Writers talking about writing is usually a 50/50 deal. Either their words are powerful and shed new light on an act we thought was so simple, or else it's so sterile and heartless that you're reminded how terrible learning how to write can be. The good news is when it's good it's great and probably better beyond that. Some writers have inspired generations with their words of wisdom and vulnerable introspections about their writing journey. One such person — who is presumably far from the end of her journey — is Tavi Gevinson.
Tavi Gevinson is the 20-year-old founder and editor-in-chief of online Rookie Magazine, a site for teenage girls that tackles a wide range of subject matters, including feminism, fashion, art, pop culture, and social issues. Gevinson is the kind of person that is easy to look up to and hard to understand. She is layers upon layers of brilliance built upon the foundation of a keen, curious, compassionate mind. The advice she's shared on writing throughout her career is both thoughtful and honest in that she never paints her methods or ideologies as absolute or aspirational. It just is what it is to Tavi.
I recently wrote about her an article that may seem antithetical at best and hypocritical at worst to this current piece. In it, I discuss the fine line between taking advice from people you like up to and adopting the traits of other people to mimic someone else. It's certainly not necessary to read the entire piece to get this idea, but it is important to take any advice with a grain of salt. What works well for other people may not work well for you and that's OK. Don't beat yourself up if you're not a super disciplined writer who can wake up at four in the morning to work on your craft.
We each have our own best practices and often all it takes is patience, hard work, and a commitment to spending time with yourself to figure them out. That doesn't mean, of course, that we can't use the advice of other people as brainstorming food for things that may help us to work well and succeed. And if you're going to take advice, there are few better people than Tavi to take it from.
Below are five pieces of advice from Tavi on how to help yourself as a writer.
1. "When it comes to creating art, remove responsibility in a way, not as an excuse to be lazy, but so that you can fail and be fine and keep editing. Make whatever is in you and be okay with it for what it is. Take some of that pressure off yourself...that helps me a lot. It’s all trial and error, and everyone is entitled to making cheesy art or writing bad poetry. Chill out and be nice to yourself; that’s generally my blanket of advice for anyone.”
- Tavi Gevinson, Refinery29
2. "When you work online, staying on the Internet more than you need to feels like being at the office after hours.
As for the darker corners, you can’t survive on the Internet without a really strong filter; there’s no need to seek out something that will make you unhappy.
Life is difficult enough. It’s like trying to maintain a relationship with an ex who is actually just a shit person. You just don’t need to."
— Tavi Gevinson, RedOnline
3."I never even thought twice about writing in that more informal way, because it felt like the greatest achievement wouldn’t be to make something well composed, but to make something that would bridge the gaps between my heart, my brain and what I’m writing. To make that circuit as much as possible."
— Tavi Gevinson, RedOnline
4. "The moment I let myself get overwhelmed, it all becomes more stressful. It helps to ask, ‘What’s the worst thing that happens if I don’t answer this email?’"
— Tavi Gevinson, FastCompany
5."Hm. I feel like my writing is littered with mistakes and I've often, around 3 a.m., tried to fix them, but always end up feeling a) paranoid and stupid and self-centered, and b) sympathetic to younger me, because how could I have known, or how could I have gotten here now without those mistakes."
— Tavi Gevinson, Elle