Bad Advice Wednesday: Wally Stegner Chimes In

categories: bad advice / Cocktail Hour

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steg-portraitI don’t know of any better bad advice for writers, and humans, than what follows, from an interview in the middle of On Teaching and Writing Fiction by WS (edited by Lynn Stegner):


Most artists are flawed; but they probably ought to make the effort not to be. But how do you teach people to enlarge themselves in order to enlarge their writing? It is a little like asking them to “commit experience” for literary purposes.


Largeness is a lifelong matter–sometimes a conscious goal, sometimes not. You enlarge yourself because that is the kind of individual you are. You grow because you are not content not to. You are like a beaver that chews constantly because if it doesn’t, its teeth grow long and lock. You grow because you are a grower; you’re large because you can’t stand to be small.


If you are a grower and writer as well, your writing should get better and larger and wiser. But how you teach that, the Lord knows.

I guess you can suggest the ideal of it, the notion that is is a good thing to be large and magnanimous and wise, that it is a better aim in life than pleasure or money or fame. By comparison, it seems to me, pleasure and money, and probably fame as well, are contemptible goals.


I would go so far as to say that to a class. but not all the class would believe me.



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