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Advice to the Next Generation

Note: The following essay appears in Take My Advice : Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two by James L. Harmon (Editor). Over the past 10 years, Mr. Harmon has queried hundreds of social thinkers, academics, poets, artists and more--and has published the responses.

Advice? The only good advice is the one you give to yourself, too late; that is, from the vantage of years, you look back on who you were and you wish you had been able to have a blunt talk with yourself that would have helped you avoid what you regret, events that pursue you in judgment, times when you may have added to the world's overload of unkindness, of cruelty. But then, without having gone through those turbulences, you wouldn't be the person who would be able to look back like that. So: Advice? Somewhat worthless, finally.


If you're creative, don't squander your talent. It's the blessing of blessings, the one substitute for salvation. If you're a writer, remember that what is written--or painted, or filmed, or composed, etc.--is all that never changes, never dies--if one is lucky enough to get one's work published, filmed, composed. In literature, Catherine and Heathcliff will forever search each other; Buck Mulligan will forever be coming down a stairway to greet Stephen Daedalus, and Molly Bloom will forever be ruminating in bed. That, then, is the only way to stop time. This, too: Not advice, but observations based on one's own view: One should live like the star of one's life, and lead one's life as if it were a grand novel--a grand film. I'll stick to the imagery of film for ready references and examples . Many people live their lives as if they are featured players in others' stories, others surrender to being supporting actors, actresses; still others disappear into the crowds as bit players, many become only walkons in others’ lives. Some, alas, act like “extras.” 

Be the star.

Always look as if you're going to be photographed; dress consistent with your starring role--self-conscious elegance, self-conscious disarray, depending on the context. Always be conscious of yourself. Talk like the star of your life, give yourself quotable dialogue; walk like the star of your life, turning action into choreography. Never put yourself down--others are too eager to. Praise yourself deservedly, but make certain you deserve the praise.
Don't listen to advice. Except this: Don't add to the vast cruelty in the world. And: Be creative.

John Rechy
Los Angeles, California
June 2002

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Original material by John Rechy appears frequently on these pages.

New Feature  John Rechy has conducted creative writing courses as guest author at Occidental College and UCLA. He currently teaches in the Masters in Professional Writing Program at USC and also holds private workshops for professional-level writers. He has lectured on writing and other subjects at Harvard, Yale, and Duke Universities. From time to time, he will contribute short essays on writing. Click here to view the first on the "Terrible Three Rules" that are capable of doing terrible damage to good writing.

© John Rechy, 1999-2006. All rights reserved.
Original material may not be used without author's permission. 
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