11 quick + dirty things about writing




And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ― Sylvia Plath


If you have the calling to write, do yourself a favor and listen close. It won’t go away. It will chafe and grow inside you, a hard determined pearl.

If you wait too late to start, you will regret it.

Start now. What the hell. Buy a notebook and pen and go somewhere on your lunch hour and write something, anything, even if you’re just writing about not having anything to write. Enjoy the play of language. Get to know your mind in the way that only your writing can show you.


Give yourself permission to write badly, or you’ll never do it at all. First drafts are not about writing well. They’re about spinning out the raw material for you to work with in order to write well.


If you don’t write yourself into existence, someone else will have to invent you. click to tweet



Silence won’t save you. You think you’re hiding from criticism and judgment, but you’ll get criticized anyway (just not for writing). Silence makes it possible for them to write over you.

And then to erase you.


The way to deal with fear is to let yourself feel the fear: if you try to suppress it, it comes back stronger. Know that it’s in you but not of you, and you don’t have to let it stop you. Move with and through it like you’re driving through bad weather. When you start writing, the fear fades away.


Everybody needs her period of apprenticeship, and it will be longer and tougher and harder than you expect or want it. Embrace the struggle. Appreciate what it does for you.

The struggle transforms you into the writer that you need to be.

We are forged in creative fire. click to tweet



Your voice is like your avatar; it’s what readers wrap their sense of you around; it’s a set of ideas about who you are and what you represent; it’s what you say and how you say it.

This is the paradox: you must develop a strong and grounded sense of self, because you are whatever they say you are.


Your ultimate goal shouldn’t be to write for yourself or for an audience, or to find a compromise between the two. Compromise sucks. There’s a vanishing point, a sweetspot, where you and your audience become one and the same: writing for you is writing for them.

You want to find that spot.

You want to live there — and disappear there.



You develop your voice through reading all the time and writing all the time. (Reading is the inhale, writing is the exhale.) Let yourself gravitate to the writers who attract you, pull you in, because their work is showing you something of yourself. Let yourself imitate them, until you notice those spaces where you can’t help but do something different.

In those spaces, you start to make your own voice.


People don’t own ideas. They own the execution of those ideas. (Give the same idea to twenty different writers, and I’ll show you twenty different stories.) Execution is the hard part.


Writing lives in the body as well as the mind. It’s a lie, and a truth, and a lie that shows the truth.


Writing makes you whole. It shows people who you are. And then, as you grow toward mastery, it shows them who they are.

Apr 11, 2013

23 comments · Add Yours

Justine, this is amazing. I want to print it out and put it on my wall when I’m stuck. Thank you.


i really resonate with this.
i wrote a cracked-open blog post this morning and felt the power of writing myself into meaning. it’s a way of being my own advocate, and an advocate for my life. no one else is going to do that for me, and no one else can do it as well as i can.
we are forged in creative fire. yes.
thank you.


I love this list and will use it for inspiration! I especially like #12…beautifully put.


Beautiful. I love to find meaning on the page. Blogging helps me makes sense of everyday life and is a conversation. Writing stories is a fascinating discovery of how the random images, conversations and memories surface in new formations, held together by imagination, springing from a creative source. Divine downloads and creative fulfillment. The little details of our everyday lives are exposed and brought into meaning through writing and reading. I’m so in awe of the writing process. It brings so much joy – as you said, once we start.

Thanks again Justine.


This is so amazing, I’ve been emailing and messaging the link to people like crazy. Any chance you might put this on a poster on cafe press or somewhere else so I could buy it?


I especially like #6 – I may have to quote you. :) e


Well said. I agree with Ms. Plath, self-doubt is a killer. I am frequently having to beating it down and locking it in the closet.


Justine, your 11 quick + dirty things about writing is absolutely required reading for anyone who’s hungry to write! Ironically, my current writing issue has been spending more time writing than sending out my work, but your post here is helping me to get my act together. Thanks for giving us writers the help we need!


@Katt That is a cool idea. I’m going to look into that. Thank you for suggesting.


@Hayley “writing myself into meaning” “being an advocate for my own life” — yeah, exactly that. beautifully put.


This really resonates with me! Thank you for the kick in teeth that I needed.


I always struggle with #2 because I’m a perfectionist in everything, but I realize that it’s slowing me down considerably. It’s something I’m trying to stifle.

I love your blog; your insights are amazing.


Wow. Justine, thank you for this. Just found your blog and judging from this post, I feel certain I will be amazed by the others. In a million years I wouldn’t have believed that I would put my thoughts, experiences and feelings out to the Universe. I have been a private person my entire life…never needing or wanting any attention. Now at age 59 I find myself “out there” not because I want to, but because I feel called to. Sometimes this horrifies me and I want to crawl back into my cave. But there’s no turning back now, knowing that I have helped some people in the process. Like Mia, I also suffer a bit with perfectionism…but I’m working on it! :)


#1 is so true. And #8 is nicely said.


I’m really struggling with writing my first blog post it’s like I begin writing and I reach mental blocks but there’s so much inside of me to share. Thanks you for this little nudge!


None of us found this post by accident. The Universe has a cool way of taking us places we need to go….showing us things we need to see :)


I like no.4 because sometimes I feel scared to voice my opinion or displeasure. And I do feel like I’m getting overwritten or erased in those moments. But fact is, it’s from fear that I’m operating during those moments and I’m striving to find a new better way.


Loved this post. Loved it. I related to all 11 points and thought they were beautifully written. Thank you so much for it!
P.S. I posted a link to it on my blog.


writing is like a mental defect, festering and growing inside your very being much like a cancerous tumor — the paradox being the less we write the more sick we get, the creativity we were gifted with at conception becomes an insane loop of regret over not just NOT writing, but the plethora of additives that come along with this lack of action: underachieving, ignoring a talent as unique as being able to fly, and ultimately, accepting failure and allowing fear and doubt to reduce your talent to a pile of ash. All the while, you put yourself through the daily torture of denying that voice inside, begging you to just WRITE…alas, here we all are, lining up to lament over our failures, our inability to conquer our fears that, unlike cancer, won’t physically kill you, but will definitly kill your passion, your art, your unrealized talent, and ultimately, your soul. all the points you listed above are great and inspirational, but like unless we follow nike’s directions, none of it really matters: JUST DO IT….now, if only i could just take my own seemingly easy-as-fuck advice! WTF!!!!


Ditto what mark ryan so aptly said. Thank you as always ways for your brilliance, Justine; and for your seemingly inexhaustible supply of conceptual inspiration that totally supercedes gender. I hope you realize that you’re not just preaching to the choir here.


Dude. “Writing is the exhale.” Oh yes. Fuck yes! Ahhhhhhhh!


Justine, I love this! Thank you! You speak to me entirely and free me to speak entirely with my own readers. Thank you for such welcome confirmation of my own convictions.
You totally rock!


Writer inside me… Lives n dies everyday…


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