A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Sandra Cisneros read at a local library. Never had I seen a writer captivate her audience so easily. She told us about her days at Catholic school (with the "happy housewives of God") and how she was taught to be a "dutiful daughter." She read a beautifully woven short story called "Eleven" that conveyed the thoughts and feelings so many of us experience but are afraid to talk about. She also told us how she wanted to write a book where girls could see themselves (what I hope to accomplish with my first novel). And, she gave some very valuable writing advice:
1. Take your ego out of it
In other words, be humble about your writing. Don't write to impress others. Write because you love it. Write because you're compelled to create something beautiful.
2. Be courageous and fearless in your writing
I really needed to hear this one. Too often I'd censored myself in my short stories (and on this blog) because I feared reprimand from those who read my material. Ms. Cisneros likened writing to an empty bedroom where you can say anything you want--which I found oddly satisfying. Censoring myself wasn't all that fun, really.
3. Tell the truth without hurting anyone
Write about anyone you want--just change them enough so that those you are slicing apart with your pen don't recognize themselves. Change hair color, gender, or anything else you see fit.
Ms. Cisneros might have seemed gentle at the podium, but when I spoke to her afterwards I saw the tigress underneath. I told her how much I admired her and identified with her writing, and she firmly told me to write what I knew, to seek out my own voice. After I left that evening, I felt a new sense of bravery and determination. I hope to thank her someday for the wisdom she passed along, to convey how much she helped me as a writer.
-The Writer Librarian