Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Tip from My Grandfather's Writer Friend

I thought I’d start off blogging for Seton Hill Writers with a bit of wisdom that’s helped me. My father has a lot of sayings. Some of them have proven helpful. Some not so helpful. But this particular one was passed down from my grandfather, and it sticks in my head every time I sit down at the keyboard. To me this means that it’s good enough to share with my fellow writers. So here goes.
             My grandfather was in the film business in Los Angeles during the silent movie era. (This goes along with my advice; I promise. Hang with me for a second.) He had three movie studios, was in a few of the Three Stooges flicks, and produced a slew of others. He did pretty well for himself until the talkies hit…and then the show was over for him. But in the process, he made some pretty interesting friends. One of them was John Steinbeck--author of such works as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
             When I started seriously thinking about writing, my father reminded me of this particular quote. He spouted it often during my childhood when I was writing papers and struggling with where to start.
              “Aileen,” he’d say. “You have to do what Steinbeck said. ‘Write for the waste paper basket!’"
             As a kid, this would frustrate me. I’d want to scream at him, “How is that going to help me get my history paper done?” It wasn’t until much later that I realized the value in the saying and fully appreciated the person who said it.
             Writing is hard. If you’re anything like me, a blank page ties your stomach in knots. The blinking cursor on a white screen is the bane of my existence, mocking me with each passing moment.
              What if it’s terrible? What if I suck? Why am I even trying?
              The John Steinbeck gave my grandfather permission to suck. He even admitted that he sucked at first too. He threw pages fresh off his typewriter into the garbage. So, it’s okay if little ole me sucks today. If I end up throwing everything from the day away, I’m doing no worse than one of the great authors.
             To my fellow writers I say, do as John Stienbeck did: Write for the waste paper basket!
            Because writing is a journey, and it often starts out a little rocky. But you have to keep writing. Eventually, those pages won’t be for the waste paper basket. They’ll be for saving, building upon, and sharing with the world.

1 comment:

  1. This is great advice, Aileen! I love it. I'm definitely going to have to try to write for the waste basket!

    Your grandfather sounds super-interesting, too. ;)
    Thanks for sharing.