Go Ask Lev #6: Writing, Boston, And Inquiries


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Howz’t Lev…in your opinion, from a non-writer’s perspective,what
constitutes a good writer ?

Cartello A.


Hey Cartello.

A good writer is tough to pin down. Here are some things I like, though.

1. A writer who has an authentic sense of style. You, for example, wrote “howz’t,” which is super cool and unique. That makes you a good writer, but not for me. If I took “howz’t,” I’d be a mimic, and not a great one either.

2. A writer who has a specialty. Mine, for example, is I can write very good dialogue and am pretty good at parsing emotions and thoughts. That’s a lot, and it’s awesome. But I’m much weaker at pacing, structure, description and more. Generally, I enjoy writers who do something well, and aim for that.

3. This is about the writing, and not the writer, but something written with thrill. If it’s written without heart, it shows. Anybody who writes a bland, beige assignment out of obligation is blah. Anything written by an excited author is much more likely to hit.

4. Write something honest! For God’s sake, be honest. Writing isn’t copying some dusty prose you saw in school. It’s not homework; it’s communication, thrill, and creation. Find those.

5. If there are shortcuts (a guy drinking whiskey, a beautiful woman who’s only job is to be beautiful) it’s weak. Be specific and thorough. Don’t write a dumb jock who pushes a nerd Write about a jock on scholarship who’s smarter than he’s given credit for and is raised by a single father but it’s actually a really good single father, because that’s interesting. Maybe the jock is still kind of a jerk, but maybe the nerd is too; or maybe not, whatever. And what about the nerd? What’s his life story? What does he look like? What lead up to the push, and what comes after?

Make your writing simple and complicated, like life.

6. Edit, but not obsessively.

7. Above all, keep writing. Failure sharpens you up. Keep pushing forward with your joy and ideas.


Hi Lev,

I’m from California and visiting Boston for the first time. What should I know?

-Caroline H.


Hi Caroline,

Welcome to Boston!

While I’m no expert, I know some things. Here, then, are some things to know as a visitor.

First, if you’re not used to leaving your enclave of California, know that it’s cold. Real cold, not the cutesy, 58 degree nights you shiver through. With windchill, it’s often in the negatives. So, layer! Leggings under pants may help, too. The more prepared you are, the happier you’ll be. We can’t promise warm weather here until May.

Next: our city is poorly dressed, closes early, and can be annoyingly small. That’s it. Those are the downsides.

Here is what rules and drools, for a visitor.


*Fenway Park. When the weather is good at the Sox are playing, the atmosphere around it is almost as good as going in.

*The North End for Italian Food, but go early or not on a weekend night.

*Harvard Square is cool for hanging out, and you can check out the campus. They also have a bar in the basement of Tasty Burger I highly recommend for chilling, drinking and the latest food in the city.

*Davis Square in Somerville is weirdly cool, as is Alston. Keep an eye or an ear towards things happening there.

*An MIT party, if that’s age appropriate. It’s the best kept secret is that these guys are very friendly, very interesting, and often the exact right temperature of nuts and hospitable necessary for a good party.

*Bartley’s Burgers, Mike’s Pastry, The Aquarium, the ICA.


*Driving. Avoid it. Uber or the T.

*Anything too fancy. Boston, as a rule, doesn’t dress up. Anything too nice is stuffy and off-putting, and likely inauthentic.

*Clubbing. The best nightlife, in my opinion, is drinking in cool-enough, nice-enough bars around town. If there’s a line, it’s not worth your time.

*Being overly impressed with Harvard. It’s a nice campus, some cool kids, but that’s true of many schools. Enjoy the history and the sights, but don’t get sold on the meritocratic myth of their unique excellence.

*Starting sports arguments. For God’s sake, don’t wear Lakers gear here. Or a Yankees hat. We don’t joke with sports. We’re not playful here. Problems will emerge.

*The museum of science is way worse than I remember.

Have fun!



Need advice? Asking something? Always wondered about xyz? Holler below, or at GoAskLev@Gmail.com

I’ve got you.