Guest contributor: John Lane

Bad Advice Wednesday: Embrace the Dread!

categories: Cocktail Hour


From Dave: On Monday I wrote a couple of sentences on Facebook: “The weather is beautiful and fall-like. And I full of dread.” (I forgot the “am” before dread by mistake, then decided I liked it.)  John Lane, today’s guest poster, suggested I “embrace the dread.” I liked that, both catchier and more moral than “spread the dread.” All humans deal with that unspecified feeling that something unpleasant is looming, but maybe writers, sitting alone with their brains, deal with it a tiny bit more than most. 


Here is John’s not-so-bad advice to me:


Dear David, you write to say you are full of dread. You say dread clings vaguely to the coming publication of your book on Ed Abbey and Wallace Stegner, for which you have recently turned in a final manuscript. Though the weather is pure and fall-like in Wilmington, you sense something looming, something darker than the mere passing of the task of preparing a manuscript for its final submission. I imagine you feel a little like coyote feels with that anvil hanging over the head.

Though it is serious, your dread does not even approach what a few intuitive dinosaurs felt somewhere in what is now North America a little under 65 million years ago as the meteor approached the earth’s orbit, or the dread felt by the last band of Neanderthals to make contact with those skinny, sweet-talking Homo sapien eyeing his mate, or the vague dread a few Incas felt in the Andes as the first Spanish ships moored off the distant coast, or even the dread felt fully by the last horny male great auk in that last barren breeding season.

Your dread is more personal and literary and, therefor, a great subject for personal bad advice. It probably has to do with uncertainty as you sail off into new territory: Big honking New York publisher, new style, less David and more fact, leaning more heavily on research, and the ghosts of two of Nature’s biggest birds of prey looking for mice in the brush below.

Go on through the door in the dark. See what’s on the other side. And get started on something else. Turn that dread into a stream and paddle it. There’s not much you can do about this one now. You will soon nail the last shingle to the roof.

So, Embrace the dread! Even if some anvil falls, climb out from under it, and walk on in search of that damn roadrunner.

  1. George de Gramont writes:

    Really like this one . Original and effective advice . Cannot wait till your book comes out.

  2. Tommy writes:

    I can’t decide if this is just good, bad advice, or a

    And if you want to see what dread really looks like, turn that ultraauthor photo upside-down. Then see the clarity below/behind it. It was always there.

  3. Elizabeth Hilts writes:

    Not-so-bad advice. Poignant. And witty, to boot. Thanks!