Patience Is Everything

Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!

RAINER MARIA RILKE

Give the Audience Moments to Remember

I believe it was the late Rosalind Russell who gave this wisdom to a young actor: “Do you know what makes a movie work? Moments. Give the audience half a dozen moments they can remember, and they’ll leave the theater happy.” I think she was right. And if you’re lucky enough to write a movie with half a dozen moments, make damn sure they belong to the star.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN

Perfectionism Is the Enemy of the People

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.

ANNE LAMOTT

Poetry Is About What Can't Be Said

Poetry goes back to the invention of language itself. I think one of the big differences between poetry and prose is that prose is about something, it’s got a subject… poetry is about what can’t be said. Why do people turn to poetry when all of a sudden the Twin Towers get hit, or when their marriage breaks up, or when the person they love most in the world drops dead in the same room? Because they can’t say it. They can’t say it at all, and they want something that addresses what can’t be said.

W.S. MERWIN

We Fret About Words

We fret about words, we writers. Words mean. Words point. They are arrows. Arrows stuck in the rough hide of reality. And the more portentous, more general the word, the more they can also resemble rooms or tunnels. They can expand, or cave in. They can come to be filled with a bad smell. They will often remind us of other rooms, where we’d rather dwell or where we think we are already living. They can be spaces we lose the art or the wisdom of inhabiting. And eventually those volumes of mental intention we no longer know how to inhabit will be abandoned, boarded up, closed down.

SUSAN SONTAG

Don't Plagiarize

I hate to even suggest that you’d be doing this, but don’t plagiarize…. Some people have the urge to do it, like engaging in kleptomania or unprotected sex, but it’s bad for you. You always get caught, or if you don’t, you’ll always be worrying about it. Also, editors and/or professors who consider themselves tolerant to the point of radicalism cannot tolerate plagiarism: It brings the outraged moralist in all of us to the fore. If you—even accidentally—plagiarized, now is the time to take it out.

CAROLYN SEE                                                            

Never Write in a Café

Never write in a café, especially in Europe. Ever since Hemingway, this has been the literary equivalent of what in mountain climbing is called the "tech weenie" (that is, someone who cannot get a foot off the ground but is weighed down with $10,000's worth of equipment). Literary skill, much less greatness, cannot be had with a pose, and exhibitionism extorts the price of failure. Also, have pity on the weary Parisians who have wanted only a citron pressé but have been unable to find a café where every single seat is not occupied by an American publicly carrying on a torrid affair with his moleskin.

MARK HELPRIN