Lauren Graham's 6 Pieces Of Advice For Aspiring Writers Make For A Can't-Miss Pep Talk

“I did not have the confidence, I just had drive."

You may love Lauren Graham from the roles she brought to life on TV shows such as Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, but there's just as much to love about her as a writer. The New York Times best-selling author, in conversation with Mae Whitman at 92Y in New York City earlier this week, offered up some advice for aspiring writers, and it's necessary reading for all of us.

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While much of the conversation centered on TV — after all, Graham and Whitman played mother and daughter on Parenthood — we were there to hear about Graham's new project. This book, In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It, is Graham's third and is drawn from the 2017 commencement speech she gave at her hometown high school.

If the idea of this book isn't enough inspiration for you, Whitman picked Graham's brain for some important life lessons for all the up-and-coming writers out there, things they should take to heart on their journey. 

Here are just a few highlights from the chat between the two:

Photo Credit: Gianna M. Bertoli / Michael Priest Photography

Having a good reason to start writing helps.

When it comes to why she decided to pursue her career as a writer, Graham said it all started as "a real desire to be in charge of my own story," something that "just evolved out of years and years of being an actor and having a relationship to the material."

Both Parenthood and Gilmore Girls were "wonderful material to work with," Graham noted, but she now finds herself reading scripts "almost in opposition to them" and wishing her characters would say something different or do something different.

"When you've had two good TV shows, it's really hard to find a third, so [writing] gives me some creative outlet and it gives me a way to express myself while I try to find whatever the next acting job is," Graham said, with Whitman adding that it's great that people have the opportunity to create things for yourself and tell your own stories.

There’s always space for positive stories.

Graham said she bounces all her ideas off Whitman, joking that what they consider cool isn't always in vogue — such as romantic comedies and things that are "something soothing as an antidote to what is so unsoothing right now in the world." These days, Graham wants "happy, positive stories" and fewer stressful TV shows, recalling her time on Gilmore Girls and calling it "a shame" how people discount stories like that as just "for girls" or "for teens."

"The thing about Gilmore Girls that I still found, even when we did the second time around, people would underestimate how powerful the happiness of it was and how much people responded to it partially because of that," Graham explained, giving credit to creator Amy Sherman-Palladino for making it. "It's a happy world, it's a happy relationship. Yes, there are challenges but … it's a safe world. I think that kind of positivity is why the show has stuck around."

Photo Credit: Gianna M. Bertoli / Michael Priest Photography

Finding your voice as an author takes time.

Writing fiction and dialogue (like with Someday, Someday, Maybe) allows Graham to play all the characters and not be stuck playing just one of them. And, for essays (like with Talking As Fast As I Can), she tried to write in her most authentic voice. This shows that finding your voice as a writer is something that really has to adapt for the type of project you're working on. 

"Finding your author voice is an ever-evolving thing," Graham told the audience, letting aspiring writers know that you don't always have to start out as someone who knows everything and has all the right answers. You can — and should — find yourself along the way.

Multitasking can be a good thing.

Having two projects to work on at the same time doesn't have to be overwhelming. In fact, Graham said it's almost the exact opposite. Sure, there's a bit of stress because you have a lot on your plate, but being able to jump between projects can actually be quite freeing.

"One thing that's fun about working on more than one thing at a time is if you get tired of yourself in one vein, you can go somewhere else," Graham explained, noting that if you hit a wall creatively with one project you can work on the other. "I actually find that really helpful."

As for whether or not these one project can have an influence on the other and vice versa, that answer is more of a yes-and-no situation.

Photo Credit: Gianna M. Bertoli / Michael Priest Photography

Drive is more important than confidence.

When one person asked Graham how she got the confidence to start writing as an actress, her answer was a bit surprising but also very inspiring to many who might feel similarly.

"Honestly, almost nothing I've ever done did I have the confidence to do," Graham answered, saying she just ignores it and felt as if these emotions might be robbing her of trying new things. After all, who cares if you stumble because "maybe I'll learn, maybe I'll get better."

"I did not have the confidence, I just had drive," Graham continued. "If you wait for your self-esteem to catch up, you might be waiting a long time. The more I'm talking myself out of something the more I just need to shut that off, write some pages, and get to work."

Don't be afraid to look for feedback or help.

Just because you may think you know everything doesn't actually mean you do, and that's something Graham has had to learn. While she admits to having a "real aversion" to the idea of asking for feedback or help, stemming from being a very independent only child, her time as a writer has been all about challenging that and learning as much as possible.

"As a writer, I have gotten so much from the people I admire, from mentors, from guides, from teachers," Graham said. "People have so much to share and there's so many people who are older, better, more experienced, and now I'm a junkie for just picking somebody's brain. It helps keep you always learning and growing. So don't be afraid to ask for help."

Watch the full talk at 92Y here:

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