1. Anyone who says “write what you know” either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or doesn’t know how to form a sentence. Know what you write. Do your research, but don’t think that just because you haven’t done your research yet doesn’t mean you’re not qualified to write about whatever you want. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Pigeonholing sounds like a bad sex position, anyway.
2. Write badly. Write terribly, obnoxiously, fearlessly, write complete garbage, write melodrama, write too many details and extra scenes you’re going to have to cut later. Here’s a secret: Everyone’s first draft is shit. Yes, even Kerouac - have you read On the Road? Give yourself permission to suck. Write badly on purpose, but write badly in the way only you can write badly. Revision is for final drafts, not first drafts.
3. Semicolons are beautiful, but only if you actually know how to use them. Learn how to use them. Then use them. Don’t let your creative writing professor tell your that your poetry looks like an essay when you use actual punctuation; your creative writing professor is not you. Your creative writing professor doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
4. Except that your creative writing professor does know what he’s talking about. Listen to him. Learn from him. Write down all his advice in your notebook, but when it comes time to start writing - close the notebook.
5. Write every day.
6. But if you don’t write every day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t beat yourself up, period. Self-loathing is antithetical to writing, unless you’re Gerard Manley Hopkins, but trust me, you don’t want to live the way Hopkins lived.
7. Stop thinking so damn much. Blare the music when you write; sit in a crowded coffee shop; drink; let yourself go. The first draft doesn’t want to be constrained; the first draft wants to be put on the page. The first draft wants a word count, not a rubric.
8. You’re always allowed to slam the door on someone who’s distracting you from your writing. Unless that person is a tax collector or your mother. Never slam a door on your mother unless she’s a drunk.
9. Everything has been done before. Get over it.
10. Love what you do. If you burn out, if you don’t love it anymore, either quit or find a way to love it again. Don’t do it for anyone else - no one’s paying you to be a writer. Pay yourself. Pay yourself in interesting characters and immersive plots and worlds you wish you could play around in. Give your writing to yourself. Treat it like a gift from you to you, because if you don’t love your final draft, no one else will, either.