advocate for social issues and a revered novelist – known for his literary masterpieces such as ‘White Fang’ and ‘Call of The Wild’.
Jack’s writing advice:
“I wrote everything — ponderous essays, scientific and sociological, short stories, humorous verse, verse of all sorts from triolets and sonnets to blank verse tragedy and elephantine epics in Spenserian stanzas.”
How can you put Jack’s writing advice into practice?● Give everything a go. Write short stories, poems, articles and blog posts. The more you write, the more you will improve your craft.
HUNTER S. THOMPSON
Hunter S.Thompson is credited as being the founder of Gonzo journalism. His 1967 book Hell’s Angels catapulted his rise to fame. Thompson committed suicide in his late sixties and his tragic death garnered him an even bigger cult following.
Hunter’s writing advice:
“Writing is the flip-side of sex – it’s good only when it’s over.”
How can you put Hunter’s writing advice into practice?● Writers often make the assumption that the act of writing should always be enjoyable. But as Hunter points out, writing can be hard, painful and tedious. Our role as writers is to show up and get the job done.
Stephen King is a living legend – most famous for writing in the horror genre. But he is also the author of fiction, supernatural and fantasy novels.
Stephen’s writing advice:
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
How can you put Stephen’s writing advice into practice?● Use rejection and criticism as your fuel. Don’t give up at the first hurdle. Acknowledge it, then keep moving forward.
Like many famous writers, British author, Hanif Kureishi started out writing pornography before evolving to plays, films and novels.
Hanif Kureishi’s writing advice:
“Creative writing courses are a waste of time. A lot of my students just can’t tell a story. It’s a difficult thing to do and it’s a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don’t think you can.”.
How can you put Hanif’s writing advice into practice?● A writing degree is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t mean you’re a good writer. One is better off to learn the art of writing from their favourite authors.
Julia Cameron is a whole lot more than Martin Scorsese’s first wife and the mother of his daughter. She is a successful author, poet, journalist and artist.
Julia’s writing advice:
“It is interesting to me that we ask a question about the writing life that we do not ask about other professions. For example, we do not say, “What are your odds of making it as an investment banker? As a chemist?” In most professions, we assume that an interest in pursuing the career implies a probable proclivity for it and a reasonable chance for success. Not so with writing. The truth is, when you want a writing career and are willing to do the work to get it, the odds work with you, not against you. This is simple metaphysical law.”
How can you put Julia’s writing advice into practice?● Don’t worry about the naysayers. Artists of any kind will always receive criticism from non-artists. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you to get a backup plan. If you want to be a writer, commit to it and make it happen.
Henry Miller was as famous for his novels about women and sex as he was for his tumultuous love affair with French erotic author Anais Nin.
Henry’s writing advice:
“Work on one thing at a time until finished. Start no more new books, add no more new material. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.”
How can you put Henry’s writing advice into practice?● As writers, we often feel overwhelmed because we have numerous writing projects going at the same time. To do great writing work, one is better to focus on one task before moving on to the next.
Have you got any tips from great writers? let me know in the comments.