What My Favorite Author Told Me and Why It’s (Half) Bad Advice

featuredblog-01As someone who writes stories for a living, I spend a good share of my time reading them. These days, my reading time is mostly spent among news articles and opinion pieces so I can sharpen my skills in technical writing and see how personal and technical writing styles have merged thanks to digital spaces like Medium.

Even if most of my stories are current events-based and digital, I still have a few favorite authors and a few favorite titles, going back to the days where all I did was read. Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks were my go-to authors back in the day and I will always love a well-written romance.

These days, I find myself immersed in the stories (short-form, long-form, in-between-form) of Charles Bukowski. A writer that is, well, a bit “rough around the edges.” I always find myself wishing I could write and live in a style he (or perhaps his most notable character Henry Chinaski) did: unashamed, unfiltered, and unafraid.

In that vein, one of the most famous (and possibly falsely attributed) quotations from Bukowski is: “My dear, find what you love and let it kill you.”

Now, that first part. The “find what you love” part. That’s good advice. Going through life and doing something you don’t like just because it pays well or it’s what you think you’re good at isn’t exactly the ideal way of doing things. I’ve always believed that I needed to find something I loved, do it, and do it well. (I think I’ve got that right now.)

But that last part. The “let it kill you” part. That’s not good advice.

I love my job and I love what I do, but I know that some days I need to take time and take care of myself. I need to go get a coffee or grab some lunch. I need to make a phone call to my mom when she’s done with work for the day–which conveniently falls at the time of day where I start to get into a funk. Those conversations with her are some of my favorites and can help me get over that 2:30 lull.

I think part of what’s important to me as a writer is being able to discern the good advice and techniques from the bad advice and techniques in the things that I read. The style that Bukowski uses, the advice to “find what you love;” those are the things I can take and use to make my own writing a little more special. The “letting [what I love] kill [me]” part…yeah, not so much.

Jessica Stapf is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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