1. Good art saves the world. When you write what is necessary or worthwhile to you, even if no one sees it, the world becomes a slightly better place.
2. Avoid the third cup of coffee: when your creative energy runs out, wait for a while and it will return.
3. People will help you, but they will almost never be those you wish would help. The powerful gatekeepers, talent scouts, style mavens and star makers who were so significant in the rise of those you’ve heard about, are more concerned with their reputations than in finding and shaping new talent. Anyone they champion must be consistent with those they’ve championed previously. You shouldn’t want to be the “new __________” and couldn’t be if you tried. Those who will make a difference in your career, if not your life, are most likely unknown to you. You must trust that they will find you at the right time, and help your work find its audience.
4. Though eminently reasonable teachers and critics will tell you what’s wrong with your work, and offer numerous explanations of why the piece was rejected, or, if accepted, failed to do what the publisher hoped, these voices don’t know you, what you went through, what compelled you to finish what you started and why you believed sharing this was important. They always sound as if they know more than you, but they don’t and they never will.
5. You may be halfway through a work, only to see some aspect, element or detail of your stuff in the latest movie, TV series or book by your favorite author. This should not lead you to believe you are somehow unoriginal, or that what you were doing initially will have no future because it is too similar to something else. Your work is unique because you did it. Pat yourself on the back for having the cultural sensitivity and nuanced understanding to notice and include things in your art that many people care about, know about and find interesting. If you’re worried about being compared to others, vary your work work a little bit. What is called popular culture is not composed of startlingly original works that cause immediate paradigm shifts. It is the repetition and continuation of important narratives that build upon what was come before, but are changed, ever so slightly, so that they work feel paradoxically new and familiar.
6. You don’t need to stop what you are doing to do research because the essence of fiction is the realization of the unlikely, implausible or impossible. What makes a reader believe what you’re doing is the degree to which the characters reflect the reader’s personal concerns. “Honesty” in fiction is connecting with the problems, emotions, ups and downs that we all experience.
7. It’s easy to find the sense of wonder in spectacular places. What about uncovering in within the seemingly ordinary? Heroic qualities exist in everyone. Why not find them where no one else is looking?
8. An important human quality, and, in my opinion, the most vital subject for fiction, is in what brings us to the understanding that we are that we can make the world even more wonderful than it already is, despite the fact that loss, cruelty, injustice and every other blatant social evil seems to run free. Art is not merely a way to come to terms with life, but to see beyond narrow frames of mind, to what keeps us in the game.
9. Truth may hide in humor, and it is no less meaningful if it makes us laugh.
10. We must have food, shelter and clothing to exist. But we need art to show us how miraculous our existence is. And, because we’re always forgetting how extraordinary our lives are, we need new art to remind us.
11. What is called success is almost always someone else’s idea of achievement. It is possible that the pleasure you get from knowing you’ve written well has already found you. It is likely that it will find you again.
12. No work of art is perfect or finished. No work of art produces the same result for all that encounter it. It’s enough that you can make the stuff.
So make it.