Q: What is your advice to writers, especially young writers who are just starting out?
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Naomi Shihab Nye : Number one: Read, Read, and then Read some more. Always Read. Find the voices that speak most to YOU. This is your pleasure and blessing, as well as responsibility!
It is crucial to make one’s own writing circle – friends, either close or far, with whom you trade work and discuss it – as a kind of support system, place-of-conversation and energy. Find those people, even a few, with whom you can share and discuss your works – then do it. Keep the papers flowing among you. Work does not get into the world by itself. We must help it. Share the names of books that have nourished you. I love Writing Toward Home by Georgia Heard, for example. William Stafford’s three books of essays on the subject of writing – Crossing Unmarked Snow is the most recent – all from the Poets on Poetry series of the University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor – are invaluable. I love so many of these new anthologies that keep popping up. Let that circle be sustenance.
There is so much goodness happening in the world of writing today. And there is plenty of ROOM and appetite for new writers. I think there always was. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Attend all the readings you can, and get involved in giving some, if you like to do that. Be part of your own writing community. Often the first step in doing this is simply to let yourself become identified as One Who Cares About Writing!
My motto early on was “Rest and be kind, you don’t have to prove anything” – Jack Kerouac’s advice about writing – I still think it’s true. But working always felt like resting to me.