The Joyce Carol Oates Guide to Writing Your Heart Out

You can be a young writer at any age. It’s about how long you’ve been writing, or how much you’ve been writing.

I guess that’s why Joyce Carol Oates’s chapter, “To a Young Writer,” could help anyone, even non-writers.

The first line and the refrain is of course Write your heart out. But there’s more…

Now I present to you Oates’s advice in a much distilled version.

1. “never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject”

2. “your struggle with your buried self, or selves, yields your art”

3. “don’t be discouraged!”

4. don’t compare yourself to others

5. “writing is not a race”

6. “the satisfaction is in the effort and rarely in the rewards”

7. there might not be any rewards

8. “read widely, and without apology”

9. “read what you want to read, not what someone tells you to”

10. “you may be trying to please someone who won’t be pleased , and who isn’t worth pleasing”

11. if you’re too afraid to “write your heart out,” use a pseudonym

12. use your real name if you want a professional career that involves teaching, lectures, readings, etc.

13. don’t expect to be treated justly or mercifully

14. don’t live life just to write about it

15. “give yourself up in admiration or adoration of another’s art”

16. “don’t be ashamed of being an idealist, of being a romantic and ‘yearning.’”

17. “the first sentence can’t be written until the last sentence has been written”

18. “only have faith”

Go forth and write your heart out.

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