Writing Advice From Alice McDermott

I recently attended the Washington Independent Review's first annual Books Alive conference. One of the many speakers in attendance was award-winning author Alice McDermott.

In college, I read Charming Billy, for which McDermott won an American Book Award and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction, and loved it.

I grabbed a seat at one of the front tables in her breakout session, “What's Novel About the Novel?”

I dream of being a novelist, after all.

Someone asked the panel a question that I don't exactly remember. But Alice McDermott's response stuck with me.

She shared writing advice that resonated with her when she was trying to write and raise small children — a boat I find myself I at the moment. I'll paraphrase:

As soon as your children have left for school or daycare or for grandma's house, clear off your kitchen table with one sweep of your arm (she animated by making a sweeping motion with her arm) and get to work writing. Don't stop writing until your children come home. Let the dishes and laundry wait for their return. You can get your chores done then but you cannot write, at least not with the focus it requires.

Her words resonated with me. I put off so many things while I wait for the ideal time and place, while I wait for perfection.

And at the top of that list is writing.

What are you putting off while waiting for perfection?


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