Maya Marshall of Haymarket Books Recommends...

Read widely and attentively. Read interviews and letters from writers.

Find a writing community and keep it until you grow ready for a new writing community.

You are a person who makes things—poems, essays, short stories—but this is not your whole identity. Go do things, outside, with other people.

Writers are vital parts of communities who archive and render legible ideas, events, and exchanges that might otherwise be lost or have only the short life of some piece of gossip.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Just finish it. Writing isn’t finished until someone reads it. Communication is a circuit. You are part of a system (consider mycelium) and your work enters into a long-standing discourse and into the language of current events.

That said, if you’re going to speak, have a sense of what else is being said about the subject and to whom you are speaking and responding. That is of course another way of saying read widely (yes this includes listening to music, viewing visual art, and watching films).

Last but not least: Do what you want. Institutions and complexes are erected around bureaucratic rules of inclusion and exclusion, and there are unwritten rules that seem like commandments, but ultimately your own artistic sensibility and political intervention must be communicated your way, so say it how you want to say it. Of course it helps to know the rules if you’re going to break them, especially when it comes to grammar and punctuation, since the point is not simply for you to hear yourself but for others to hear and understand you.

Maya Marshall, editor, Haymarket Books

Portrait: Sally Blood