Express Yourself

After years of silence, I’m finally conquering my fear of singing in public

Vintage style shot of a gramophone.
Vintage style shot of a gramophone.
Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images

We sat in a circle at the 92nd Street Y, recounting the traumas that had silenced us.

“My music teacher told me to move my lips but not make a sound,” the first woman said. The rest of us nodded in recognition. Half of the fourteen members of that class — optimistically called “Everybody Can Sing” — had been shamed at karaoke night. (I refused to ever, ever go out with my graduate students after our weekly creative writing workshops.) …


Express Yourself

Americans have always been suspicious of people who spend too much time in their heads

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Dear Draft,

When someone asks what I do, I never know how to respond. I’m a writer, among other things, but the word “writer” feels vague. If you write creative nonfiction, how do you explain that at a party? People hear the word “writer” and think it means journalist or reporter or author of literary novels — how do you communicate the in-between?

Signed…


Express Yourself

You may disagree with your editor, but they’re (probably) right

Photo illustration; Image sources: Liliboas/CSA Images/Getty Images

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

I’m using the lockdown to finish and send out a bunch of essays, but all I’m getting are rejections. You’d think with all these submissions, the editors would at least send a personal note. Can I write back to ask why they’re not taking my work?

Signed,
Rejected and Dejected

Dear Draft,

I know I’m…


The Draft

If you want to write, give yourself some constraints — and, maybe, a day job

Photo illustration; Image source: Colorblind/Getty Images

This is The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

Can you talk about how to best manage writing with a day job? I’m just starting out as a writer, and I don’t see how I can ever get anywhere if I need to work this stultifying office job every day, full-time. I’m not looking for practical tips as much as perspective and helpful mindsets.


The Draft

Advice for promoting your work in the midst of a pandemic

Photo Illustration; Image sources: Yagi Studio/Getty Images, tjhunt/Getty Images

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

What I write doesn’t have anything to do with the pandemic. Should I even bother sharing my work during such a weird time? It feels so cringe-y to be self-promotional about anything these days, unless you’re sewing masks or working in healthcare.

Signed,
Trying to Be Sensitive

Dear Trying,

Any writer who isn’t covering the…


The Draft

Don’t worry about being productive right now. Just be aware.

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to be creative now that I’m suddenly working full-time from home while caring for my kids and supervising their schoolwork. How can I think clearly amid so many distractions? …


The Draft

But if you do, here’s how to find something new to say

A photo of a black microscoped coronavirus against a black-red-cream gradient background.
A photo of a black microscoped coronavirus against a black-red-cream gradient background.

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

I feel as if I should be writing something about the pandemic. But what do I have to contribute that others don’t? I worry I might be taking advantage of a disaster to get my name out or earn some money. Working on my novel feels even more self-involved and irrelevant.

Signed,
Quarantined and Confused


Express Yourself

If you’re stuck at home, dig up a half-written draft and commit to completing it

An image of a painting of a beach on an easel.
An image of a painting of a beach on an easel.
Photo illustration; Image source: Jeffrey Collidge/Getty Images

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

Even when I have an outline, I start strong and then have trouble closing posts. Hours (sometimes days) of work have gone into each. I want to break free from this pattern and publish more regularly. I’m not having trouble writing, and I’m not having trouble making time to write; I’m drowning in a sea…


Express Yourself

Online, expression is ephemeral and lighting-fast. Maybe we should slow it down.

A collage image of a woman on her laptop, with lorem ipsum text as the background.
A collage image of a woman on her laptop, with lorem ipsum text as the background.
Photo illustration; Source: Yifei Fang/Getty Images

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

How has social media changed how we think about nonfiction writing? How has it changed how we recount and share our experiences and observations?

Signed,
Too Young To Know

Dear Too Young,

I’m not sure anyone younger than 50 can appreciate how profoundly the internet has changed the way writers write. Until the late 1990s…


Express Yourself

Art is not a competition — so stop secretly resenting all your writer friends

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

Have a question? Share it with us.

Dear Draft,

I’m seeking motivation to write for fun and not to outdo someone else. I constantly have feelings of hatred toward other content creators, animators, and authors. How do I develop a healthier mindset about writing and interacting with other writers?

Signed,
Eaten with Envy

Dear Eaten,

When I was young and worked at an insurance…

Eileen Pollack

Eileen is the author, most recently, of The Professor of Immortality, A Perfect Life, and The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store