In our eighth edition of Writing Advice from Famous Authors, we gain wisdom from the American author and humorist David Sedaris. If you haven’t come across Sedaris’ books, essays, articles, interviews, podcast appearances, this interview will give a small taste of his style. After publishing his first collection of essays, Barrel Fever, in 1994, his next five collections all made the New York Times Bestseller list: (1) Naked, (2) Holidays On Ice, (3) Me Talk Pretty One Day, (4) Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, and (5) When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Talk about prodigious.
Here is David Sedaris being interviewed by The Atlantic last year:
“When you first start writing you’re going to suck, and so it’s kind of good to keep it to yourself until maybe you don’t suck as much.”
I’m conflicted with this advice. I agree with Sedaris 100% that your writing is going to suck when you first start out. Unless you’re some kind of savant, it’s inevitable. You will not be a good writer in the beginning. That’s why I always encourage my readers to write often and read a lot. That’s the only way you’ll get better.
I agree that there is far too much garbage written and then shared as if everyone in the world should read it even though it sucks, as evidenced by the fact that there’s nearly 500 million blogs in the world. That’s far too many blogs! In my personal writing journey, however, I kept my writing to myself for far too long. I was embarrassed of it and not sure if it was any good. That’s the confliction I have with Sedaris’ advice to keep your writing to yourself. I wish I didn’t keep it to myself as long as I did.
“When you first start writing you're going to suck, and so it's kind of good to keep it to yourself until maybe you don't suck as much.” -David SedarisClick To Tweet
“I did nothing but write in my diary for seven years before I started writing stories.”
I think this is a very interesting anecdote. It dovetails nicely from Sedaris’ first piece of advice of not sharing your writing until it doesn’t suck anymore. Not everything you write should be shared. Whether that means you follow in Sedaris’ footsteps and compile seven years of journal writing before you contemplate sharing your writing with other, or that simply means you’re consistently writing, but showing discretion on what you share with the world, either way, not everything you write is worth sharing. Don’t put every piece of garbage out there for public consumption.
Not everything you write is worth sharing. Don't put every piece of garbage out there for public consumption. Click To Tweet
“There’s a lot to be said for not ‘just getting it out there.’”
Clearly Sedaris has been reflecting on the current age of over-sharing in social media. Everyone seems to think they need to share everything they do with everyone they know, (and even those that they don’t know). If you’re like me and waited almost 15 years before you started to get your writing out there, then by all means, please! Share your writing! However, if you just started writing last week, maybe give yourself some time.
“My advice to a young writer who wants to start a diary or keep one going is to not read over what you wrote yesterday…Do it for a year before you go back. Just give yourself some distance.”
I don’t have anything to add to this advice. I simply want to applaud it. 👏 👏 👏 👏
What do you think? Do you agree with Sedaris’ advice here? Disagree? Let us all know in the comments below.
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