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Writing Inspiration From Andre Dubus III: How to Stay True to Yourself

A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of talking writing over a Guinness with Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, Townie, and other books.

Writing Inspiration From Andre Dubus III: How to Stay True to Yourself

Our profile of Dubus in WD magazine is on its way to subscribers right now, and will hit newsstands June 5. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite unpublished excerpts from the interview—those inspirational writing bits that wouldn’t fit neatly into the piece, and deserve better than to be lost in the jumble of notebooks on my desk.

I’ve also got a new copy of Dubus’ memoir Townie on hand—I’ll give it to one randomly drawn commenter on this post below.

Happy Friday. Here's Dubus on how to stay true to yourself and your work, and some other tips.

* * *

“If you don’t put 99 percent of yourself into the writing, there will be no publishing career. There’s the writer and there’s the author. The author—you don’t ever think about the author. Just think about the writer. So my advice would be, find a way to not care—easier said than done. Accept that the world may never notice this thing you worked so hard at. And instead, do it for it, find a job, find a way of living that gives you an hour or two or three a day to do it, and then work your ass off sending out, trying to get out there, but do not put the pressure on the work to do something for you. Because then you’re going to be writing dishonestly and for the market instead of for the characters and your story.”

“There are some beautiful books out there. But the ones that leave me cold are the ones where I feel—it’s that postmodern thing—it’s more experimentation with language than it is a deep compassionate falling into another human being’s experience.”

“I really think that if there’s any one enemy to human creativity, especially creative writing, its self-consciousness. And if you have one eye on the mirror to see how you’re doing, you’re not doing it as well as you can. Don’t think about publishing, don’t think about editors, don’t think about marketplace.”

“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”

“One of the things I learned about writing a memoir is you can’t drag the reader through everything. Every human life is worth 20 memoirs.”

“I still have my truck, and I still have my carpentry tools, and if this writing thing dries up on a publishing level—it’s never gonna dry up for me on an artistic level because I’m never going to quit—but if all the sudden I were out in the cold in the publishing world, them I’m gonna build you a kitchen. I’m gonna do your roof. I would rather do that than sell my soul to the publishing devil. I just won’t do it.”

“I think it’s important not to talk about what you’re working on. … It releases that creative tension that can be fuel for your writing. Don’t show anyone what you’re working on. Don’t talk about it. And don’t think about it. Don’t be taking all these furious notes because I think that when we take all these notes when we’re not writing, they’re actually sexy ideas that may be just ideas. If it’s a real direction for the story, it’s gonna show up in the next day anyway. So just push it back.”

“Even a day writing badly for me is 10 times better than a day where I don’t write at all.”

Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, and the co-author of A Year of Writing Prompts: 366 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block.

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