21 Harsh Truths from the Greats #4

4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux


Wow. This one hit me really hard, in that “I have never thought of that but it is so true” kind of way. I actually sort of dread the day my mother gets brave enough to read anything I write, poor thing.

There’s so many directions my mind is pulling me with this. One, there’s the whole split persona thing of the face we show our families and the raw, ugly, gritty truth of what a sweaty, intensive mess writing is. Two, there’s the whole coddling thing, where life is “easy” at home and its easier to let yourself be comfortable and not push and strive – at least, that’s how I’ve always perceived it. I left home around 17, so I don’t really know what it’s like to live in mom’s basement.

But the thing that my brain is pulling at the most is the idea that if don’t go out into the world, what on earth will you write about? There’s some real weight to the adage “Write what you know”. It’s not a hard and fast rule or anything, but how much harder is it to write what you know when you don’t know anything? When you don’t even know what you don’t know?

Very few of us are going to go out into the world and find the One Ring, or a ticket to Hogwarts, or any of the lovely fantasy crap I love to read and write (note how I said “few” and not “none” – eternal optimist). But even in fantastical settings, there is a basic human element that is common to any experience. Frodo and Harry both left the only home they’d ever known, for who knew what?

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