Sometimes I say that I only know three things about writing. This is of course ridiculous. An imprecise description created to chase a good line.
It is not even accurate to say I have only been given three bits of good advice about writing by other authors, though this is much closer to the truth. I hold to the wisdom imparted to me by Henry Rollins, Dave Sim and Andrew Collins as it is among the best advice any writer could ever receive. However, beyond their guidance, I have learnt one or two other things about my craft.
Recently I have been mentoring and teaching some other writers. There is not a single guru bone in my body, but working to try and help empower others has made me reassess some of my own beliefs. It has forced me to think about the counsel I would want to share.
One thing it has made me realise is that one of the biggest hazards you face when writing is becoming a tourist. Even the best writers and authors, even all those who are something close to heroes in my heart, screw up grandly when they become tourists instead of travellers.
As soon as you start to write about things you think others will find cool, you are in trouble. When you dwell on the bits of the map already highlighted by others, you are wandering away from what only you as a writer can do. Only you can report on and tell the stories of your life. Only you can put together the words that translate your eyes – translate you – to an audience.
No-one else can replicate your smash and grab raids on Ideaspace. No-one else can describe the archaeological excavations you have made of our collective morphic fields. No one else can give an account of all the artefacts you successfully smuggled across the border between your imagination and this world. When you write, your words become the paint which coats the invisible so it can be revealed to others.
Given a choice between painting the invisible – from the interior symphony of your heart to the secret movements of temporal shade – and just creating another picture postcard for day-trippers… Well, as an author, you should know what to do. Taking the tourist trail, following the guidebook to report on someone else’s sense of cool, there is no more guaranteed way to fail as a writer. Just as importantly, there is no more certain way to fail yourself.