Elizabeth Berg: "If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it's to keep your own counsel, first and foremost."

Since we’re back in action, it’s time to unveil the top 5 in our Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series. The latest comes from novelist Elizabeth Berg, who offers a few key words about the “strong and true thing” that really makes the writing world go round. A regular prompt follows.

Also, for our holiday book drawing, the names off all the story-posters were thrown into the Promptly 10-gallon Hat (this time, my Rabbit Hash General Store mug), and three have emerged to claim the swag: Evelyn, Dare and LaTonya, can you send me your current addresses, and I’ll get the books mailed out?

No. 5: Keep Your Own Counsel
If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it’s to keep your own counsel, first and foremost. There’s nothing wrong with listening to what other people have to say, and I used to be one of your readers who would gaze longingly at those pictures of people who are published and think, Oh man, what must it be like? But there is something inside of a person that makes them be a writer in the first place. That’s a strong and true thing. And you can have your head turned very easily by the business of writing. It’s so important to keep it church and state—keep it separate. The process of writing and creating and answering that very unique call inside yourself has nothing to do with agents and sales and all that stuff. I can tell you as someone who’s enjoyed a lot of success in my career that nothing matches the feeling you have when you get it right on the page, when you please yourself in that very intimate way: That’s always the best thing, no matter what happens. For me it is, anyway.”

You know, in the most self-protective of ways, I don’t think about the reader when I’m writing—I just think about the story. After it’s done, I think a lot about the reader, and I’m like any other writer: I’m not unaware of what’s said about books; I’m very happy when they’re praised, and my feelings are hurt when they’re denigrating. But in the end, always, and I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times: If you’re going to be a writer, you need to write what’s in your heart and soul, and let the chips fall where they may. Let’s say you try to accommodate this imaginary reader, and you produce a work that you’re not particularly happy with. That will always stay with you, that you didn’t write what was true for you. Whereas if you do write what’s true for you, and someone doesn’t like it—well, you know, that stings for a minute, but it goes away.”

—Elizabeth Berg, The WD Interview, by Jessica Strawser, March/April 2010 (click here to check the rest of the issue out)

***


WRITING PROMPT: Passing Notes
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
If
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

He’d written the note on the back of his hand so he wouldn’t forget. Now, it changed everything.

Also, what are you and your writing doing Jan. 21-23? Join us in New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference.
We always have a blast, and it can be a great move for your craft and
career (at one of our recent events, agents Janet Reid and Andrea Hurst
signed clients, and went on to negotiate six-figure deals for them). On
tap this year:

  • Our signature agent pitch slam, featuring at least 57 agents representing a variety of genres and styles
  • Sessions on the future of publishing, craft, platform, social media, freelancing and much, much more
  • Panels and Q&As with agents and other pros
  • Our off-site poetry slam in SoHo.

Click here to learn more. Hope to see you there!

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

9 thoughts on “Elizabeth Berg: "If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it's to keep your own counsel, first and foremost."

  1. replica watches

    To create a Breitling Breitling

    classic look will inevitably bring about a suitable successor to the original such a

    challenge: Grand Classic’s new watch line that originated in omega omega northern Germany, Glashutte watch this family has

    been insisting on the principle of maximum functionality. At first glance, the new Grand

    Classic Reserve is a typical, familiar, classic Tutima watches, based on cartier
    cartier the legendary aviation

    history Tutima chronograph design. However, a closer look reveals, stainless steel case has

    been updated: large polished fluted rotating bezel and U boat U boat red mark the location of twelve Chung is timeless elegant

    design with the best combination of readability. Movement ETA 2892-A2/Tutima equipped to

    provide power reserve display and Hublot Hublot large date display, marking the technology matures and the perfect

    direction. These new watches designed by watches replica watches replica the best designers, ensuring optimal performance. What’s

    more, 43 mm diameter case in any case it is very atmospheric.

  2. True religion sale

    Jeans are popular to both men and women all over the world. True religion jeans are one of the high-end jeans that can work well with every outfit, and it can meet you needs for different settings. As a word, cheap true religion jeans are essential shoes for every people’s wardrobe. In this case, you may need to come to the <a href=”http://www.true-religion-jeans-sale.com” title=”True religion sale”>True religion sale</a> site to choose one or more pairs for yourself and your friends.

  3. Evelyn

    I’ve exceeded the word count. I will post part two under the "time capsule" 1/7 prompt.

    At 42, Horace Kellerman had a secure job as VP of Acme Biotech Labs, a silver Lexus convertible, and a 5000 square foot home in the suburbs of Baltimore. He only lacked one thing, his hair. So when the ad for New-Hair-Now “the guaranteed hair growth serum” broadcast through his Lexus FM receiver, he grabbed a pen from his shirt pocket, and scrawled the 800 number on the back of his hand gripping the steering wheel. At his office, he punched in the number, and ordered a two-month supply.

    The hair-growth product arrived a week later. Horace flipped through the before and after pictures in the accompanying brochure. His eyes paused on the closing sentence of the last paragraph. “Results may vary.” Eager for the best results, Horace followed the application instructions with diligence. “Squeeze quarter size dollop of product in hand and message into scalp for two minutes.”

    The next morning, Horace found dark hair nubs dotting his bald head. His under-eye circles were also gone. Amazing, thought Horace.

    By the end of the week, other people had taken notice of Horace’s transforming appearance.

    “Have you been working out?” asked Lavern, Horace’s administrative assistance. “You look younger — more energetic.”

    Other officemates were whispering among each other, “Did Horace have a hair transplant? Did he get Botox? A chemical peal?”

    Each morning Horace would wake up to more hair, and other changes. His pants were looser, and shorter. How could I be getting taller? Horace wondered. His mind jumped back to the brochure. “Results may vary.”

    Weeks past, and office rumors turned darker. Lavern pulled him aside. “People are worried about you Horace. You’re hardly recognizable. Are you undergoing some extreme makeover experiment?”

    “No,” said Horace. “I’m just using a hair restoration treatment. I’ve never felt better.”

    Horace never looked better either. By the end of two months he’d grown a thick head of hair, and four inches taller. His skin was smoother. His teeth were whiter. His eyes bluer. And his physique had transformed into that of a chiseled Greek god. Horace was a hunk.

    Horace never got a chance to enjoy his hunkiness. A greedy opportunist alerted The National Enquirer about Horace’s metamorphosis, and soon after he was hounded by reporters and paparazzi. The FDA also wanted details, and pressured him for an interview.

    “We’re gripped by your transformation Mr. Kellerman,” said an FDA representative sequestered with Horace at a secure location in Washington. “The combination of this hair tonic and your DNA may have uncovered the fountain of youth – or something better. The implications for discovery are immense. We’d like to run some tests on your blood. Maybe get some hair samples – with your permission, of course.”

    Horace hardly had a choice. People crowded him everywhere he went, shouting and holding up signs which read, “Donate Your DNA – Destroy Disease.” Everyone wanted a piece of him.

  4. Darrell Dillard

    How important, this day could be. Would it be the key to his success? Perhaps a suggestion as to the journey he is to begin. The answer was at hand.

    His intent was clear. Yet the dreariness of winter had set a hindering hand upon this intent. In hindsight, his forget-me-not reminder had been washed away by the drenching rain. Now, just a dark smudge upon his flesh.

    Pondering the situation, he had to question his current state of being. Why must this happen now? He’d written the note on the back of his hand so he wouldn’t forget. Now, it changed everything. His ill-fit memory was the very reason he had taken the job as a dishwasher in this dive cafe, anyway.

COMMENT