Bringing homage to Charles Bukowski’s infamous “So, You Want To Be A Writer?” anthem, we dissect and discuss the perks of using your talent in today’s publishing world with some of the most prolific young authors of the moment and their brilliant ancestors.
- BELIEVE IN YOUR MAGICAL SELF. “Never underestimate the power of your stories, your struggles, your survival. There are people who will listen and adore you for the writer you have become and you won’t know who until you read through magazines, presses and books you want to be a part of and submit your work to. There will be so many rejections before your work will find a home, just like people do. Be patient. No one in the world can take your true place.
Memorize your poems and shout the words if you feel like it, because conviction comes no other way.
As a spoken word poet, there is no such thing as an out-of-body experience; every time I’ve performed, it’s always been the most visceral, grounded moment I’ve lived. In that moment, when you’re holding your lessons in the highs and lows of your voice and making eye contact with anyone ready to believe you’re human too, that’s all the magic in the world. That is the poem’s validation and publication in those few minutes it’s in the air, as Zohab Khan once said.
Live voraciously so you can make others live it with you because words come to writers no matter what– passion and persistence does not. Live like a poet, magic comes with it.”
- LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND GET TO KNOW THE HUMANS AROUND YOU. “I much prefer doctors, midwives, lawyers, anything but writers. I think writers and artists are the most narcissistic people… I must say what I admire most is the person who masters an area of practical experience, and can teach me something… Among my friends I find people who know all about boats or know all about certain sports, or how to cut somebody open and remove an organ… As a poet, one lives a bit on air. I always like someone who can teach me something practical…
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
- SYLVIA PLATH, literary legend and author of The Bell Jar
- TAKE SMALL STEPS, HAVE FAITH, AND FIGHT FOR YOUR ART. “Finding a great fit for a publisher can be a lot of work and can be quite daunting at first thought – that’s why I recommend starting out looking for small publishing presses, especially local ones, and ones dedicated to publishing emerging writers. Not only is the turnaround time to hear back from the publishers shorter, but the relationship between publisher and writer can be a lot closer and feel more comfortable. Access to local small presses can also be an awesome stepping-stone to larger publishers with more connections later on. Also – follow your guts and your instinct. Always get a contract with the publisher you’re working with. If something feels wrong, don’t shrug it off, because you’re probably right. Fight for what you’re worth – whether it’s money, time, or a good book cover design. You are your most important asset in the publishing business.”
- MEGGIE ROYER, winner for the 2013 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, founds of litmag Persephone’s Daughters, author of Survival Songs, Healing Old Wounds With New Stitches, The No You Never Listened To, Poems For Witches The Boys Couldn’t Burn, and Missed Connection.
- PRACTICE AND KEEP A DIARY. “It was while writing a Diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments. Keeping a Diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements essential to the vitality of writing… Of these the most important is naturalness and spontaneity…
There is another great danger for the writer, perhaps the greatest one of all: his consciousness of the multiple taboos society has imposed on literature, and his inner censor… It is surprising how well one writes if one thinks no one will read [the writing].
This honesty, this absence of posturing, is a most fecund source of material. The writer’s task is to overthrow the taboos rather than accept them.”
- KEEP ON SUBMITTING. “Reaction is everything in literature. A poem should be a writer’s reaction to an event or feeling; it can be in the form of a whimper or a growl, as long as it’s raw and honest. The poem should then cause a reaction in its reader. If this isn’t happening, then everything else in the writing process has been without purpose.
As far as publishing goes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in presentation or how to appear credible to an editor, be it through publication credits or praise from past efforts. None of that ought to matter and it won’t if you’re submitting your work to appropriate venues. Obviously it’s wise to mind submission guidelines and to pay attention to what editors are charmed by, if for no other reason than to avoid wasting anyone’s time – yours or theirs. Ultimately, though, the work should speak for itself. Trust your art and stand behind it. But don’t be stubborn: editing is something everyone has to do. We don’t create perfection on the first try. Perfection doesn’t exist, anyway. Accept that. Keep on writing. Keep on reacting.”
- RACHEL NIX, associate editor at Pankhearst and poetry editor at Cahoodaloodaling.
- READ, READ, READ. “No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules… All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost… A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook. It is also important that cheaper types of reading, if hitherto followed, be dropped. Popular magazines inculcate a careless and deplorable style which is hard to unlearn, and which impedes the acquisition of a purer style. If such things must be read, let them be skimmed over as lightly as possible.”
- P. LOVECRAFT, author of several influential works of horror fiction including The Call Of Cthulhu
- FIND WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU. “As a queer person who primarily writes personal essays and creative nonfiction about queer things, I often hear from editors and fellow workshop participants that what I write about is too “niche.” But as someone who writes about what I find important despite that feedback, I offer this advice: always write your truth, even if someone tells you it isn’t important. Think like your intended audience, and connect your truth with what matters to them. Make them see its importance.”
- KIM KALETSKY, founder of Brouhaha Magazine, editor for IdeaSmyth and Persephone’s Daughters, published in The New York Times, Courier International, Quiet Revolution, and Miniature Magazine.
- WRITING SOMETHING IS EASY, WRITING SOMETHING GOOD IS NOT. SO WRITE, WRITE. EDIT. REVISE. DO IT ALL AGAIN 50x MORE. “Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewroteA Farewell to Armsat least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit…
You can’t [know whether someone has any writing talent]. Sometimes you can go on writing for years before it shows. If a man’s got it in him, it will come out sometime. The only thing I can advise you is to keep on writing but it’s a damned tough racket. The only reason I make any money at it is I’m a sort of literary pirate. Out of every ten stories I write, only one is any good and I throw the other nine away… Never compete with living writers. You don’t know whether they’re good or not. Compete with the dead ones you know are good.”
- ERNEST HEMINGWAY, influential author with notable books including A Farewell To Arms, The Old Man And The Sea, For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises
- FORGET FAME – WRITE THE TRUTH, WRITE IT FOR YOURSELF. “The most special ingredient to good literature is raw, punch-in-your-face, naked truthfulness. Write the words you would want to read or hear from someone else if you were at your lowest. Is your story about sexual discovery? Menstruation? Domestic abuse? A break-up letter? Do it, even if there is a possibility your ex, or your abusive mother, or your old English teacher and the bullies from high school can read it. You will find that freeing and empowering yourself through your words is more important than being called slut, feminazi, whore, complainer, freak, faggot, loser.
Remember to respect different types of poetry, different forms of art. Everyone has unique stories and just as unique ways of telling them – not one is better than the other. Therefore, find a magazine or publisher that believes in your message. Submit, submit, submit. For every rejection e-mail you get, submit twenty times more, keep submitting, persevere. Someone out there can relate to your story, it’s only a matter of finding out who and where they are.
In the mean time, don’t worry about what people think or how many people are reading you and for god’s sake, stop messaging authors/people online to read your poems and give you their opinion. Keep writing until you no longer need or care for anyone else’s validation but your own. Write for yourself. Success comes later. And if it doesn’t, take matters into your own hands and self-publish.”
- SADE ANDRIA ZABALA, author of WAR SONGS and Coffee and Cigarettes, and writer for Berlin-ArtParasites and The Thought Catalog.
- BREAK-UP WITH YOUR FEARS. WRITE WITH COURAGE. “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad,’ is fearful behavior…
I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild – timidity is the word I’ve used here. If, however, one is working under deadline – a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample – that fear may be intense. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”
- STEPHEN KING, master of horror and author of books including The Shining, It, The Mist, and Children Of The Corn
COMMIT TO YOUR ART. “Do you see yourself being happy doing anything other then being an artist? Yes? Wonderful. Do that. Art as a career choice is a terrible idea. No? I feel for you. You’ve got no choice. Me too. This is because we have a clear voice and we have something to say. Now your job is to protect that voice. Don’t listen to anyone when it comes to your message. And I mean anyone. Make sure the art you do is perfectly aligned with your principles. This is very important. Because being a professional artist is extremely difficult, so if you start compromising your alignment, it stops being worth it. And when it comes to getting published, it is simple – SUBMIT.”
- ANASTASIA KUBA, creator of Nothing But Light Project and performance artist who struggled for years to get her art published and recognized including getting banned from Facebook thrice in a five-month span and having her work deleted over and over.
Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight. You can purchase her books here.