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

  1. anthonyhellmann says:

    This is so true.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. itsjennythewren says:

    Will read this anytime i loose motivation! Cheers

  3. Truly AMAZING advice. I shall take that with me now, that was brilliant. Writing here we come!!!

  4. starproms says:

    Yep I do that sometimes when the moment takes me, like just now!

  5. Steven Myers says:

    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.

  6. Shine says:

    Thanks. I needed.that

  7. Sciencelens says:

    Good advice, but a bit of unfortunate racial stereotyping for the danger at your door…

    • 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.

  8. win says:

    Reblogged this on I WIN.

  9. I think that man was at my door last night… :-)

  10. :) I like bizarre analogies too… it's much more effective that way…

  11. Jim Brennan says:

    You definitely made your point more effectively than had you gone with the alternative.

  12. Raven says:

    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*.

  13. Yet another 'Magical Negro'

  14. 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. :)

  15. 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.

  16. kiisu23 says:

    Genius :)

  17. 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.

  18. Not that I don't like the story or its moral, but why a Jamaican man? And why should I believe him?

    • 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.

  19. muniibers says:

    I LOVE READING YOUR POSTS. You inspire me :)

  20. tchistorygal says:

    I like the idea that you can't worry about all the ideas because you'll never have a chance to write them. I do get distracted sometimes. Great advice.

  21. I think I really needed to read that today. I appreciate it very much.

  22. morgueticiaatoms says:

    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.

  23. I could feel the panic welling up. My breathing changed and there was a knot in my stomach. So happy when you got to your punch line.

  24. meholysmile says:

    So… write as if it is going to be your last writing piece… just like live everyday, as if, it is your last day of living…

  25. jtelusma says:

    Very inspiring Cristian, blessings.

  26. yomicfit says:

    Puts everything in perspective

  27. ribbie says:

    I hope the Jamaica man leaves me a cup of coffee – Blue Mountain Jamaican – now that's the good stuff!

  28. orgoh says:

    Find a reason – forget the excuses! I like it.

  29. kellygrace1 says:

    Thank God for deadlines, they are the only cure for my perfectionism masquerading as procrastination! My new slogan is Passion over Perfection.

    Beautiful blog Cristian.

  30. caliroe says:

    Maybe Gonzo from The Muppets can show up at my door, it would be enough of a shock to get me going and I'm a huge fan! LOL ;)

  31. snoeberry says:

    I don't like — I totally LOVE!

  32. kaleiyahp says:

    I love it when writers surprise me. Especially you. Thanks for sharing :)

  33. Kathie Siler says:

    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!"

  34. eurekascarlet says:

    I like your post dear cristian, very true!

  35. 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 ;-)

  36. Pretty sure I won't be answering my door any time soon!

  37. I kid you not, my doorbell rang as soon I finished this post. Scared me half to death. And now I have to go write!

  38. Trent Lewin says:

    Well said sir. And well meant. These are good words and something for writers to live by.

  39. that's my problem, all my drafts are only beginnings of a story, i never get to the second chapter. any advice for having a writer's block?

  40. bethwarstadt says:

    Cristian,

    Excellent advice. I believe I'll take it to heart.

  41. umashankar says:

    Very allegorical and timely reminder. Many thanks to you!

  42. This reminds me of the novel, "Forever," in which a tall black man grants an Irish man eternal life, as long as he doesn't leave the island of Manhattan.

  43. That's a great way to make the situation more "real". It's easy to ignore cliches we've heard a thousand times. Thanks for posting this sentiment in a different light, great stuff!

  44. Drew says:

    Nice post! I like to imagine my tall Jamaican guy as someone that looks a lot like Brad Pitt with pink sunglasses.

  45. Raunak says:

    no future? I'm just gonna leave my work and have a nice sleep ;)

  46. 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.

  47. nishi01 says:

    All, I can say is thank you!

  48. 최다해 gongjumoni says:

    Thank you for this advice. It is helpful :) I hope I'll be able to write soon

  49. caliroe says:

    :) Gonzo… so sincere, vulnerable, a romantic and a goofball to boot! Who couldn't love him?

  50. I hope you gave your visitor a cup of good coffee – he was obviously your muse

  51. gettlost says:

    Reblogged this on gettlost and commented:
    Writing my story on the world through my life. Love in every moment

  52. bilafond says:

    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 :-)

  53. bilafond says:

    That was exactly my first thought.

  54. 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!

  55. wordsaver says:

    Amazing, You got me ! Aren't You in close connection with that man?

  56. I write absolute garbage when I'm under that kind of pressure…better to relax, I think…

  57. Nice thing to think of. A very creative way to remind about the human potential.

  58. Analogies make truths so much more memorable. Nothing like the veiled metaphorical threat of death to get one motivated to relate a story.

  59. […] The best writing advice I'll ever give you. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  60. My writing is at a standstill so I needed this push – thanks!

  61. asiapasek says:

    Forman's "Amadeus" makes perfect illustration for your point, as long as I remember :) If you haven't seen it yet, try, I think you'll like it!

  62. Nice! I like this a lot. Thanks

  63. […] The best writing advice I’ll ever give you. Share this:FacebookStumbleUponTwitterRedditDiggPinterestPrintEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  64. louisewdub says:

    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!

  65. Why could'nt have been a Jamaican Woman….now that would motivate me…

  66. adsimons says:

    Reblogged this on The Leaking Quill and commented:
    I won't be posting a fun exciting post myself today because I have back to back doctors appointments, so I'll share this fun exciting post by Cristian Mihai instead. Enjoy

  67. nakomertje1360 says:

    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! :)

  68. Nostra says:

    Yeah, that's the way to write. It's also the way to live your life, because you never know how long you've got!

  69. colonialist says:

    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! :)

  70. HAH…very cute, Cristian…and so very true. Seize the moment, eh? Well done…:)

  71. The Author says:

    That's fantastic! Great analogy, thanks for passing along the advice!

  72. NomadSage says:

    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.

  73. Michael_Pohlman says:

    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.

  74. […] best writing advice I’ll ever give you Oct3 by Cristian […]

  75. collatzvitality says:

    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 :)

  76. Michelle says:

    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?

  77. dana mentink says:

    Thanks for the neat blog, Chris. Sometimes the passion does get buried under the business side. Good to be reminded. :)

  78. Thank you for this advice!! This will definitely help me. Hope this will also inspire other writers and aspiring writers out there!

  79. Jennwith2ns says:

    I like them, too! That was awesome. It still, of course, remains to be seen whether I actually act on its awesomeness . . .

  80. Reblogged at my sites on WordPress and OurSalon.

  81. ginac4 says:

    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.

  82. caliroe says:

    Oh Kermit was my first love… (don't let Piggy hear that) but then Gonzo showed up! ;)

  83. Arza Winters says:

    Great post. As Asimov once said, if he only had six months to live, he wouldn't brood. He'd type faster.

  84. sianyshoeshine says:

    Brilliant advice ;)

  85. Cinnia Aine says:

    Reblogged this on Cinnia's World and commented:
    This is a really good analogy for all writers to think about.

  86. It's already written, it's the editing that's killer. *sigh puffing bangs out of eyes*

  87. 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'!

  88. Kim says:

    Excellent motivation……..I like the way you re-framed the concept.

  89. Mary says:

    I totally see this guy being Jamaican for some reason

  90. Ambreen Ali says:

    good piece of advice! I like it, thanks :)

  91. tazeinmirzasaad says:

    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!!

  92. There's something more powerful in not knowing, and the panic motivates you. That's really great advice actually!

  93. ohmyitskye says:

    Great elaboration! Wonderful advice!

  94. tbnranch says:

    Great post! Thanks for this, very helpful indeed

  95. tazeinmirzasaad says:

    Thank you, you have really helped in clarifying my situation!

  96. vmercury says:

    Really great advice in so many words! perfect analogy :)

  97. Yoshiko says:

    Thank you for the advice and encouragement.

  98. Julie says:

    I am the exception to that rule. That is when I would choke.

  99. cherubim97 says:

    Ha, wonderful analogy! True and straightforward. I think I'm going to remember it next time I begin writing a post.

  100. julchar64 says:

    Your wisdom in this post pushed me out of my writer's funk and reminded me of what I already knew: There is no procrastination in the bible. Thank you!

  101. 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.

  102. interopia says:

    I just wrote a complete chapter to my new book based on your advice. Now I have the momentum to finish. Thanks!

  103. 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?

  104. 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

  105. I love this:) Thank you!

  106. blake085 says:

    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.

  107. journeyofjoy says:

    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

  108. Puneet says:

    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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