Prozac Nation scribe and poster girl for Gen-X malaise Elizabeth Wurtzel took to Reddit yesterday to participate in the popular Ask Me Anything thread, where she answered questions about things ranging from what music she’s currently listening to, her opinions about the film adaptation of her first memoir, and her current job as a lawyer. But what stands out are the four pieces of advice she gives about being young in New York and making the attempt to become a writer.
On being a young woman in New York: I think it is important to have a plan. I am 46 and not married, and I am happy, but I don’t recommend this. My life is this way because I am pretty crazy and very intense, which is not good for marriage and family, but I think that is mostly what works. I also think having a career that is on track is what works. Having an orderly life is a good thing. In truth, my life is quite orderly in its way. I work very hard at writing, and I am a devoted friend, and when I am in a relationship, I am a devoted girlfriend. It is shocking how much time I spend with my crazy mother. And I have a dog, which is a huge responsibility. But I am carefree compared to people with families. And I think that weight probably feels good. In any case, I would say at 25, you should figure out what it is you want out of life in the long run, and make plans to make it happen. In terms of men, it is a great time to be fucking around and having a lot of fun, but I would start thinking about what looks good for the long run. I am really glad that I was incredibly promiscuous when I was 25. I am also really glad I did a lot of writing. I am really glad that I eventually turned 30.
On being a young writer: Being a writer is extremely hard. This has always been true. It was true for Chaucer. It was true for Shakespeare, who wrote plays to please the queen. No one cares if you write. It has to matter to you so enormously much that you visit your ego upon the world and give it no choice except to care. I agree that this is harder now, not just because there are all these outlets that don’t pay, but also because there are ALL THESE OUTLETS. Because of the Internet, there is too much content and not enough audience. It is so hard to distinguish oneself. Here is the trick, I think: You have to be brave as a writer. You have to write in a pure voice that is distinct and rare. It really is not hard. That does not require facility with words so much as it requires lack of fear. Of course, that is hard. Fear is the thing that gets in the way of everything: love, happiness, success.
On her “best piece of life advice”: Don’t worry. Don’t worry about anything. It doesn’t help. I have spent a lot of time believing that I could control the outcome of events by worrying about them. I think that is what therapists call magical thinking. But your thoughts don’t make a difference. All that matters is what you do. So I would say my best advice is do the best you can and assume the result will be good. I wish I had been enjoying myself all the times I was anxious and not.
On dealing with writer’s block: Writing is really difficult. I always say it is the hardest thing to do sitting down. I have to force myself to do it. I have found the Notes app on my iPhone to be a boon, because I write a lot of little things down when I am on the subway. Over time, they add up. But there is no substitute for just sitting in front of your computer and forcing yourself to write any old anything until something happens that is good. I really treat it like a job, because it is. If I waited to be inspired, nothing would ever happen, and usually inspiration comes by sitting there and forcing myself to work.