Gentle Writing Advice:
How to Be a Writer Without Destroying Yourself
by Chuck Wendig
pub date: 06-June-2023 Penguin Random House, Writer’s Digest Books
Finally–a book of writing advice that accounts for all of the messy, perverse, practical, and inexplicable parts of being a human who writes
The truth is that all of the “writing rules” you’ve learned are bullshit. Sure, they work for some people, but the likelihood that they’ll work for you–unique butterfly of a person that you are–is slim.
That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! There is meaningful advice to be had in the writing world, and Chuck Wendig is here to deliver it. In this hilarious guide, Wendig will help you discover more about yourself as a writer, parse through your quirks and foibles, and help you figure out the best way for you to get words on the page–without destroying yourself along the way.
With behind-the-scenes stories of Wendig’s own writing struggles, sections on debunking popular advice, self-care tips, and more footnotes than are strictly necessary (or legally recommended by scientists), Gentle Writing Advice will give the unvarnished truth about the writing process and remind you of what’s actually important–taking care of the writer. (That’s you, by the way.)
I have Chuck Wendig’s earlier book on writing tips called 500 Ways to be a Better Writer; I would like to have Damn Fine Story as well since it seems to be an entirely differently type of book by Wendig on the craft of writing. Fortunately, I was able to get the NetGalley approval for his 2023 book on writing tips GENTLE WRITING ADVICE.
Gentle Writing Advice is more like the “good twin” to 500 Ways to be a Better Writer. Some of the advice is the same, but presently is a kinder, still Wendig-witty tone. For example, both books advise writers to meet up and talk about publishing, books they’re loving, even writers to avoid. This 2023 post-pandemic, post-Trump apocalypse, Insurrection, and climate disaster version of Chuck Wendig is one who has come out the other side of a lot of shit. All of us have. We’re still here. Frankly, if you aren’t a different person after the last seven years, I don’t know what to say.
Gentle Writing Advice tells you important information even if you’re not a writer, but some other type of person that has the urge to create. Things like:
- You’re not too old to start.
- You’re not alone.
- The internet can be good to connect with people and an evil hellscape because of connecting with people.
- You do not need to write every single day. People are different.
- Day jobs are fine, in fact, they are often necessary! You need to eat and pay bills!
- Most writers are not living the high life like Richard Castle of the show Castle.
What a lot of this book brings to the table is Wendig’s heart being ripped from his chest and handed to you like an Indiana Jones scene. Except in this case, it’s not for sacrifice, but rather a gesture to welcome his audience to the profoundly flawed world of writing. He shares many examples about the questions he’s been asked at speaking engagements. Some of the best ones are from kids. They get to the bottom of the problem. Rather than, “Where do you get ideas?” or “I have this great idea, will you write it for me and we can split the credit?” Kids have been poignant in the libraries and classrooms.
Something new at the Wendig table this time around—if you read his blog TerribleMinds or follow his socials you’ll know it’s valuable—self care is not a trend. Wendig explains what self care means to him and the actions he takes when difficult times hit. The Book of Accidents he tried writing twice before getting the story to pull together in his brain and for the time to be right to tackle it (it’s a complex story).
I greatly appreciated that he admitted Writer’s Block is real. It exists. Some famous authors don’t believe it does. I got into a spat on Twitter about it years ago. Here’s what’s incredible about Gentle Writing Advice’s section on Writer’s Block: Wendig talks about when it’s a creative impasse and presents the possibility that it might not be that at all; it might be a mental illness like depression, which saps the life out of you and sucks all the joy out of your work so you get stuck in a shame loop. I hate to say, it’s so brave of him to talk openly about this, but my gods! It’s been a stigma for so long. The idea that you must not want it badly enough is an excuse made by people claiming they have writer’s block—that is DONE. Don’t listen to people who say that!
Wendig gives plenty of pages to his experience with staring at the blank page. It’s not just a one time occurrence. That kind of problem comes back again and again. He confesses that while he did spend a year editing two books, that particular time frame didn’t birth any new work from him. After his father died, he wrote. Yet, after his mother died, he didn’t. He couldn’t write. Not books anyway. He could tweet about heirloom apples and how terrible people were to each other during the pandemic. Either way, it’s okay. Sometimes, writing will help get you through the madness, but maybe not every time. Breaks are fine. Quitting is fine because you can always un-quit.
Chuck Wendig has been the kind of writer who shares parts of his life with the world. While still valuing privacy, that desire to share knowledge and be in a community is a balancing act. Gentle Writing Advice is presented in easily digestible sections. Get your highlighters ready.
Rating: 5 stars