Advice from Junot Diaz, Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Published Monday, February 16, 2009 5:33 PM

I had the privilege of attending a Q&A with author Junot Diaz today in the FSU English Department Common Room. It was a small intimate setting with only a few undergrads and mostly graduate students and professors. I thought I would pass along some of the advice he had for how to be successful in the art of writing.

He focused on the idea that you had to learn to use and listen to your subconscious which is far more capable of producing good work than you are. He wanted to be clear that he didn't think of this as any kind of mystical voodoo and that he did not want to down play the intellectual side of writing. His purpose was to insist on getting in touch and developing a relationship with your subconscious as a real and necessary task.  He compared it to a jockey and a horse in that a jockey never truly has control over the insanely powerful horse. The jockey's job is to develop a relationship with the horse, to get to know it, and to understand who to ride something that is ultimately out of their control and capable of killing them. In writing, you must know yourself and your subconscious to be honest. He said that as a writer you are commenting on the human condition, but how can you comment in a valuable way if you haven't broken down the myths you have about yourself and truly analyzed who you are and continue to conduct that analysis regularly. This may be a frightening thought but he considers it absolutely vital to be able to ride your subconscious.

He also said that it is vital to always keep in mind who your audience is and that you can learn a lot about writing from the real story tellers in everyday life, those people who can walk into a room and capture everyone's attention with what happened to them on the way to work. This is something that I've tried to do in the past and also recommend to anyone that wants to know how to tell a story.

Until next time, I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished writer.

by DMI
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