A few months ago, Zach and I saw Michael Chabon speak at Barnes and Noble, where he provided us with this one:
Zach: Any advice to young writers just starting out?
Michael Chabon: (shrugging) Be good.
Well, I just finished rereading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and in the back there is a little essay that Chabon wrote, talking about his motivation to write the piece, which he began after undergrad, after moving home to California from Pittsburgh, and all before he turned 22 years old.
While he can do no wrong in my eyes, and the entire thing is invaluable by my standards, there is one, *ahem* gem that stands out above the rest. He was discussing how the literature that he enjoyed most to read was genre and science fiction, but he didn't want to actually write it. He knew that trying to be literary would require him to do something a little more spectacular to make himself stand out. Or, in his words:
"If my subject matter couldn't do it -- if I wasn't writing about people who sailed through neutron stars or harnessed suns together -- then it was going to fall to my sentences themselves to open up the heads of my readers and decant into them enough crackling plasma to light up their eye sockets for a week."