William Stafford once wrote, “My aim is not to be a writer, but to write” (from the book Sound of the Ax). I’ve thought of myself as a writer for much of my life. The tricky part is how to make writing, actually writing, the first priority of my life.

Last week, I went on a two day retreat with my local writing group. I didn’t do a lot of writing, but started preparing to significantly step up my writing practice. …

In 2011, I was fortunate to hear the poet Naomi Shihab Nye speak at Earlham College in Indiana. She said two things I still remember: everyone needs to read Every War has Two Losers, a collection of William Stafford’s writings on peace (Stafford is a major influence for me, and I second Shihab Nye’s recommendation), and to write three lines in a notebook everyday.

It just so happens that the college posted on YouTube the portion of her talk where she mentions writing three lines. You can hear her describe it here.

I was fortunate to share a brief conversation…

  1. Buy the cheapest notebook that’ll fit in your pocket. Spiral-top ones are good for keeping pages together through the ruggedness of daily use. Don’t get too fussy about the design. Expensive ones may be nice, but then you might feel that only nice things can go in it.
  2. Keep it in a pocket or bag close at hand along with a pen. Any pen will do. At night put it next to your bed.
  3. Be ready to capture anything you find interesting or important. Imagine yourself as a journalist, observing and recording the daily events around you.
  4. Copy quotes from…

From reading internet comments on posts about writing, it would seem that writers don’t like getting advice. I saw one post on another platform yesterday asking for writers to comment with their least favorite writing advice. It was like the internet was begging for a terrible comment thread; and the internet delivered.

“Write everyday” was the most complained about advice. Also on the list was “create your own writing space,” “write what you know,” “kill your darlings,” and the opposite of writing advice, “Don’t bother writing because it’s impossible to publish anything.” All of these contain truth, but are cliché…

Travis Poling

Writer, teacher, and photographer in Indiana. travispoling.com

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