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Here's my advice for new writers: tell the truth

Riff Raff man in hoodie

When writers ask me for one piece of advice I always say the same thing: tell the truth.

Write a lot. Read a lot. Talk to everyone and ask about their story but know when to shut up and listen. Don’t delete anything and don’t be scared. Jot down notes on anything to hand. But for god’s sake, more than all of the above, learn to tell the truth.

You hear a lot about it, this truth-telling, this search for authenticity – especially when people start yapping on about the ‘creative process’, which is simply the wanky conceptual cousin of truth-telling. Before you can speak your truth you have to find it, which is also known as ‘finding yourself’ – the siren call to Generation Gap Year to flock to Fiji and Thailand just in case their authentic selves had washed up there. Truth isn’t waiting to be found; the truth is looking at its watch and stirring tea whilst it waits for you to grow a pair and expose it.

This is how to tell the truth as a writer.

Write what happened, not a re-enactment of events in a way that you think makes sense. Life is weird and it doesn’t make sense, so write it as you see it.

Write what you felt, not a socially palatable affectation.

If you’re a girl who met a girl and instantly disliked her, say so. Girls are allowed to dislike each other, the feministas won’t come for you in your sleep. Not all of them, anyway. If you were bored during sex, say so; if you transmogrified into an animal during sex, say that. If you stood at the top of the water slide and felt terror in your marrow then don’t say you felt scared – that’s the easy way out, and it isn’t the truth. and it’s really fucking boring.

Write people as you find them. Don’t dumb them down, smarten them up or paint them according to your own desires.

Don’t lie because you think it will be more imaginative than the truth – lies tend to be half-baked, hackneyed, rooted in thin air and tinged with hysteria. That's not enjoyable to read.

Don't lie because you regret your choices and you think you’ll feel better if you make others regret theirs (you won’t). Don’t lie to make people like you. If you want to be loved, buy a dog.