Letter to a Young Writer, in the Form of a Top Ten List

Dear 23 year-old Antoine Wilson,

Here’s a list of ten things you might consider but probably won’t:

10. When you pick up the pen, put down the pipe.

9. If something you’ve written is blowing your mind, it’s probably a cliche. You just don’t know it yet.

8. Your most interesting material is all around you, not in some far-off land.

7. Seek out instruction, then decide what to reject.

6. Read “Tradition and the Individual Talent” and get over yourself.

5. Meet the reader halfway. Not more, not less.

4. Nobody cares how clever you can be.

3. When someone you respect tells you that your work reminds them of something you have not read, go read it!

2. Find other writers to share work with. Be supportive but critical.

1. You are confident now only because you don’t know how hard it will be.


38 year-old Antoine Wilson

4 thoughts on “Letter to a Young Writer, in the Form of a Top Ten List

  1. I disagree with #4 because *I* care how clever you are. In fact, even if it makes your life as a novelist more difficult, I would like you to continue to try to be as clever as possible.

    And I think #1 might be really important.

    Please write a note to the 48yr old Antoine next. Not the one crushed under the tsunami, the other one that lives. Short note to the former: Sorry, hella ride though, right?

  2. One of my teachers encouraged her writing students to think of themselves as “a genius with much to learn.” Keep your confidence up, but your eyes open. It always stuck with me.

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