What’s your best advice for beginning writers?

Octavia Butler

Dear Literary Ladies: What’s your best advice for beginning writers, or really, anyone who’s trying to write regularly?

I have advice in just a few words. The first, of course, is to read. It’s surprising how many people think they want to be writers but they don’t really like to read books.

And the second is to write, every day, whether you like it or not. Screw inspiration.

The third is to forget about talent, whether or not you have any. Because it doesn’t really matter. I mean, I have a relative who is extremely gifted musically, but chooses not to play music for a living. It is her pleasure, but it is not for a living. And it could have been. She’s gifted; she’s been doing it ever since she was a small child and everyone has always been impressed with her.

On the other hand, I don’t feel I have any particular literary talent at all. It was what I wanted to do, and I followed what I wanted to do, as opposed to getting a job doing something that would make more money, which would make me miserable. This is the advice that I generally give to people who are thinking about becoming writers.

It’s certainly not a matter of sitting there and having things fall from the sky.

Octavia Butler, From Conversations with Octavia Butler (2010), interview with Randall Kenan, 1990

Octavia Butler quote

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