A Guest Post
Inspiration for the Beginning Writer
by Kezia Willingham
The book I most often turn to when I need inspiration to keep going as a writer is Ariel Gore’s How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights.
In 2010, when I made a New Year’s resolution to try to become a published writer, this was one of the first books on the craft of writing that I read. It is full of practical advice as well as encouragement for the beginning writer. One of my favorite things are the interviews with other writers such as Michelle Tea, Julia Alvarez, and Ayun Halliday.
How to Become a Famous Writer is easy to read and chock full of information on all aspects of the writing life. This book is aimed at the person who wants to write, but does not have an MLA, or maybe even any formal education at all. It is for those of us for whom becoming a writer is perhaps as expected as becoming the president of the United States. Gore says “If I’d waited for money and a room, I’d still be an unpublished welfare mom-except they would have cut my welfare off by now.” As a former welfare mother myself, this was the kind of writer I could relate to.
The first thing I had to do in order to become a writer was to give myself permission to even think that I could. When the idea first began to form as a conscious desire, I found so many reasons why it would be outlandish for me to write: I didn’t take one creative writing class in college, I had a lot of personal issues, I had a full time job and young children…. The reasons not to write were endless. Ariel’s advice is “Don’t try to hide your quirks, exaggerate them.” Well, okay then. That I could probably do.
After putting the advice into practice, a few months later I became a published writer via Cassie Premo Steele’s Birthing the Mother Writer column here on the Literary Mama website. Since then I have had a slow but steady stream of publications in the midst of vast amounts of rejection.
I still turn to How to Become A Famous Writer when I need a writer’s pep talk. There are those days when I’ve worked really hard on a project and submitted it. I eagerly wait to hear back from an editor, only to hear…. nothing. My confidence plummets and I begin to feel like a fool. The negative self-talk really gets going. Angst takes over and, by the end of the day I’ve convinced myself that I should rethink my entire decision to bare my soul to the world. On really bad days, Ariel’s guidance rekindles my spirit. After all, the most important thing we can do as a writer is to write and keep writing.
Kezia Willingham is a writer who lives with her quirky multiracial family in the Pacific Northwest. She is a frequent contributor to the print ‘zine Hip Mama.
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