QUOTE OF THE DAY
A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.
URSULA LE GUIN
Write every day. Don't ever stop. If you are unpublished, enjoy the act of writing—and if you are published, keep enjoying the act of writing. Don't become self-satisfied, don't stop moving ahead, growing, making it new. The stakes are high. Why else would we write?
My experience with trying to help people to write has been limited but extremely intensive. I have done everything from giving would-be writers money to live on to plotting and rewriting their stories for them, and so far I have found it all to be a waste. The people whom God or nature intended to be writers find their own answers, and those who have to ask are impossible to help. They are merely people who want to be writers.
You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.
Somewhere in his journals Dostoyevsky remarks that a writer can begin anywhere, at the most commonplace thing, scratch around in it long enough, pray and dig away long enough, and lo! soon he will hit upon the marvelous.
Have adventures. The Hemingway mode was in ascendancy for decades before it was eclipsed by trendy fabulist “exercises.” The pendulum is swinging back, though, and it’s going to knock these effete eggheads right out of their Aeron chairs. Keep ahead of the curve. Get out and see the world. It’s not going to kill you to butch it up a tad. Book passage on a tramp steamer. Rustle up some dysentery; it’s worth it for the fever dreams alone. Lose a kidney in a knife fight. You’ll be glad you did.
Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to Google the country where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from, and to arrange sticky notes on your dog in the shape of hilarious dog shorts. A wicked temptress beckoning you to watch your children, and take showers. Well, it’s time to look procrastination in the eye and tell that seafaring wench, “Sorry not today, today I write.”
Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
The advantage of reading widely, as opposed to trying to formulate a series of general rules, is that we learn there are no general rules, only individual examples to help point you in a direction in which you might want to go.
Literature is not high school and it’s not actually necessary to know what everyone around you is wearing, in terms of style, and being influenced by people who are being published in this very moment is going to make you look just like them, which is probably not a good long-term goal for being yourself or making a meaningful contribution. At any point in history there is a great tide of writers of similar tone, they wash in, they wash out, the strange starfish stay behind, and the conches. Check out the bestseller list for April 1937 or August 1978 if you don’t believe me.
It's hard to explain how much one can love writing. If people knew how happy it can make you, we would all be writing all the time. It's the greatest secret of the world.
What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips’s new album is ravishing and I’ve listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, nor who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say.
You want to write about people you care about. You can dress them up any way you see fit. You can slam them together in composites or put knee breeches on them and let them fight in the Revolutionary War, but your characters ought to be some of the ten most important people in your life, or the six most creepy, or you’ll bore the socks off your readers, and yourself as well.
Never read bad stuff if you're an artist; it will impair your own game. I don't know if you ever played competitive tennis, but you learn not to watch bad tennis; it messes up your game. Art's the same way.
JAMES LEE BURKE
Writers get better at the craft once we learn to assume that the reader will do much of the work for us, filling in the blanks with their own experiences and lives. Plant a few key pieces of evidence, and your reader will dream up the connections.
A good writer should draw the reader in by starting in the middle of the story with a hook, then go back and fill in what happened before the hook. Once you have the reader hooked, you can write whatever you want as you slowly reel them in.
Few writers have what it takes to produce “great writing,” but even a great storyteller requires professional writing skills to get the story across to the reader. The difference between amateur writing and professional writing is rewriting.
Punctuation…indicates how the writer hears the prose, as they create it. So I use ellipses, dashes and commas quite a lot, because they express how things sound to me. Exclamation marks convey moments of passionate overemphasis or profound disorder—like someone shouting in public or bursting into tears. So they make things briefly uncomfortable—and then we go on again.
Writing a screenplay is like climbing a mountain. When you’re climbing, all you can see is the rock in front of you and the rock directly above you. You can’t see where you’ve come from or where you’re going.