What advice would you give a young writer?

If you are serious about writing—whether you think you want to make a career out of it or just write for yourself—you need to read, read, read. I know of no writer who doesn’t read. Read all sorts of things. If you’d like to write poetry, of course you need to read lots of poems. But also read fiction and nonfiction. If you read carefully, you will pick up some good ideas about writing along the way. You may even get an idea for a poem because of something you read in a book on birds or an article about the Mafia. Let me say it again: read, read, read.

And write. When you’re not reading, write. Fill notebooks and files on your computer. Just as you should read different genres, you should write different kinds of poems and stories and essays. You never know what’s going to happen once you put that pen to paper. That’s one of the great things about writing. The surprise of it.

Try to find a mentor, someone who can give you some suggestions about your writing. It could be a teacher or another adult. But it could also be one of your friends. Try to find someone who likes to write as much as you do and get together regularly so you both can share your writing. Be constructive and helpful in what you have to say about another person’s writing. Be gentle, as well.

Writing is a lot like playing 3rd base or a Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster guitar. You get better with regular practice. And a few lessons.

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