The best writing advice I’ll ever give you

One night someone knocks at your door. A tall, black man. He speaks with a Jamaican accent. This man tells you that you have to pick one of your many ideas, works in progress, and finish it. That story’s the last one you’ll ever write. He tells you that you have until tomorrow to write as much as you can. He doesn’t tell you what’s going to happen after that.

You have 24 hours to write your story. You have no future, which makes the present that much more important. You can’t tell yourself, “I’ll wait until I become a better writer.” All your ideas, they mean nothing now. Because, whether you like it or not, you won’t get a chance to write them.

This story you’re writing right now, the one the tall man made you choose, is the last thing you’re ever going to write. And you pour everything you have in that story. You want to make it the best thing you ever write. Just in case tomorrow never comes.

So you write and write, your fingers fueled by a passion you didn’t know had. There’s nothing more important than the words you’re writing now. Procrastination is no longer a part of your dictionary.

Of course, I could have just said, “Write like there’s no tomorrow. Write as if you’ve only got this one chance to leave your mark upon the world.” But, hey, I like bizarre analogies.

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124 thoughts on “The best writing advice I’ll ever give you

  1. why write any other way?

    unless you're chained to an agenda to please a target audience

    and can't really express what's going on inside you…beautiful or ugly..

    but if a Jamaican man comes to my door,

    i think i'll offer him a beer.

    • Crisitian, I would have to agree, excellent writing and great advice. However, Being from the Islands myself, I also agree with Sciencelens, the metaphorical use of Jamaican and the added adjective of black and danger was a bit over the top.

  2. It's funny how much you can spend being *about to write*. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking I'll do it when my kids are older, when I'm not so tired, when my company shuts its doors (in March) and not nearly enough time *writing right now*.

  3. Wow, thanks a lot for this. I really did imagine this happening to me, and I became a bit scared and very sad! Congratulations to you for making me realise that I need to pour my heart into my writing. :)

  4. As simple and as logical as your advice is, I thank you for reminding me to write with my my own mortality in mind. This was actually the mentality I had when I wrote my most well received short story: Pick Up the Gun, My Son: http://mykindofstory.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/pic

    I remembering thinking that if I could only leave one story behind to show for, I'd want it to be something I would have enjoyed reading in a high school classroom setting; something pleasurable, but worth discussing and dissecting. And while it's value to others remains to be determined in the future, its value to me, as well as the experience of writing it, will stay with me for the rest of my life. And I'd very much like to feel that way again.

  5. I would love nothing more than to write with that kind of intensity and urgency. But it's the nagging voice in my head that keeps me from recording my story. You know the one that constantly replays over and over, "it's not the season for you to write yet." Maybe tomorrow.

    • Dunno. My subconscious picked him. And you should believe him simply because he's stating a truth, something a lot of people forget. I'm not saying he's gonna cut your throat in your sleep. You just might die any time. Or something like that.

      There's this really cool writer, Nicolae Labis. At twenty years old he was regarded as one of the most talented poets in the country. A year later he fell off a tram and hit his head on the pavement and died. Shit happens.

  6. Wow. I am the queen procrastinator when it comes to writing, always wanting to be able to do it better, or waiting for the fickle mistress inspiration…You have put it into perspective for me. Maybe the 'write like there is no tomorrow" philosophy is one I shall adopt. Well written post.

  7. I think I have an advantage at age (nearly) 64 in being less confident in the number of days yet to be mine. In fact, it is the realization of time's limit that started me writing a year ago. So many thoughts that need words to pass on while the number of days remain the unknown. You are right Cristian, wisdom counsels: "Write like there's no tomorrow!"

  8. Easier said than done for me. Even if I do think about writing like there's no tomorrow, I'll probably still procrastinate. It's something I'll definitely try though :-) And I love how you wrote this as a story!

    p.s. I'm writing this from the past, since it's still October 2nd here ;-)

  9. I guess I could do that once. Maybe once a month. How about once a week? Would that get the story finished? YES, it would. I guess it is time to lose some sleep and maybe some weight, since I won't have time to eat.

  10. I have been writing my journal since I was a 2 Lieutenant in the Army. I have never been regular for many reasons. Monotony in routine at times caused too many repetitions unless there were special events, field trainings actual operations. But never I have thought that I should write as if there was no tomorrow. I guess it is scary if I have to be truthful. There are thing I might carry them to my grave. Having said that, if you are a family man your writing will I reckon will be like a 'will' that what i would write. I may end up in apologies, and regrets. I usually follow my strong will to write which is spurred by some special thought, urge to express my emotions. Strangely enough it is when I am sad I feel to express against some one or my self. Mostly not been understood but keep quiet not to hurt and let it be on my diary. It will be definitely read when I am gone. We worry too much about what will happen when I am gone but then realise that this feeling is only limited to till the time I am alive and when I am not all those are pointless and inconsequential. I would though question on you point of view. Why to write and for whom when you have everything arranged in your mind. I hope I am not contradicting myself. These are straight quick random. I am clicking without revising what I have written in this post. ANY COMMENTS here :-)

  11. But what if you have a million other things to do? As much as I LOVE to write, if I had only one day left, I wouldn't want to spend it behind a computer screen. I think I'd summarize what I wanted to say in one sentence and then go out and LIVE!

  12. Pingback: The best writing advice I’ll ever give you « SARAHITYAV'S BLOG

  13. Pingback: My friend Cristian Mihai with splendid advice on what to do while you’re sitting in front of that keyboard or desk… « Thomas Rydder

  14. Great advice, and just as applicable to other creative forms. It's inspired me to pull out three unfinished drawings that have been "works in progress" for FAR too long!

  15. What an enlightening post! Procrastination is indeed my middle name, but after reading this I'll try harder to push myself to write something and be more "present" at the same time. Whether or not it's going to be good, I suppose I shouldn't worry about that now. Thank you! :)

  16. Good advice, but there seems a write time and a wrong one for particular creations, so I keep several projects going at once. Even so, I do manage to complete one every now and again! :)

  17. i would be kinda fun to have a contest of sorts. Have fellow writers on here write for twenty four hours before committing mass suicide…

    Okay, not really. But say, on a weekend, write all day and see what you come up, writing as though it were your last day to write.

    At any case, great little story/advice.

  18. Thank you Mihai for you inspirational pieces. As I am still in the middle of creating a very big project, I am an avid reader. And your pieces could be summed up in one foul sentence, your detail with simplistic words that conjure up a multitude of description gets my day started. Thank you again Mihai.

  19. Pingback: Cristian Mihai’s Advice (Reblog) « Lawrence Merithew

  20. There are so many talented writers out there that never share their work do to the fact they always believe themselves to be a "work in progress". If only they could realize their end goal of literary perfection will never exist! Write now, and write fearlessly :)

  21. Writer's block doesn't exist; it's all in your mind.

    I'll recomend you to have a basic idea for the WHOLE story, not just chapter one, then write…

    That, or I'll get a Jamaican guy to knock at your door. Where do you live, darling?

  22. This is great advice but today I can't answer the door because:

    1. If I ignore my little girl and write for 24 hours, the next knock will be from Child Protective Services.

    2. Here in NYC we're not a fan of strangers from any nation knocking on our doors late at night.

    Those two things aside, thank you for giving me one more tip to handle my procrastination. I will try to put this sense of urgency to good use, even if I can only do so in smaller hourly doses.

  23. great advice…I thought I was reading the beginning of a movie script. This advice could be applied to any creative – writer, designer, whoever…who always says to themselves, "I'll wait until ________." I've said it to myself a number of times. Sometimes we need a little drama to 'git it'!

  24. Dear Christian Mihai,

    As a new writer, one question comes in my mind:Why are we writers possessive about our words?I definitely won't like it if someone copies my work and passes it on as theirs.My reasoning is that they are my words, they originated in my mind,yet, I share my writings with the public.There is this friend of mine, she requested me to write a poem about Gerard Butler, which she wanted to send to his fan mail. I compose a lot of poems about Gerard Butler, he inspires me, but there is no way, I would agree to my words being copied, unless stating my name as the author!! Your perspective would be greatly appreciated!!

  25. This really helped. I've actually had a writer's block for a while. Today I decided that no matter what I wanted to write something for my blog (before I even read this). That's where my short story to the song came from. Thanks. You are a wonderful write. Very inspiring.

  26. i do have an idea, it's finished in my head..then when i start to write, it's always so difficult to put it all together. but i will never stop, i'm a silent type of person and writing is my only way to express and share my world to people. i'm from the philippines. where are you from?

  27. Thanks for the blog Christian! I'm not sure what I would write if someone came and said that too me. Hopefully I wouldn't have writters block lol. I've never really considered writting before at all though in the past few months I'm thinking maybe there is something there. I've been thinking recently about taking some creative writting courses in college. Thanks again for the blog, have a great day!

    James

  28. Hey, I think this is the best (not to say unique) advice, I identify myself with this, I haven't been writing 'cause I had the idea of not to write until something good came to my mind, but today, after reading this I said "What the hell, I'm going to write the better I can" so I think you inspired me, Thanks.

  29. I'v been trying to finish my book. 2yrs ago I was writing with the intensity you described above, then a huge dissapointment threw me off and zapped all my desire and motivation to write. I wake up daily feeling like I'd love to start again–maybe this is what I need to post right above my screen as inspiration.

    The thread of responses resonate deeply with me. I lost my mom, dad and many close friends (very prematurely) so naturally, I think of death almost daily. "she/death" I suppose can become a friend in that way — to remind you, tomorrow is not promised so do it today and do it w/all your heart!

    Thank You

  30. Hmmmm. I love your blog – and the advice you jut gave – but I think there was a bit of undesirable racial stereotyping in this post.

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