QUOTE OF THE DAY
Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.
CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN
Figuring out what the public wants, or even what the public is: that's the job of pollsters and publicists and advertisers. All those people study the marketplace. But the creative artist can change the world. A true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work.
Rules [for writing] are excellent organizational tools and efficient reducers of cognitive load, but they are no substitute for contextual sensitivity and personal judgment.
Try to be original in your play and as clever as possible; but don't be afraid to show yourself to be foolish; we must have freedom of thinking, and only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.
One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.
The process of writing is a process of inner expansion and reduction. It’s like an accordion: You open it and then you bring it back, hoping that additional sound—a new clarity—may come out. It’s all for clarity.
I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or nonpolitical, that doesn’t have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many men are born upright.
You must get beyond divertissement, sketch, anecdote, the interesting moment. You must get to the mystery of human personality. What is the line of the story that leads us to a point where we see or intuit something we haven't before?
If you want to write, it must be the thing not that you want to do, or would like to do. It must be the thing you feel you have to do. It must be that without which you could not live. If you’ve got that, then it’ll be all right.
1. The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.
2. Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.
3. If there is no possibility for change in a character, we have no interest in him.
4. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you.
5. The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where the human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal through the senses with abstractions.
6. The fiction writer has to engage in a continual examination of conscience. He has to be aware of the freak in himself.
7. The writer is only free when he can tell the reader to go jump in the lake. You want, of course, to get what you have to show across to him, but whether he likes it or not is no concern of the writer.
8. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don't sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won't be sitting there.
9. The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
10. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.
The great thing about writing a book is that it brings you into contact with people whose opinions you should have canvassed before you ever pressed pen to paper. They write to you. They telephone you. They come to your bookstore events and give you things to read that you should have read already. It’s this dialectical process that makes me glad I chose the profession I did: a free education that goes on for a lifetime.
Writers write because they cannot allow the characters that inhabit them to suffocate them. These characters want to get out, to breathe fresh air and partake of the wine of friendship; were they to remain locked in, they would forcibly break down the walls. It is they who force the writer to tell their stories.
It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.
Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion.
What better way of avoiding work than going to a workshop? But what I hate even worse is the word support. Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed. It's nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.
At the beginning, I have next to nothing: an image, a situation, maybe a phrase. Characters come into being word by word. If a finished character is an edifice, an unwritten character is very nearly a vacuum.
If you start to edit as you write, you are climbing into your “editor” self, the self that reads. You’ve done plenty of reading, you don’t need practice right now. Just write.
The hardest thing about writing, in a sense, is not writing. I mean, the sentence is not intended to show you off, you know. It is not supposed to be “look at me!” “Look, no hands!” It’s supposed to be a pipeline between the reader and you. One condition of the sentence is to write so well that no one notices that you’re writing.
I don’t like to throw characters into a plot as though it were a raging torrent where they are swept along. What interests me are the complications and nuances of character. Few of my characters are described externally; we see them from the inside out.