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Aimee's Blog

A Writer’s Best Advice

Someone once asked me, “What is the best writing advice you ever received?” All the usual bits we hear over and over came to mind:

  • Write every day
  • Show don’t tell
  • Avoid weak verbs
  • Use the active tense not the passive tense
  • Make every word count

I’m sure you know all of these by heart as well as I do. But the last time I heard this question, something else came to mind. It was in fact what I consider to be, not so much to be the best writing advice I have ever received, but the best advice I have ever received, period! I just need to apply it to my writer’s life. This piece of advice came from my grandmother when I was fourteen and she was ninety.

I didn’t see my grandmother often. We lived in Northern California among the redwoods, eight hundred miles away from her home in sun-baked San Bernardino. Though I saw her only at family reunions, I knew my grandmother to be a remarkable woman.

A product of her generation she grew up on a farm where she worked hard all through her childhood. As a young woman she taught school in a one-room schoolhouse. I have a picture of her at age twenty with her class of eighteen students ranging from very young children to teenagers. Not long after that photograph was taken, she married a farmer and had one child before her husband ran off. A practical woman in need, she married the farm hand and together they produced six more children. My grandmother survived three of those children. Two she lost to diabetes and one to drunk driving. In the last decade of her life she moved into the spacious home of her youngest child. My grandmother died when she was two days short of ninety-eight years old. I remember how she loved to make fruit pies and go shopping for new shoes. Toward the end of her life she suffered from a variety of ailments, not the least of which was very painful arthritis in her feet.

This is the advice she gave me: “Every day get up and do the things you have to do. It doesn’t matter how you feel. The worst thing you can do is stay in bed.”

When I consider how she must have felt many of the mornings of her life and consider this for a moment – farm life isn’t easy, being deserted by your husband isn’t easy, morning sickness isn’t easy, raising seven children is even harder, outliving your children is devastating – and with arthritis in your feet, well who would even want to get out of bed! When I consider all of that and compare it to my own comfortable life, her advice to me becomes profound.

People used to marvel at how active she was for her age. What she shared with me was her secret to successful living. She wasn’t a bitter, unhappy person. She liked to do things, make things, get out of the house, go shoe shopping.

I work a full-time job and have family obligations. The weeds overtake my yard. The bills overtake my desk. The laundry overtakes the house. I have too much to do and too little time to do it in, and I blame it on modern life. But let’s be honest - life has always been that way.

So remembering my grandmother’s words to me, every day I get up and do the things I hve to do. I take care of the people I love. I try to keep the house reasonably livable and I write – because it is one of the things I need to do. It absolutely does not matter how I feel because I know that the worst thing I can do is stay in bed.

Thanks Granny May.