Lydia Davis has a new book out called Essays One, and in those pages is an essay called “Thirty Recommendations for Good Writing Habits.” I don’t have the book yet, but I do have the wisdom to keep Literary Hub on my Bookmarks list.
There you will find a lengthy excerpt from the book that covers only TEN of Davis’s recommendations. The thing is, she provides examples for most of the ten, so a serious writer might do well to wade through them.
Me? I especially like #3 quoted below. Why? Because I’m already doing it, meaning I can chalk one up without the least bit of effort. (Don’t you just love it when you “fall in” like that?) Here it is in Lydia Davis’s own words:
“#3: Be mostly self-taught.
There is a great deal to be learned from programs, courses, and teachers. But I suggest working equally hard, throughout your life, at learning new things on your own, from whatever sources seem most useful to you. I have found that pursuing my own interests in various directions and to various sources of information can take me on fantastic adventures: I have stayed up till the early hours of the morning poring over old phone books; or following genealogical lines back hundreds of years; or reading a book about what lies under a certain French city; or comparing early maps of Manhattan as I search for a particular farmhouse. These adventures become as gripping as a good novel.”
Of interest to poets especially will be #6. And before we part, I might suggest you find a physical notebook (if you don’t have one already) to carry about for notes because you’ll be hard pressed to adopt much of her advice without one. It comes as no surprise that most all serious writers have one and use it religiously.
Plus, the idea of shopping for the right notebook and the right pen or pencil parallel parks itself right next to a curb called nirvana. What is it about “writerly objects” that so mesmerizes writers? Ours is not to ask so much as to buy and use.
You heard me: to use. Buying and shelving or otherwise neglecting is akin to one of those non-writers who goes to all the hip writer hangouts and talks a good game while writing a sum total of nothing.
Cue “The Pretender.”