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Dear Garrison, I just got

December 19, 2005 |

Dear Garrison,
I just got home from a horrible critique on a project I spent too much time and effort on in a class that really shouldn't mean as much to me as it does. I am a writing major at an art school in the San Francisco area and, while riding the bus home I realized that I had no idea what I was doing and no idea what to do to start working towards what I want to be doing. Which is to do is have a radio show and write all the time and live with my
sister and have some cats and maybe a Brussels griffon and a fish or two. But instead I'm taking general education classes in painting and drawing and sculpture which, although interesting, have nothing to do with writing. My one writing class is constantly being pushed to the side because of the demands of the other classes. I just want to know, how did you get where you are? If someone, say a blue-haired blue-eyed 21-year-old freshman writing student at an art college wanted to eventually have a radio show and write books, what should be her first step?

Thank you very much
Cordelia Daniels

The first step, Cordelia, is to write and you take this step every day, no matter what. It may sound self-evident but the truth is that most people who want to write do not, in fact, write, and many writers don't write, though they plan to and do some research and talk about writing, they don't sit down and do the work. Writer's block is the result of misjudging your own talent. If you imagine you're a Great Novellist and you sit down and can't write the great novel, it means that you're not who you thought you were. You're maybe a columnist or a humorist, not a novellist. So that's what you do. You write, and you use writing to resolve your own troubles—you write about the guy who gave you the bad critique and about his sour life, his wife who told him she has feelings for her therapist, his car that needs $873 worth of repairs, his son who had a swastika tattooed on his abdomen, his dying cat, and that's how you get over it. You write about your life as a radio star and your sister's roommate and what you will do with all the money, what paintings to put on the wall, whether to go to Sumatra or Kathmandu for summer vacation. How did I get where I am? Well, for one thing, I'm basically in the same predicament you are. I face the same blank page you do. I got on the radio and into print through a number of fortunate accidents and the generosity of many people. It helps to look needy. People look at this tall confused man who needs their help to deal with circumstances he can't begin to comprehend and they drop their other duties and help, and that's how I get by. You get into radio by sneaking in when nobody's looking. That gets you on the air. And then you have to find a way to outshine the aging talents who are there already, and that isn't hard, my dear. The world loves youth and you've got it, so use it. Good luck.

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