Don’t write if you want to think that you can. Generally, the people who consider themselves to be excellent writers are those people who haven’t started writing yet. People will eulogize the quality of the novel they have always been meaning to write and brag about their awesome idea for a short story; but once you start writing, it can never be as good as you think it should be. Writing commands an inverse serendipity: the times when you start to trust that you write well will correspond with the delivery of rejection slips through your letter box and into your email inbox. If you can’t face rejection and the pervading sense of inadequacy which accompanies it, don’t write.
Don’t write if you want to keep control of your life. When you write, the scent of a passing stranger will grab your attention and take you to his or her imagined home. You’ll be musing over the color of their sofa and the words of the argument they have just had with their lover before you realize that your partner has been trying to have a conversation with you for the past half hour. When you write, you’ll become entranced by the names of places, which means that you’ll miss your bus home, or your exit from the motorway, or you’ll board a train which takes you in the opposite direction from that which you thought you wanted to go. You’ll probably have a lot of fun, except when you don’t, but you’ll never have control over where your writing will take you.
Don’t write if you want to be rich. There are more published writers who are poor than those who are rich and there are many, many more writers who never reach publication at all. If you want money, don’t write.
So, if you are making a conscious decision about whether to write or not, don’t.
Of course, a real writer never has the opportunity to make that decision. They are trapped by a twist in a tale, by the sound of a collection of words, by the complex mind of an imagined character, by the desire to make sense of a world – real or imagined – with words. A writer writes because writing has them in its thrall.At Café Aphra, it is too late for any of us to heed our own advice. We’re victims of our writing. It is possible that we wouldn’t have it any other way. But maybe it’s not too late for you. If you’ve not started writing, then don’t…. unless you really have to.