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.”