Single Best Piece of Advice

On Sunday night I moderated an on-line chat for The Writer’s Chatroom with author and life coach Susan Hyatt. Toward the end of the interview I asked the following question:

Susan, what is the single best piece of advice you would give any writer just starting out (or still struggling along)?

Here’s Susan’s answer:

That you were called to write for a reason. That craving and yearning you have to print your words is REAL and is a pathway to your greatness. It’s not just about the right agent, publisher, book cover. It’s about WHO YOU BECOME while writing the book.

Even with the hectic pace of the chat, those words felt like the warm sun on my face. I want to stop and soak them in. So I did the next best thing: I went back to the transcript after the chat and cut, pasted, and printed Susan’s words so I can see them every day.

I can get so caught up in my goals that I forget why I write. I write to become a better writer, to share my message with my audience, but I also write because of who I become when I write. Maybe that’s the biggest reason I’ve had this longing to write since I was a kid.

When I write, I become someone who pays close attention. I become someone who reflects on life’s experiences, making meaning out of the most trivial happenings (like the flight of a hawk across my back yard) and the most important (like the fact that it took me nine years to get pregnant and have a child of my own). I become someone who considers others’ perspectives. I become someone who can see both sides to every problem.

When I write, I become more creative, more present, more fun. I become someone who takes the worst thing that ever happened and makes it into the thing that led to the best thing that ever happened. The bad thing was just back story, at least the way I tell it, and that makes all the difference.

When I write, I recognize my own failings and use them for good. I tell my stories in service to others and in service to myself. Every time I write I see that whatever feeds my soul also feeds others. I stop calling myself selfish and start calling myself a human being.

When I write, I am enough.

I am enough.
Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach, part-time writer. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

37 thoughts on “Single Best Piece of Advice

    • Hi Bernie,
      Thanks for your lovely comments. I agree, Susan’s comment really resonated with me. I look at it often and it always makes me smile!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  1. Diane,
    Thanks so much for sharing the quote–and your take on it. I must say, when I first read Susan’s quote, I almost bridled at the word “greatness,” because it just felt so selfish (although as I writer, I admit to longing for greatness… so go figure that response).

    But as I read your explanation and peeked into your life a little bit, I was nearly nodding in agreement. You said it well! When I write, I do all of those things–I reflect on my life’s details, try to make sense of the “bad” things, and somehow weave them into a story that is beautiful, that reflects a lesson I have learned (which is usually about my failings and figurings) and that encourages others in the process. It helps me to see the hand of God in my life and express that beauty–and struggle–to others, in a process of becoming an ever-better me! 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Hi sarahas5,
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts on my blog post. I agree, it’s not easy to hear “greatness” when applied to ourselves, but playing small is not why we are here–and it’s not why we write!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  2. I wondered how some writers put so much interesting detail in stories until I realized it was because they were paying attention to those details. Now, when I want to write a scene, I go there in person and look around. I make a list of plants, bugs, rocks, colors, sky, wind, even sounds. Some of those details make it into the story. I learned to do that from an old Episcopal priest in Honduras, at sunrise in an old, dirty, city park. It is living in the present moment. Perhaps those details are the difference between good and great.

    • Hi robertcdeming,
      Thanks for sharing your process for paying attention to the details. I do believe the details are the difference between good and great.

      Thanks for reading!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. Oh, for the love of it! (I mean that honestly and not humorously.) I am not making much money as a writer, but I have never been happier than when I sit down to write the stories that have been nagging at me, begging to be told. It feels natural and authentic. Whatever can make a person feel happier than that? I’m finally doing what I feel I was meant to do.
    And I’m happy to be in the company of other people who feel the same way!
    Thanks for this touching post, for reminding us of how greatly human we become through the various ways we practice this art form.

    • Hi Laura,
      I’m so glad to hear how happy you are when you write. What could be better than that? And I’m glad to be part of your community!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  4. I agree with Sarah I loved Susan’s quote in it’s own right. It is meat for all of us starving writers to really sink our teeth into and chew!!!! But your explanation was the added salt that made me want to take another bite and read to the end. Lately, with all the blogs I follow, not an easy chore to get me to do. Waking up with few minutes to devote to writing let alone the new blogs I have decided to follow but I really have to say with you, once I start, I have to keep going! It’s like peeking into a great class that is really going to teach me something! Thank your for the whole package!

    • Hi coastalmom,
      Thank you for your beautiful words, you really made my day (week, even!)

      I love to cook, so I love the metaphor of seasoning you use in your comments You say so much in just a few words!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  5. Susan Hyatt and especially you have just explained why I love to write–and why that’s quite alright! My thanks to you both, and to your commenters!

    • Hi Jill,
      Thank you! Yes we all need those reminders once in a while–that’s why I’ll be keeping Susan’s quote up for a long, long time!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  6. I find this advice so meaningful to my life as a writer as well. I feel that when I write I’m finally being who I’ve always wanted to be. Like I achieved a goal but not a goal. Like i’m continuing a journey and I’m only in mission when i write.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Hi shaquandad,
      I’m glad you found this post helpful. I do feel that being a writer is much more a journey than a goal-otherwise we’d all have quit by now! Luckily, the process is where the joy is!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  7. Great post, Diane. I, too, marvel at birds in flight, or the chance glimpse of a shadow cast by a flower at sunrise. Attention to detail is very important. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I believe they resonate for all writers. Take care!

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comments! Susan’s words really resonated with me and I’m so glad I was able to share them with you and everyone else in this community!

      Warmly,
      Diane

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  11. Thank you sharing that quote and your reflection on it. I have a personal writing project that I want to launch, but I often find myself caught up on the technicalities and anxiety over getting it right. When I start writing, however, all these things melt away to a unimportant background and I feel each time I do it gets easier and I slowly become a better writer. Reading things like these is very encouraging!

    • Hi Luvia,
      I’m glad you found this blog post encouraging. Your project sounds like one you are very passionate about. I hope you can continue to move past your fears and write, write, write!

      Best wishes!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  12. Diane, I like your comment, “I am enough.” It’s hard to reach that point, or it has been for me. Some part of me thinks that is arrogant, and yet, I’m able, at the ripe age of 52, to acknowledge that is exactly right. I am not perfect; I am enough. Thank you for the post, it was perfect! ~ Sheila

    • woot-woot! Let’s hear it for the old girls! With you, Sheila, along with several other writers who write for or respond on LTWWTL!

    • Hey sheila7697,
      “I am enough” is only arrogant if you also make it mean “and you aren’t.” Because really, we are all enough. That’s the cool part about knowing you are enough–you also know everyone else is, too.

      Thanks so much for reading and for commenting on my post. I’m glad you liked it.

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

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