In Which You May Avail Yourself of Free Advice On How and Why to Write

Rachel’s Team Pick:

This is not a new thing that I came across on the internet; it in fact dates all the way back to the days of yore, 2010, when we were still innocent of things like “Work It” and Michelle Bachmann on live national television. But it is a thing which brings me visceral delight every time I rediscover it, and perhaps you will feel the same way: This Recording, a publication which I feel a whole rainbow of positive feelings about, collected a massive compendium about the thoughts of many different writers on writing, and it’s truly a thing of beauty. A behemoth of an endeavor, it’s divided into four parts, and features everyone from Joyce Carol Oates to Thomas Pynchon to Gertrude Stein to Langston Hughes (and also my all-time favorite forever James Baldwin). If you care about writing or writers at all, you maybe want to set aside a chunk of your day for this. There are a lot of things in here that make me want to squeal and swoon and call my mom to tell her about, but in honor of the copy of Gravity’s Rainbow that is sitting unfinished at my bedside, here is a bit from Pynchon that I especially like. There are a lot of things we don’t know, but there are also some very smart and talented people who are just waiting to tell us new things, you know?


…This same free advice can also be applied to items of information. Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that the earlier stages of life we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance. Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person’s mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. So as a corollary to writing about what we know, maybe we should add getting familiar with our ignorance, and the possibilities therein for ruining a good story.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Currently squealing and swooning. You weren’t lying though, I’d need to set aside a big chunk of my day and I have a huge test tomorrow. I’m so conflicted lol I think it’ll be a great use of my procrastination time though ^_^

  2. I can’t wait to look at the site! Also, I love that you chose a picture of Shakespeare and Company for this article – that’s the upstairs of the shop in the children’s section. I lived and worked in the shop as a tumbleweed for a few weeks, and I have actually slept on the bench in the photo. I miss it! It’s one of the best places to be a writer.

  3. I’d forgotten all about this! I was dating a writer in 2010, whose mentor suggested this website. We both spent the next day glued to our computers, comparing notes.

    The one who caught me most was Roald Dahl–he ran a greyhound breeding operation and wrote midday. It gave me an entirely unhealthy fantasy about keeping a horse farm and writing…

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