j’s Journey: Superhero advice for writers

By Judy Clement Wall

In my last post, I railed (sweetly, of course) against all the well-intentioned, totally conflicting, ultimately frustrating advice to writers out there. Holy writer’s block, Batman, there are more experts in the ether than there are starry-eyed writers to read them.

Well, maybe not. I hope not, anyway. I love-love-love starry eyed writers. I am one.  And so this week, I’ve decided to sing some praises. Whereas last time I told you three things the experts say (that I disagree with), this time I’ll share five pieces of advice (from five badass posts) that I agree with right down to my hopeful little writerly core…


Go ahead, be weird.
Because we all are. In our own (charming, immutable) ways, we tilt a bit off center. I like to make up words, and I have an affinity for run-on sentences. My week-at-a-glance planner is peppered with doodles. (On last week’s pages, for example, two snakes slither over, under and around my to-do lists. A rocket shoots from the bottom of Tuesday to the top of Thursday, and a peace sign turns somersaults through Wednesday.) Our weirdness is what sets us apart. It gives us our own unique voice and beckons us to explore our creative edges. A lot is being written these days about the importance of letting our freak flags fly, but one of the best, most deliciously moving pieces I’ve read on the subject as it relates to writers came from Terri Kent Enborg. Here’s her wonderful advice:

That art or language teacher who told you that the sky in your story or painting shouldn’t be red?  Yeah, her.  She was wrong.  Write a letter to her telling her about your fabulous red sky — the way the sunset turns it blood-orange, then deep plum, the way the green tops of pine trees contrast so perfectly against it that rare and lovely birds flock to your pine trees and build nests.  Tell her about the way the sea meets your red sky at the horizon, spreading an almost imperceptible purple delineation between the two.  Imagine her reading your letter and write about her reaction.  Write about the way her expression gradually shifts — how her eyes squint at first, then widen, then dart to the right and the left as she discovers she is actually seeing your point about the red sky … and is afraid what others will think of her, what it will say about her if she resonates with a red sky.  Imagine her inhaling deeply when she is finished, then exhaling and slowly nodding because she finally gets it.  Your sky, indeed, should be red.

Seriously. How awesome is that? (Go check out Terri’s blog. It’ll make the writer in you dance.)

Get a dirty pun catcher
I would never have thought of this, but I didn’t have to. Annie Neugebauer thought of it for me. I could tell you all about how she came to be so wise on the subject, but I laughed my way through this spot-on post, and so should you. Want more good advice? Try these from Annie, too: “Tools for Writers, part 1” and “Tools for Writers, part 2

Get your heart on the page
This is the second best piece of writing advice anyone has ever given me (right after “sit your ass down and write,” which was my professor’s answer to my request that he allow me to switch due dates with another student in our fiction workshop). Not long ago, I wrote a post about my willingness need to write more personally. That’s certainly one way to get your heart on the page, but even fiction writers need to be willing to take some emotional risks if they want to move their readers. Patrick Ross wrote beautifully about this in his post MFA Nugget: 10 Ways to Get Your Heart on the Page, and he offers tips for how to actually make it happen.

Get bored
I don’t know if I would have used the term “bored” to describe that resistance that hits you freight-train hard when you’re standing at the beginning of a story (post, poem, essay, chapter) staring at a blank screen, but I definitely know the itchy, restless, anything-but-here feeling Mark McGuinness is talking about in his post, “Why Boredom Is Good for Your Creativity.” And I love his suggestions for how to cope.

Stay in touch with your core
Justine Musk achieves music (and heart and soul and clarity) in this post, which is all about what it means to live a (big, fulfilling) creative life.

Okay, your turn. What is your favorite piece of writing advice?


 JUDY CLEMENT WALL is a writer and course presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course. Her short stories, essays and reviews have been published in literary journals and on some very cool websites like The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Lifebyme and Beyond The Margins. She is a Huffington Post contributor, and she recently finished her first novel, BEAUTIFUL LIVES. Here at FoW she chronicles the ups and downs of writing for publication. Judy is a staff writer at Milliver’s Travels, writes about living creatively at Zebra Sounds, and about fearlessness and love at A Human Thing. You can download her (Fearless) Love Essays here.


16 Responses to j’s Journey: Superhero advice for writers
  1. Terri
    July 17, 2012 | 1:50 AM

    Thank you so much, Judy. I will check out each and every bit of “badassery” you’ve pointed to here! You are truly a breath of fresh air.

    • j
      July 17, 2012 | 1:40 PM

      I feel the same way about you!

  2. Fear of Writing
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    July 17, 2012 | 11:03 AM

    Great recommendations, j. I loved all those posts from Annie Neugebauer. I tested and then adopted one of the tools she reviewed.

    While I was sick I fell behind on Patrick’s MFA nuggets. I’m totally amazed with the way he wrote so many during his residency stint. (If you haven’t seen the one about the MFA social life, that was fun and fascinating.)

    • Annie Neugebauer
      Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
      July 17, 2012 | 11:15 AM

      Aw, thank you Milli! =) I got behind on Patrick’s posts too, but am heading over there now to read his newest.

    • j
      July 17, 2012 | 1:41 PM

      I did miss Patrick’s post on the social life. I’ll check that out when I get a chance!

  3. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    July 17, 2012 | 11:14 AM

    So many good things to go visit; thank you for including me in them!! I think my favorite piece of writing advice lately was something like “5 Reasons to be Grateful for a Negative Review,” although I can’t find it and can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it. =/

  4. Nuttin'
    July 17, 2012 | 11:29 AM

    Great collection of stuff here, thank you for sharing.

    I’ve often said, “I’m no writer” — and in a sense (the part where, you know, you wouldn’t want people who ARE writers to scoff at you), I’m not. But I still submit work, weekly almost. Mostly poems… my rejections are neatly stacked in my archives. I think, right now, I’m learning to just write because I have no expectations from others (well, not too many I guess).
    My point (I think there is one) is this, just write. Without worrying about how it will be perceived. I resisted the urge to write a post this morning directly to someone who has interpreted some of my poems VERY wrong and is spewing his misperceptions to my children — but, like I said, I resisted. I think being able to put yourself out there not knowing who will read or what they will read or how they will perceive it might just be the beginnings of me thinking I AM a (maybe-part time-sort of) writer.

    There’s a bit of advice you left off here… your advice —
    Write from your heart and with your heart. Your heart will guide people to you.

    • Nuttin'
      July 17, 2012 | 12:11 PM

      To clarify my story about resisting the urge to write the post this morning… writing from your heart should be just that. If you write from your heart and what comes out only has a purpose of hurting someone (no matter who that someone is), then you’re heart might need some therapy.

      … so, to clarify again, your advice to write from our hearts is perfect. Also, I can’t wait to read what a dirty pun catcher is.

    • j
      July 17, 2012 | 1:45 PM

      Milli, in her infinite wisdom, would say that if you write you are, indeed, “a writer.” And I believe everything Milli tells me.

      • Nuttin'
        July 17, 2012 | 2:01 PM

        Just a hunch, but, I bet there’s a few people who believe everything you say.

  5. Estrella Azul
    July 18, 2012 | 6:41 AM

    Oh wow, thank you so much for all of these great resource articles! I wish I had more time to read them right now, but will do so later tonight when I get home.

    I love the first advice about being weird. And I also have an affinity for run-on sentences (Milli can tell you, she often suggests I shorten my sentences in travel articles.) 🙂
    And getting my heart on the page? I try to do that more often now. And it’s good. Some of the best, loving, honest responses my blog posts got were on writings where I was sad, losing sight of North.
    Funny, my poetry is what I write most personally, and what people often don’t “get”. But that’s okay as long as my heart is on the page and weighing me further down.

    As for my favorite writing advice? It’s actually something you say: leap and the net will appear. Not only applicable to writing. And I love (you for that!) it <3

    • j
      July 18, 2012 | 2:13 PM

      Well, I’d love to take credit for that leapy quote, but I can’t. I first heard it from Julia Cameron, but it’s older than her too. I think it’s originally a Zen saying. (And honestly, I never thought of it as writing advice, but I like it!)

      • Estrella Azul
        July 19, 2012 | 4:43 AM

        Oh right, I know it came from something you’ve read, but since you say it a lot, I went with that instead of getting the name wrong 😉 It does sound like a Zen saying *goes of to google it*
        I do love how it applies to so many aspects of life, even writing.

      • Estrella Azul
        July 19, 2012 | 5:16 AM

        PS: just googled it 🙂 You’re right, it is a Zen saying.

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