QUOTE OF THE DAY
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.
Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.
Never be satisfied with a first draft. In fact, never be satisfied with your own stuff at all, until you're certain it's as good as your finite powers can enable it to be.
It’s very hard to write about that which is always beautiful and pleasant and good. You don’t get anywhere with it. There’s no friction in it. There’s no trouble. You have to have trouble. Somebody’s got to get in trouble, or no one wants to read it.
A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful. If we’re lucky we’ll transmit a strong pure note, one that isn’t ours, but which passes through us. If we’re lucky, it will be a note that reverberates and expands, one that other people will hear and understand.
[If you have writer's block] force yourself to write non-stop for twenty or thirty minutes: no deletions, no erasures, no pauses. If that doesn't work, take a break. Take a walk. Pack up your writing supplies and go someplace new. Sit in a coffee shop, find a cozy spot in a library, go to a park. If you're truly desperate, go away for a few days. Take a train to a distant city and write onboard (on Amtrak, you can actually plug in your computer. But coffee is essential: without it, the train will rock you to sleep.) It often helps to do something entirely nonverbal, like making a collage or playing music. And it always helps to understand that writer's block is a widespread malady. To strengthen your feeling of solidarity with the scribbling classes, watch these movies: The Shining, Misery, Barton Fink, Deconstructing Harry, all of which explore the consequences of writer's block.
1. Write only when you have something to say.
2. Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.
3. Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.
4. If nobody will put your play on, put it on yourself.
5. Jokes are like hands and feet for a painter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile.
6. Theatre primarily belongs to the young.
7. No one has ever achieved consistency as a screenwriter.
8. Never go to a TV personality festival masquerading as a literary festival.
9. Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.
10. The two most depressing words in the English language are "literary fiction."
Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.
You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination. Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.
Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.
We need the books that affect us like disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
A really good style comes only when a man has become as good as he can be. Style is character. A good style cannot come from a bad, undisciplined character. . . . I think good style is a matter of rendering out of oneself all the cupidities, all the cripplings, all velleities. And then I think one has to develop one's physical grace.
Don't write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . . Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.
To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone—just plain going at it.
Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted. Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.
I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.
All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.