Be Kind

I wanted to bring a website to your attention. If you’re a regular reader of the magazine you are probably familiar with James Thayer, who has contributed dozens of articles to Author over the past two years. Recently, Jim started Novel Pro, a blog dedicated to the nuts and bolts of novel writing. Jim is a novelist, writing teacher, and book doctor, and is a firm believer that writing can be taught. His advice is always clear, sound, and easy to grasp. Even though I tend to eschew this kind of practical writing advice, as the editor publishing his work I nonetheless found myself checking my own work to see if I had avoided all the traps over which he’d seen so many beginning writers stumble. Needless to say, I found I still fell into a few.

Though we must remain kind. Every book on writing should begin with this way: Be kind. No book was ever finished in punishment. Jim does not offer his do's and don’ts as whips with which you can beat yourself; he offers them with love, because he knows that when you’re in the thick of a book, when you’ve got all your attention on The Big Stuff—the narrative arc and the timing of the climax—he knows you can miss those little things like giving too many stage directions or forgetting the power of contrast.

As a writer, or merely a breathing human being, I don’t believe it is possible to be too kind to yourself. If, however, you think it might be possible, I advise you seek this supposed acceptable limit. Once you have reached it, be kinder, just to see what happens. Just when you believe you’ve gone long enough without being scolded, try another five minutes and see if you crumble into dust or lose all desire to write again.

If calamity ensues, let me say in advance I am sorry. But I feel confident you’ll survive. True kindness is not about escape; it is not a hole to hide in while the vandals ride past. True kindness reveals that there was never anything to escape from in the first place.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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