Lake of Earth is nearly a year old. As a way to mark that, I thought I’d list some things I’ve learned over the past few years. Some of this might seem painfully basic, but they’re lessons that’ve taken me a while to get right.
1. Do the Work
I had a professor in undergrad, Rebecca Gorman-O’Neill, who told us that “writers write.” This seems like obvious advice, but I didn’t do a great job of it after graduation. From 2008-2010, I wrote very little. I’d chip away at existing stories once or twice a month or write first drafts I never returned to. I almost never submitted work. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. I told myself that I was collecting ideas, that I only wanted to write when I was “inspired.” Those reasons were bullshit. I just didn’t want to do the work. While I discovered a lot of great authors in that time (Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, and Aimee Bender to name a few), I had zero disciple, so I never got finished anything.
In early 2011, I started writing on a schedule and sending out work. Later on in the year, the work started getting published. I also began writing in a journal about what I was reading, and that kind of close analysis helped my stories. In this article about Maria Bamford, her mantra is reportedly “Do the work.” It’s good advice for all realms of life. If you want to do something well, you’re going to have to put in the hours.