Saturday, February 13, 2010

Advice for young writers (from Patrick Rothfuss and me)

I really like this post from Patrick Rothfuss' blog on advice he has for young writers.  Basically, he says, learn to live cheaply.  Which is great advice for anyone who wants to spend his or her life doing something that doesn't pay a lot money.  (But he says it in a really fun way.)

I'd definitely like to second his advice.  When I was just starting out, right after college, Tracy and I lived in the New York/New Jersey area, and it was incredibly expensive.  It was hard to have enough money to have time to write.  When Tracy got the chance to transfer to Denver, it was a great opportunity for her, and for us.  And even though it meant moving away from New York, just as my playwriting career was getting ramped up, it still made sense.  At the time, Denver was super cheap (we could buy four-bedroom house for $72,000)  (Denver's not cheap anymore, by the way).  In NYC, I needed to work about half time, and even then money was tight.  (And our student loans were nothing compared to what kids take out now.)  The move to Denver meant a lot more time to write.  I worked just a small part-time job, but had a huge amount of time to write.  I not only had the time to write, but also time to work on productions, start writers' groups and theatre companies.  The time and flexibility to create gave me just what I needed to grow as a writer

By the way, my main piece of advice to young writers (probably already articulated in this blog, at some point, but worth repeating right before Valentine's Day) is marry well.  The youngsters always laugh when I say this, thinking that I mean "marry rich."   Which isn't what I mean at all.  Not that "marry rich" isn't a bad idea for a writer.  But not nearly so important as marrying/partnering well.  If you're going to partner/marry someone, and you want to do well as a writer, you need to make sure you're hitched to someone who has a full and complete comprehension of what this whole "writer business" means.  Or who can stomach it, once the learn what it means.  That it's unlikely to pay very well, that it will keep you up at night or keep you out at night, that it will mean that you will often be distracted, that you will complain about the same things (rejection, lack of audience, critics, etc.) over and over again.  That despite all the promise that  you show as a budding genius, that you might not be a genius, but just someone who needs to write and tries to get better at it, and sometimes fails, or fails most of the time.  And that giving up isn't really a suitable option, because being a writer isn't necessarily something you do, but part of who you are.  All of which requires a significant amount of patience and forbearance.  You will need someone able to be strong when you are weak, able to boost your spirits when you are tired, which will happen, because for almost all of us, living life as a writer is often hard and tiresome and grinding (and lovely and amazing and thrilling).  All of which will test you and your relationship.

I've leaned on Tracy for almost 22 years of marriage, and know el that I've been especially lucky that I followed my own advice, long before I could have known it's important.

So again, young writers, good luck to you.  And marry well, if you can.


Deb Vlock said...

What great advice, Pat! Hurray for you and Tracy!

Patrick Gabridge said...

Thanks, Deb.