1. My basic tip is to get out more. PARTICIPATE.*
*(The consumerist model of waiting to be serviced and then waiting for an invoice or
bill, or paying for service in advance and passively expecting something to happen
does not work in the life of the mind, in literary life, in literature. This activity is not a “transaction.”)
2. PARTICIPATE in, or at least attend, literary activities in your area. Nearby colleges hosted readings by really outstanding writers. These are not merely famous writers; some colleges hosted readings and workshops with some of the best, new, popular writers among the contemporary intelligentsia. How can these newer voices serve you? They can give you perspective on what’s new, on what’s possible, on what’s happening. Maggie Nelson! Cathy Park Hong! Find out who these people are! What are they doing?
3. Discuss what’s new in writing, what’s possible in writing, what’s happening in
‘literature’ with friends (hopefully who write)—make friends with those who do.
The discourse is always happening. Listen for it. Our language exists before we’re
born. It comes to us through birth and bloodshed, through immigration and revolution,
through labor and love, through the generations. It comes to us. Make use of it to
make your mark in the never ending on-going dialogue. Enter the conversation
wherever you want. Start with friends.
4. Read daily. Not merely what is assigned. Read in order to explore your own mind,
through your own special, revelatory, vital interests. Read literary journals and
literary magazines to explore the discourse in your own interests. There’s a million
of them, from the sort of ‘mainstream’ New Yorker, Granta, Boston Review,
McSweeney’s, to local lights, fly-by-nights, hand-made zines, college magazines.
William Faulkner said, “A writer should read everything. Of course, you can’t read
everything.” Subscribe; subscribe to them. Explore your commitments. Commit.
5. Practice reading and writing outside institutions and institutionalization. The world is wider, juicier, richer, more electric. Practice reading and writing beyond the kinds of reading and writing everyone else is doing—which is to say—on a little hand-held screen or on a flat screen.
6. The bottom line is, if you don’t prioritize it, no one else will. If you don’t do your own writing, no one will. That’s not exactly a tautology.