The need to listen: Four Questions with G. Wayne Miller

G, Wayne Miller

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a writer?

Listen. Meaning several things:

First, in non-fiction, let the subject speak, putting yourself on the sidelines until absolutely necessary (I still struggle with this). Second, whether non-fiction or fiction, listen to a good editor or someone else you respect who will read drafts and give an honest critique. Third, listen to your characters; real-life or fictional, they will guide you as you write and rewrite. And a few more lessons, if I may: feel for others, get up early, write every day, fail, and never stop.

What has been the biggest surprise of your writing life?

How it has brought me to so many actual and imagined people and places, in the process opening the doors to storytelling forms including journalism, fiction, filmmaking, podcasting, screenwriting and screen production. Writing is at the heart – is the start — of them all.

If you had to choose a metaphor to describe yourself as a writer, what would it be?

Wow, wonderful question! Never been asked this or even contemplated it beyond the tired old “ink-stained wretch,” which frankly I never really bought.

I thought first of some sort of bird, and then a mirror, and then a small little river, probably in Maine, that meanders from a spring in a foothills through woods and past villages, reflecting what it passes on its way to the sea.

But I’ll go with a camera, one you can bring with you into a dream.

What’s the single best piece of writing advice anyone ever gave you?

I heard this first from Joel Rawson, former editor of The Providence Journal) actually, although others before him (Faulkner, Stephen King, etc.) also have said it is great advice:
Kill your darlings.
And it IS the best advice. I still struggle with it!

G. Wayne Miller is a Providence Journal staff writer, filmmaker, screenwriter, podcaster, visiting fellow at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, and co-host and co-producer of the Telly Award-winning weekly national PBS TV and SiriusXM Satellite Radio show “Story in the Public Square.” He is the author of 10 books of non-fiction, five novels and three short-story collections. His latest novel, “Blue Hill,” was published in October. He is also the author of “Kid Number One: A story of heart, soul and business, featuring Alan Hassenfeld and Hasbro.” Visit him at or

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