The biggest thing I would say to my younger self were to have a time machine and go backward is: You have to have absolute humility about what you’re doing. You have to somehow know that you are capable of enormous idiocies and mistakes and yet not lose your self-confidence in what you’re doing. It’s a difficult line to walk because I know that writer’s block comes almost always from self-doubt. At the same time you have to know that this is a life-long learning process and you’re going to find yourself every 10 years looking back on what you wrote 10 years ago and feeling appalled by it. And that’s good; it means you’re learning and growing.
The trouble with Twitter isn’t that it’s full of inanity and self-promoting jerks. The trouble is that it’s a solution to a problem that shouldn’t be solved. Eighty percent of the battle of writing involves keeping yourself in that cave: waiting out the loneliness and opacity and emptiness and frustration and bad sentences and dead ends and despair until the damn thing resolves into words. That kind of patience, a steady turning away from everything but the mind and the topic at hand, can only be accomplished by cultivating the habit of attention and a tolerance for solitude.