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Learn how to become a writer

Write what you know BUT your deepest writing and knowledge of your story springs from piercing the fog of mystery surrounding what you don’t know…even when you think you do.

  • Write What You Don’t Know
  • Write the story of the stranger
  • The Enemy
  • The foreigner
  • The bad guy
  • Your worst enemy
  • Your characters’ worst enemy
  • The person you are yet to be
  • The bitch
  • The witch
  • If you are poor imagine the lives of the rich
  • If you have always been free imagine the lives of those imprisoned
  • Write what you don’t know
  • Write what you don’t want to know
  • If you are from a boy from Arkansas write about a girl from Syria
  • That will teach you how to write.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Afraid

Fear, sometimes felt and experienced as absolute terror, is a normal response to the prospect of writing. “Writing” at its heart and soul means speaking up, being heard, taking a stand. Maybe no one ever told you that you could do that. Or should do that. Or maybe its all on you. You haven’t yet grown into the writer you want to be…the writer willing to speak up, to be heard, and to take a stand. Keep trying to write, learning to write, wanting to write, and you will eventually be that writer.

You’re afraid because you don’t know if you can accomplish an act that is a mix of doggedness, patience, humility, skill, a willingness to learn, a willingness to revise and revise and a learned gift for language.

Of course, you are afraid. I know I am. At first. In the beginning. And even years in, for a few moments before I pick up my pen or wait for the computer to offer its blank face. There’s always, always, a moment or two when I am afraid. Many years of writing have taught me how to feel the fear and quickly begin to write through it, to in fact, use it as a kind of silent engine to get me started.

You’re afraid because you don’t know where you are going with the narrative, where it will take you, what and how it will make you feel and you won’t know that until you write the last word. But fear is a sign that you are willing to break a silence, reveal a secret, set yourself free, or birth a previously un-imagined world or group of characters.

Once you embark, the only map you’ll have is the one you create, a map that will lead you like the maps of all explorers, in contradictory directions. You’ll have to sift the rewards of this endeavor through trembling fingers. And you’ll have to have eyes keen enough to see what those fingers hold.

Writing is hard. But it’s in your blood. You want this. It’s ok to be afraid. If you’re not…ask yourself why.

Marita Golden


Marita Golden is the author of over 20 works of fiction and nonfiction. She is Co-founder and President Emerita of the Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Foundation. As a teacher of writing, she has served as a member of the faculties of the MFA Graduate Creative Writing Programs at George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Distinguished Visiting Writer in the MA Creative Writing Program at John Hopkins University, and at the University of the District of Columbia. She has taught writing workshops nationally and internationally to a variety of constituencies and is a writing coach, workshop presenter, and literary consultant.