To celebrate Kill Your Darlings’ new website, we’ve asked some of our favourite contributors from past years to reflect on their early writing experiences and share their top tips for emerging writers.
Today, we hear from Omar Musa. Omar’s fiction can be found in KYD #21 (‘The Wasp‘).
1) Be fearless.
2) Never take advice from a shit-talker like me. It’s always best to find your own path.
3) Be willing to make mistakes and take risks, huge ones if possible. No good writing ever came from playing it safe.
4) “Write in passion, edit in cold blood” — stolen from Filipino writer Sarge Lacuesta, who in turn stole it from his mother, who stole it from her Jesuit teacher. There has to be a balance between the frenzied whirlwind of emotions and ideas, and the form with which they are presented. This is the juggling act of good writing.
5) Never be afraid of your imagination.
6) I suspect that good writing comes from a person who writes the type of thing that they themselves would like to read, but haven’t seen written yet.
7) It is ok to feel lost. To paraphrase Junot Diaz, it is probably a good thing to feel lost when you are writing, because it means that you are in unmapped territory, a place no-one has been yet.
8) You are allowed to be the dictator of your art. By all means, bounce ideas off editors and readers you respect, but essentially the creation of art does not have to be democratic, focus group-driven and it does not have to please everyone. No matter how hard you try, you will never make something that is all things to all people, so don’t even bother trying. If you do, you will end up with anodyne, fence-sitter art, and fuck that.
9) Be willing to face criticism. You don’t have to like it, but it’s part of the game. You are in the arena of contested cultural ideas now, and you chose to be.
10) Read “To Posterity” by Bertolt Brecht. Memorise it if possible.
11) Put pen to page or fingers to keyboard. Sounds obvious, right? Seriously, though, I can’t tell you how many people come up to me saying that they have a “book in them” or have the greatest idea for a groundbreaking novel, but when I ask them if they have actually started writing it, they always look sheepish or say that they just don’t have the time. As Christos Tsolkias once told me, “MAKE THE TIME.” Writing is not just a thought process, it is an ACTION. Do it. Go on. Put the pen to the page. Now.