Writing advice from Hallie Cantor….

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a New Yorker article written by Hallie Cantor….. 

I am a person of habit. Fortunate enough to have an annual subscription to the New Yorker  — an annual Christmas gift from my sister-in-law — I review the magazine as soon as it arrives. I check the table of contents to see if there’s an article I must read immediately. (Anything by Atul Gawande falls onto the list.)

I almost never read the cartoons. (Although when my husband points out the really funny ones to me, I usually laugh.) Nor do I typically read the section called “Shouts and Murmurs” unless it’s written by Steve Martin. I don’t eschew humour, however. I’m also a fan of Emily Nussbaum and Anthony Lane and I enjoy the typically light touch of the “Talk of the Town” section.

But when my twitter buddy Guru Madhavan (@bioengineerGM) tweeted about a recent Shouts and Murmurs column headlined, “The Writer’s Process,” I stopped what I was doing and made time to read it right away. Written by Hallie Cantor (pictured above) the piece is a humourous take on the “perfect” writer. Here is part of what she says:

Of course, some days the muses may not visit me. When this occurs, I accept the situation with equanimity and give myself permission to write a clumsy first draft and vigorously edit it later. This approach is possible because I understand that my intrinsic self-worth is separate from my talent and my productivity, and because I know that I am deserving of love even if my writing is not very good. This gives me the freedom to take risks, which, in turn, actually makes my writing very good. Funny, right?

I think she is mostly joking. (She was a writer for the third season of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer.”) Or perhaps she was just making fun of writers like me. But here’s the interesting thing: Most of what she says makes perfect sense. I just wish she’d had the courage to upgrade the phrase “clumsy first draft,” to the more truthful label, “crappy first draft.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on June 5/17.

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