Straight Talk on Writing: 20 Conversations with Authors about the Craft

By Scott Francis | Go to book overview

Fred White

“Writing is a profession.
Approach it as you would
law, engineering, teaching,
or medicine: with high
seriousness and devotion to
being the best you can
possibly be.”
Fred White is a professor of English at Santa Clara University in Northern California. He is the author of The WellCrafted Argument (co-authored with Simone Billings), The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life, The Daily Reader: 366 Selections of Great Prose and Poetry to Inspire a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life, LifeWriting: Drawing from Personal Experience to Create Features You Can Publish, Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir’s Best Writings, and Approaching Emily Dickinson: Critical Currents and Crosscurrents Since 1960. He has also published numerous shorter works— including a one-act children’s play, Beowulf & Grendel —an adaptation of the great Anglo-Saxon epic; a fulllength play, Bones, based on the life of the poet John Berryman; plus essays, short fiction, and poetry in The Chronicle of Higher Education; College Literature; Confrontation; Pleiades; Rattle; and South Carolina Review, among others.Interview conducted by Kelly Nickell.
What’s your favorite bit of
writing advice?
I think it has to be John Steinbeck’s droll reminder to writers, which I’ve always taken seriously: “Beware of advice, even this.” Steinbeck isn’t saying ignore advice, only to be wary of it. In other words, don’t heed anyone’s advice if it means betraying your own artistic vision or your integrity as a writer. And of course, he is also saying that sound advice can indeed be very helpful. Writers need to distinguish between advice that makes sense to them and advice that does not.
Given that, what bit of
advice do you find yourself
telling other writers?
Actually there are several:
Writing is a profession. Approach it as you would law, engineering, teaching, or medicine: with high seriousness and devotion to being the best you can possibly be.
Keep a journal to record fleeting thoughts, observations, story ideas.
Make writing a habit. Write regularly rather than sporadically. Writing begets writing. The more you write, the keener your language and thinking skills will become.
Read like there’s no tomorrow. Be a glutton for books and magazines, but especially books. Treasure books; surround yourself with them—and read outside your areas of interest whenever you can. You cannot know too much about the world to

-62-

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