World Building: Vonnegut’s Advice to Writers

Vonnegut’s Advice in Tacoma

In 1986 or so I attended a lecture given by Kurt Vonnegut at Pacific Lutheran University. It was a “Creative Writing” conference, and he was the keynote speaker. After an hour of ranting about Ronald Reagan, he paused, took a drink of water, and said, “Well, I guess I should say something about writing now, since this is an English major conference. So I’ll give you two pieces of advice. First of all, if you want to be a creative writer, don’ t be an English major. English majors learn too much taste, and once you learn to be tasteful, you can’t be creative. I was a Chemistry major.

“The other thing is this: Go ahead and write your story, then throw away the first pages, because that’s when you explain everything. And when you explain everything, no one gives a damn any more.”

Loved that guy. I could see the professors in the room forcing smiles on their rebellious faces.

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