One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now.
Sometimes people say to me, “I want to write, but I have five kids, a full-time job, a wife who beats me, a tremendous debt to my parents,” and so on.
I say to them, “There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes once a week.”
I have never understood why “hard work” is supposed to be pitiable. True, some work is soul destroying when it is done against the grain, but when it is part of “making” how can you grudge it? You get tired, of course, but the struggle, the challenge, the feeling of being extended as you never thought you could be is fulfilling and deeply, deeply satisfying.
Don’t market yourself. Editors and readers don’t know what they want until they see it. Scratch what itches. Write what you need to write, feed the hunger for meaning in your life. Play at the serious questions of life and death.
DONALD M. MURRAY
Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
No one put a gun to your head and ordered you to become a writer. One writes out of his own choice and must be prepared to take the rough spots along the road with a certain equanimity, though allowed some grinding of the teeth.
Nobody ever got started on a career as a writer by exercising good judgment, and no one ever will, either, so the sooner you break the habit of relying on yours, the faster you will advance. People with good judgment weigh the assurance of a comfortable living represented by the mariners’ certificates that declare them masters of all ships, whether steam or sail, and masters of all oceans and all navigable rivers, and do not forsake such work in order to learn English and write books signed Joseph Conrad. People who have had hard lives but somehow found themselves fetched up in executive positions with prosperous West Coast oil firms do not drink and wench themselves out of such comfy billets in order in their middle age to write books as Raymond Chandler; that would be poor judgment. No one on the payroll of a New York newspaper would get drunk and chuck it all to become a free-lance writer, so there was no John O’Hara. When you have at last progressed to the junction that enforces the decision of whether to proceed further, by sending your stuff out, and refusing to remain a wistful urchin too afraid to beg, and you have sent the stuff, it is time to pause and rejoice.
GEORGE V. HIGGINS
Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency . . . to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.