In past years, I have often thought about sending a letter to Lemony Snicket. I never did. I couldn’t think of anything to ask specifically. Really, all I wanted though, was some scrap of advice from a writer who is totally comfortable in himself. A writer who is unafraid and yet childlike in honesty and wonder. I really just wanted in his words, whatever he thought was most important for me to know. I have an answer.
Dear Young Writer,
Being a writer is like being a mad scientist, because you must work alone, in a lonely room, stitching together something new out of the parts of old things you’ve found during your secret journeys. For a writer, this means you must spend time eavesdropping on the world, writing down things you see and hear while no one is paying attention to you. This is best done with a notebook, and the first thing you should write down in your notebook is an excuse, so if you are ever caught eavesdropping you will have a good reason why you are standing outside that door, hiding behind that tree, or standing quietly in a room where interesting things are going on, when you have been told to go to bed.
(Quoted on p46 of Karen Benke’s Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing 2010)
Lemony Snicket’s words were recorded in Karen Benke’s book of creative writing prompts and encouragements. His advice does not surprise me one bit, and yet it is so significant and thrilling to hear it put into words by his famous hand. Writers must be toilers, discoverers, wonderers, observers, recorders. These words give me so much to think about. There’s nothing that we can’t do straight away. We can immediately begin to toil, discover, wonder, observe, and record. For some, it will require a change in perspective, but for others it merely requires the will power to begin implementing these qualities. We already have the capacity to work hard and wonder, but let’s just do it. I now make the decision to wonder. I mean to take this advice to heart.