How To Write by Elizabeth Gilbert

1) Tell your story TO someone. Pick one person you love or admire or want to connect with, and write the whole thing directly to them —like you’re writing a letter. This will bring forth your natural voice. Whatever you do, do NOT write to a demographic. Ugh.

2) Start at the beginning of the story, write what happened, and keep going until you get to the end.

3) Use radically simple sentences.

4) Don’t worry if it’s good; just finish it. Whether or not your project is good, you’ll be a different person at the end of it, and that’s always worth doing.

5) Don’t write with the aim of changing anybody’s life. That will lead to heavy, irritating prose. Just share what delights or enrages or fascinates you. If somebody’s life is changed by it, that’s a bonus.

6) Whenever you can, tell stories instead of explaining stuff. Humans love stories, and we hate having stuff explained to us. Use Jesus as an example: He spoke almost exclusively in parables, and allowed everybody to draw their own lessons from his great storytelling. And he did very well.

7) Your work doesn’t have to be any particular length, or written for any particular market. It doesn’t have to even be seen by another human being. How and if to publish your work is a problem for another day. For today, just write.

8) Remember that you’ve been doing research your whole life, merely by existing. You are the only expert in your own experience. Embrace this as your supreme qualification.

9) Every writer starts in the same place on Day One: Super excited, and ready for greatness. On Day Two, every writer looks at what she wrote on Day One and hates herself. What separates working writers from non-working writers is that working writers return to their task on Day Three. What gets you there is not pride but mercy. Show yourself forgiveness, for not being good enough. Then keep going.

10) Be willing to let it be easy. You might be surprised.

Elizabeth Gilbert

10 Comments leave a comment below

  1. wow. A great lesson!

  2. Perfect!

  3. Wonderful! I personally love #9. The excitement the first day and then the loathing and critical eye the next. Then, the end. :) Keep pushing on through the third day and then the next. Just keep going!

  4. I think you nailed it when you said do not worry if it is good or not just worry about getting it done first so true for so many projects

  5. How wonderful, dear Elizabeth, and thank you so much for the simplicity!

  6. Oh, how I love this!! Thank you for sharing and keeping the flow of words moving in story form. How painful it is to carry loads of precious, untold cargo. :)

  7. This is stunning advice. I recently started a blog. I am finding I love the writing but am hypercritical and get discouraged easily. The few times I have written something I even remotely like is when I have followed some version of your advice. Thank you so very much for this post. I will reference it often.

  8. Clear. Concise. Imaginative. I enjoyed the lesson.

  9. Needed this! Thank you!

  10. This: 4) Don’t worry if it’s good; just finish it.
    You can always edit later. ;)