Write Like Everyone is Dead


Author Joe R. Lansdale in an interview commented on the key to his success:

“I write like everyone I know is dead.”

My favorite writing advice to date. Lansdale taps into the problem every writer faces. A disease every word-slinger encounters before ever vomiting a word or sentence on the page.


A fear of what people might think of our latest masterpiece (or lack thereof).

So instead of living in fear of audience expectation take them out of the equation. Write them out of the story before you begin.

Kill them off.

Imagine being able to write free of audience feedback and fear of another bad review. What if we could banish that nagging feeling someone will burst into our writing room and arrest us for being a phony?

Never happened on record but that’s the movie we play in our heads. Kill these imaginary audiences of friend, neighbor, high school girlfriend, coworker, college roommate, and mom (don’t kill your mother, this is only analogy).

Make them take a long walk off a short pier.

Not only would it make for a great novel or film. It’ll keep you sane in the hard days. When writing feels more like work and weak on play.

Lansdale’s advice is spot on for another reason. Killing off our audience before we begin is what kid’s do. It’s how we wrote before adulthood and writing became serious.

When you wrote stories as a kid, you didn’t care who was in the room, or what they thought. In your little mind people didn’t exist beyond parents, siblings, and a couple schoolmates. You wrote for the joy of it. The fun. Your little kid writing fire burned for one audience and one audience only.


Write like everyone’s dead. Write like you’ll be the only one to read your story. Write the story you would want to read. Do that.

Does this mean we never care about feedback or audience expectation? That comes later. A lot later.

After everyone is dead and you’re able to write free. Write like a kid with his first typewriter and a planet with only one inhabitant. You.

You can hear the entire Joe R. Lansdale interview here. I recommend it, a lot of gems.

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