The Best of Beaks & Geeks Part 2: Advice From Authors

Penguin Random House's Beaks & Geeks, a weekly podcast of candid conversations with authors, have shared some nuggets of wisdom from their 94th episode with us here at GrubWrites! In this installment, hosts Amy Brinker and Lindsay Jacobsen recap the most memorable writing advice they've received from authors on the show. Check out these highlights for your daily dose of literary inspiration. 


From Mohsin Hamid, author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

I don't think there's such a thing as writer's block. I think there's times when I write and there's times when I don’t write. There’s times when I write well and times when I write badly. Thinking about writer’s block can be self-defeating.


We should think about writing as digging a well. You just dig this well and you wait for it to fill with water. What you really have to do is create an empty space in your life when you’re not doing anything else—when you’re just available to your writing. Over time, that empty space that you keep inside yourself—those hours every day, adding up across the years—into that empty space comes the water of your writing.


From Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

The best piece of advice I ever got was also the corniest advice I ever got. You should always believe in yourself. The caveat being that if you are a writer, there will be some time, some moment, when you are the only person who does. 


I command all sorts of Draconian orders every day. Everybody knows my no adverb rule. They are not allowed to use adverbs. They are given one exclamation sign for every 300,000 words. One of the first assignments I give students, usually during the very first week of class, is to write a 100-word sentence with no commas, no punctuation. There should be natural pauses in it. That’s usually a make-or-break.


From Siobhan Adcock, author of The Barter

I used to have—I think a lot of writers have—a precious morning routine when you wake up at dawn and you make sweet love to your coffee cup and you’re not checking your email, but then checking your email. You have these beautiful morning hours where all you're doing is focusing on your writing. I had a kid four years ago and that all totally blew up and went out the window. Now, I actually write whenever I can. I found that what was most beneficial to me was not to bank it and save it up for the weekends when we're not doing anything. I do know some writers that are very focused and can do this …When I do that, I spend all of my time rereading what I wrote last week … Having a daily writing habit was very important. Especially when you’re writing a ghost story and trying to keep that page-turning pace and build suspense and tension. I was just writing at night every night after I put my daughter to bed.


From Mary Oliver, author of Felicity

I learned to wake up at five o'clock and usually you go to work at nine o’clock, so I had a couple of hours to write. I discovered that if I was at my desk at the same time … some part of this creative process was there too. I know students talk about being busy. They have papers, they have reading, they have things to do. Then they want to work on poetry so they turn on the lamp, and they sharpen their pencils, and they get the cup of tea, and they turn on the radio. They wait to turn into poets. But if they were expected—and your mind does think of creative things all day long—you made a connection that part of you knows you’re gonna be there, you are there, and this helps so many students just wonderfully.


Listen to the full podcast here. 


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