1. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.
2. Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don’t yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.
3. Read Keats’s letters.
4. Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.
5. Learn poems by heart.
6. Join professional organisations which advance the collective rights of authors.
7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.
8. If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard.
9. Don’t worry about posterity – as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed “What will survive of us is love.”
Good advice, all of it.–DV
One response to “Advice to Writers–Helen Dunmore”
I agree with most of this, except #4. I never throw away even my worst poetry. There is always the chance I will pick it up again in a year or so and finally get it right.As for #5, I can't even remember my own poems, never mind someone else's. In college, one instructor required memorization and explication for a test. I chose "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams because I knew I couldn't memorize anything longer. The professor asked whether or not the poem truly meant anything to me. I said, "Yes!" She said she would be examining my test answer very closely to see if that were true. I came out with an "A," and while I cannot recall the full poem now, I still remember the gist of why it was important historically, stylistically and philosophically. So there!