Throw Away the [Writing] Scale

“Throw away the scale. There is no scale, there is only your story. Listen to the story you are trying to tell, that unconscious combination of imagination and memory and feeling, and trust it. Concentrate on expressing that as clearly as you can, concentrate on finding the language for it, but above all don’t second-guess it. It’s your true north. Because here’s the great thing about novels and writing and creating anything: Nobody else can possibly write the book you’re writing. It is yours, singular, and the more clearly it is expressed the more alive its singularity will be. If you want to be ruthless, be ruthless about clarity, be ruthless about trusting yourself, be ruthless about finding generosity for your characters, but most of all be ruthless about ignoring the inner demon that keeps telling you you’ll never be as good as Eudora Welty or Zadie Smith or David Mitchell or James Baldwin or whoever, that your novel will never be better than an 8. That inner demon is full of fear, and fear, if anything, is what reduces a novel and sterilizes its language. Fear, in writing, is a self-fulfilling prophesy. So banish it, banish the whole scale, and trust your own dark bouquet of inspiration. Thank God you’re not those other writers. We already have their books, but we don’t have yours, and I am of the mind that the world is almost always made better by more books.”

—Ted Thompson


  • Reply October 6, 2014


    I’m mildly disappointed that this blog post is not your manuscript, because I am impatient and want to read. Also, by “mildly” I mean “extremely.” Also I want to frame this.

  • this is SO good…especially “Nobody else can possibly write the book you’re writing.” this felt like a huge surge of “HELLL YEAAAH THAT’S RIGHT! BOOM! LET’S DO THIS!” and that’s a good thing.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Taylor Yates

    I feel that this really speaks to me in term of blogging! It is so easy to be fearful to hit “publish” because you’re not certain your work is a 10/10. Some days, you have to just go for it. I’m starting slowly to figure that out. “We already have their books, but we don’t have yours…” Love it.


  • Reply October 7, 2014


    ugh. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO WISE? I mean, i know you didn’t write this BUUUUT, you were smart enough to find it and post it and be like, CONVICT YOU WOMAN.

    i have to go type a whole bunch of words. ok. thanks. bye.

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