Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recently a good friend asked me, ‘Why do you write, and why is it so important to you?’

Who knows why we do the things we do? Especially writing, that one profession that people roll their eyes at when you happen to mention that it’s your passion. So instead of going into a long-winded explanation of why I write and why it’s so important to me, I’ll give you a quick bullet list of reasons (some may echo yours, some may not)

So, Why Do I Write and Why is it So Important to Me?

1) To paraphrase Stephen King, ‘Why do you assume I have a choice?’

2) I have voices in my head that won’t shut up. 

3) To kill the pain.

4) To still the demons.

5) I have things I want to say and I’ll get arrested if I say them out loud.

6) Because I have stories to tell, and adventures to go on.

7) I dream up characters and they haunt me until I put them down on paper.

8) I’m one of those people who need to express themselves or the top of their head blows off.

9) To join the conversation.

10) Because I’m full of regrets.

11) I have issues and stuff to work out.

12) I’m melancholy by nature, and moody. A writer! 

13) I’m good at it; I enjoy it, so what the hell. Why not?

14) I’m a control freak and writing lets me be in charge of everything.

15) With all these crazy thoughts in my head, I either put them down on paper, or check myself into a psychiatric ward. 

16) Because I just can’t help it? 

17) Because I FEEL like a writer. 

18) My mind naturally goes there. 

19) Because I talk too much, and I finally decided to talk on paper instead, to the relief of all those around me.

20) Why do I write? Because it's either that or become a Longshoreman.

21) Because those pretty little things floating around in my transom look better on paper. 

22) Because I'm an attention whore.  There, I said it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Photographic Evidence: Jack Kerouac's Beat Goes On || Via The Guardian UK

Beat writers and artists at breakfast in New York, late 1950s. L-R: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso (back of head), David Amram, Allen Ginsberg

A rather old article (2007), but for Kerouac fans one still worth reading: The Guardian UK

Related Madness: David Amram Remembers Jack

I Could Listen to Ray Bradbury All Day ...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coffee fueled invectives
   Stained against the pages
Burning my forked tongue
  With half-mumble iterations

Oh how they howl
   See how they run
Half-baked exhortation
Scribbled by moonlight, or by sun
Making no sense of my neurons
   A million thoughts stuffed in a sack
Hail to thee oh chaotic process
   Electromagnetic ink stained flits
Straight from the mess

Scribbled  thoughts, whereabouts unknown
   Wired, alive; they deviate, wander and lose themselves  
Through fields of the imagined places whose denizens wander;
Wander town to town
Straight from the horse’s mouth;
   What is written on the subway walls?
Turn on the light and you will see
   Ecstasy, Symmetry, Poetry

The internal struggle; the last gasp;
   The last desperate attempt,
one last swing;
   One last kick at the can;
One more fabulous fling;
    I weigh the prose and cons;
The lights are down, it’s the empty stage;
   There was the idea, the poor struggling fetus;
Born in the ether, died on the page

Only, reborn somehow;
   Reborn; re-gifted; resurrected
Those penumbral lines, those darlings murdered
   Those treasures we find, bury, and find again
Those roads gone further

I have but one life to give; one thing for the pain;
    Inspiration locked in a trunk
And the key down the drain

Two thoughts diverged in a wood
   And I took the one less thunk

Monday, November 14, 2011

Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.

These revelations tell us as readers what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless or playful --- ? And on and on.

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you're writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead --- or, worse, they will stop reading you.

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don't you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show you or make you think about? Did you ever admire an emptyheaded writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.

So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.

1. Find a subject you care about

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way --- although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

2. Do not ramble, though

I won't ramble on about that.

3. Keep it simple

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. "To be or not to be?" asks Shakespeare's Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story "Eveline" is this one: "She was tired." At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

4. Have guts to cut

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound like yourself

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad's third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

6. Say what you mean

I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable --- and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.

7. Pity the readers

They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don't really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school --- twelve long years.
So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify --- whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.
That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

8. For really detailed advice

For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I recommend to your attention The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.
You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

In Sum:

1. Find a subject you care about
2. Do not ramble, though
3. Keep it simple
4. Have guts to cut
5. Sound like yourself
6. Say what you mean
7. Pity the readers

from: How to Use the Power of the Printed Word, Doubleday

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"... Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like ..."

1. Hobnobbing with other writers will not make you a writer. And don’t spend so much time thinking about writing and “getting organized” that you forget to write.

2. Plenty of writers work all day and still manage to make time to write. Fortunately, “a writer’s office is under his hat; he can take it with him” even when he’s at a different job.

3. Blank on story ideas? Don’t wait for them to appear. Pick a subject, even if it doesn’t interest you, and start researching it. You will find something about it that does grab you. Or read the book of Proverbs in the Bible—it’s filled with hundreds of basic plots.

4. Writers need uninterrupted think-time when developing a plot. Stretch out on the couch, make your mind go blank, and focus on a story idea for an uninterrupted time. Afterward, your subconscious will continue to mull over your thoughts—and probably come up with something even better. Do not regard these subconscious gifts lightly.

5. No matter your outlining style, when you get stuck, written notes can renew your acquaintance with the storyline and get you back on track.

6. All stories have four possible beginnings: narrative, dialogue, one character thinking, or one or more characters doing something. All four have pros and cons. Whichever you use, your reader has to quickly find a character to care about.

7. Good stories are not written, they are rewritten.

8. Never forget that you won’t be a published writer this time next year unless you get busy on another book.

9. Every writer faces periods of discouragement, waiting to reach the next level. You plod along day after day at one level, with no sign of improvement or progress. Then, one day you seem to have taken a step up to the next level. So keep reaching forward.

10. Writers often stay young more successfully than other mortals do. Perhaps it is because no person with a keen and lively interest in life can really grow old.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"... There are no hard and fast rules for writing, and no secret tricks ..." 


Here is an interesting article I found about writing, by one of my favorite authors, Judy Blume.  Hope you enjoy it ...

By Judy Blume || When I began to write, some people humored me. "You've always been such a dreamer!" Some discouraged me. "Do you know what the odds are ... do you know how many would-be writers there are out there?" Some were actually angry. "What makes you think you can write?"

A lot of my readers ask me for "writing tips." I wish it were that easy! There are no hard and fast rules for writing, and no secret tricks, because what works for one person doesn't always work for another. Everybody is different. That's the key to the whole business of writing - your individuality.

I once met a woman who wanted to write. She told me she'd read 72 books about writing but she still couldn't do it. I suggested that instead of reading books about writing, she read the best books she could find, the books that would inspire her to write as well as she could. 

The best I can do is share with you what works for me. Good luck!

My Trusty Notebook
Before I begin to write I fill a notebook, jotting down everything that pops into my head about my characters and story—bits of dialogue, ideas for scenes, background information,descriptions of people and places, details and more details. But even with my notebook, I still don't know everything. For me, finding out is the best part of writing.

Write from the Inside
The best books come from someplace deep inside. You don't write because you want to, but because you have to. Become emotionally involved. If you don't care about your characters, your readers won't either.

Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. If you're that kind of writer, never give up! If you start a story and it isn't going well, put it aside. (We're not talking about school assignments here.) You can start as many as you like because you're writing for yourself. With each story you'll learn more. One day it will all come together for you, as it did for me with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I'd published two books and several short stories before Margaret, but I hadn't found my voice yet. I hadn't written from deep inside. With Margaret I found my voice and my audience. 

Your Own Style
No one can teach you exactly how to write. Each person approaches creative writing differently. Every writer has his or her own method. I usually have a character or story idea inside my head for a long time (sometimes years) before I actually begin. I know where I'm starting and where I'm going but I never know what's going to happen in the middle or if the ending will be what I imagined on the day I began to write. It's the surprise that makes writing exciting for me. Other writers know everything before they begin. They make detailed outlines or have it all worked out in their heads before they put a word on paper. There is no right way or wrong way. There are a hundred different ways to tell the same story. Whatever works for you is okay.
Whenever I talk to kids about writing and tell them it's the rewriting I enjoy most, they groan. I guess if you're in school, rewriting means copying your papers over. But to me, rewriting is the most exciting part of the process. When I'm rewriting, I feel most creative. I've got all the pieces to the puzzle and now I get to put them together. I go through four or five drafts of each book. (When I was writing Summer Sisters I went through twenty drafts!)

Read your work aloud! This is the best advice I can give. When you read aloud you find out how much can be cut, how much is unnecessary. You hear how the story flows. And nothing teaches you as much about writing dialogue as listening to it. 

Getting Published
Kids: I get so many letters asking me how you can get your work published. Don't even think about it now. Just write for yourself. If you want to share your work show it to family and friends. Some schools publish young authors' work in newsletters and magazines. Some classes are even writing and illustrating their own books. Or you can ask your librarian to help you find out which magazines accept original work from children.

Teens: A good bet is TeenInk. This is a national magazine based completely on teen generated material. Check it out.

Adults: Do your homework. Study the marketplace. Your library should have copies of Literary Market Place and Writers Market with names and addresses of editors and agents. Yes, it helps to have an agent (I didn't have one until I had already published three books). How do you get an agent? Choose a few names that sound right for you and send them samples of your work.

For two years I received nothing but rejections. One magazine, Highlights for Children, sent a form letter with a list of possible reasons for rejection. "Does not win in competition with others," was always checked off on mine. I still can't look at a copy of Highlights without wincing.

I would go to sleep at night feeling that I'd never be published. But I'd wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent. 

Don't let anyone discourage you! Yes, rejection and criticism hurt. Get used to it. Even when you're published you'll have to contend with less than glowing reviews. There is no writer who hasn't suffered. 

I'm always asked if I was encouraged to write by my teachers when I was young. I can't say that I was. But writing came easily. I was a co-feature editor of the high school paper. And when I was a junior I had an English teacher, Albert Komishane, who gave us the freedom to be creative and appreciated our efforts.

Later, I took a class in writing for young people at New York University. I received professional encouragement from my teacher. When the class ended after one semester, I took it again. And before the end of the second semester a few of my stories were accepted for publication in small magazines. My teacher presented me with a red rose in class. I don't think anything is as exciting as that first acceptance, even when it brings a payment of just twenty dollars. 

I wish every would-be writer could be as lucky as I was in finding a supportive teacher. Mine did not like or approve of all my work. But her criticism was presented in a positive way. She gave me the courage to try a novel instead of the rhyming picture books I was writing when I entered her class. I wrote the first draft of Iggie's' House while I was taking her course, turning in one chapter a week. 

The Writing Life: Donuts
Once I begin a new book, the most important part of the process is perseverance. I try to write seven days a week, if only for an hour or two, until I have a first draft.

I'm a morning person—not the kind who rises at 4:00 a.m. and writes for hours before breakfast—but an ordinary morning person. I try to sit down to work somewhere around 9:00. I like to be dressed for the day, as if I'm going out to work, even though my office is just a few steps away. It's all part of my fantasy about having a regular job. 

Once, I actually rented an office. We had just moved to New Mexico and I was having trouble getting started on a new book. I convinced myself that if I left the house each morning with the rest of the family, I would solve my problem. But the office space I rented was above a bakery and the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries drove me wild. Every day at noon I would rush downstairs to buy two glazed donuts and by three o'clock I would crave another round. After a few months and a few pounds I moved home again.

During the first draft of a book, which is the hardest time for me, I check my watch a lot and hope the phone will ring—anything to make the time go faster because I am determined to sit at my desk all morning. If my writing is going well, I may return to my desk after lunch to read over what I have written, to scribble on the printout, or to make notes in the little notebook I keep for each book (so that when an idea or a bit of dialogue comes to me I won't forget it).

When I'm rewriting I work much more intensely and for longer hours. Toward the end of the third draft the urge to finish is so strong that it becomes harder and harder to leave the story and return to real life. Once I'm truly finished with a book and the corrected galleys are in the publisher's hands, I feel sad. It's like having to say good-bye to a close friend. The best therapy is becoming involved with a new project. But that may take months.

For me, writing has its ups and downs. After I had written more than ten books I thought seriously about quitting. I felt I couldn't take the loneliness anymore. I thought I would rather be anything than a writer. But I've finally come to appreciate the freedom of writing. I accept the fact that it's hard and solitary work. And I worry about running out of ideas or repeating myself. So I'm always looking for new challenges.

Visit Judy Blume at her site: Judy Blume on the Web

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TheWriterFiles || 1.4


"... Well, sorry. I don’t play for the love of the game." 
 - Dirk Hayhurst

 Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I always assumed writers loved to write, until I read an article recently, called ‘For the Like of the Game’ by Dirk Hayhurst, baseball player, and now writer.

Now, Dirk Hayhurst has decided to bust a long held myth about baseball players, the one about how they love the game, would die for the game, would play the game for free:

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a front office guy with the Bulls about how I got propositioned to write an article about life on the famous Durham Bulls baseball club. I said that I wanted to write about what minor league life is really like (a bad habit I have, one you may have noticed if you’ve read my book). He said, and I quote, “yeah, but no one wants to read about that, they want to read about the love of the game.”

I gave this instinctual cringe when he said that phrase, for the love of the game. He wasn’t, in effect, telling me what I should write, he was simply referring to a commonly held belief that all players play because they love baseball more than anything else in the world, and that love covers up a multitude of evils in what is otherwise a work to live, live to work, death and taxes human existence.

I got to thinking, does this apply to other professions? Certainly it does with acting – I’ve heard the great Anthony Hopkins himself say he harbors no real love for acting, it’s just that he’s so good at it and he makes TONS of money, so why stop?

Question: do you write for the love of the craft, or do you just ‘like’ it a lot?

The very idea that we could spend our lives doing something and not love it is a very foreign concept to me. Certainly baseball players, major leaguers even, love the fact that they get paid to play a game, but again, Mr. Hayhurst spills the truth:

Well, sorry. I don’t play for the love of the game. You may navigate away from this page now if that shakes your faith, but I don’t. I just don’t love the game enough to play for it and it alone. I love my wife. I love my family. I love the satisfaction winding up and putting a baseball where I want it, but I don’t love the game—not at the professional level anyway.

Would Stephen King continue to write if he was no longer paid for it? Somewhere along the line we have to accept the fact that in order to survive we must take a business-like approach to things, but does it kill the love for it? Back when I was a working musician I started to despise playing the guitar day after day. Sometimes I wouldn’t pick it up for weeks at a time. I think I kept playing it because everyone was always telling me how good I was at it, and I didn’t want to let them down. I fear that had I become rich playing music I would have been a miserable bastard (yes, money is great, but not at the expense of art!), and ultimately it was a badge of honor to be able to play the guitar, especially among friends and peers.

I like baseball, and that’s as good as it’s going to get. I like it more than any other job option that is out there at the moment, but I could never love it because I know it will never love me back. I’m just another man in a long, string of men it will break the heart and back of should I put either into its service for too long. It’s not worthy of my love, just my respect, which I freely give as long as it respects my wishes to keep the relationship strictly professional.

I love writing, I mean, I MUST, since I’ve been doing it for years and have not received much back in return. I’m not being disingenuous, I really mean it. I write for the love of it. I know this because I’ve had other ‘hobbies’ that I grew tired of; art, for instance. I was a good cartoonist, but doing it every day became a chore; and the fact that every one kept praising me for my skill was just inflating my ego – so I continued on with it because of that. We like it when someone tells us we’re good at something, don’t we? We like the compliments, so we keep going even though we want to stop, to the point that we start resenting our craft. My guitar, for instance, I started looking at it and the desire just was not there anymore to pick it up and play. Sad, because at one point in time I played for the love of it, for the hell of it.

So, dear baseball purist, you ask why then do I play? Assuming we are on the same page and not simply having this discussion for the sake of semantics, I play for the same reasons a lot of people do what they do: because I’m talented at it.

I like writing, I probably LOVE it, and I wish to do it for a living. I feel I’m good at it, and I hope it doesn’t kill the passion I have for it once I have to rely on it to make a living. I hope I get the same feeling of happiness every time I open a Word Doc or start a new story, that I don’t start to reject the craft when deadlines become a factor or bills are due, or I have to write every day or else. So far so good …

I’ve been yelled at when I correct fans about playing for love and playing for like. Their reactions range from shock, the kind that comes when a person says, “there is no God,” to twitching eyebrows and the covering of children’s—dressed in a little league uniform—ears. “Don’t say you don’t play for the love of the game because that’s what children believe you play for!”

I scratch my head at that comment, children believe. That’s because children can play for the love of the game. They should play for the love of the game because they are not in the age of accountability with families and bills and all the other constants that make growing up a balance of enjoyment and obligation. But, for some reason they are not allowed to know what’s ahead? Why is it when I tell them the following, it is not good enough?

“This is a great job, and I have a lot of fun doing it. But it’s not sum total of my being. If you want to do it, you’ll have to work really hard and make a lot of sacrifices. Maybe, when you’re older, you’ll get a chance to play it, too. If not, that’s OK, because you live for the love of life, and this is just another fun experience to try as you make your way.”

So, what do you think? Do you do what you do because you love it? Like it? Because you’re a talented writer and you suck at everything else? Would you do it for nothing?

Dirk Hayhurst was honest with us and himself, maybe we should be as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TheWriterFiles || 1.3

 ... Even Rich Uncle Pennybags wouldn't know a bestseller if it hit him in the ass ...

Sometimes, when I’m really into a story and the flow seems unstoppable, ugly thoughts invade my transom: words like ‘accessible fiction’ and ‘mainstream' start to taint my resolve. And I start to question my work, too; is this story marketable enough? Can I sell it? Who will care about it? Am I wasting my time? My phone bill is due, what the hell am I doing?

The reason: as I get older (and bills start taking precedence) I find it harder to justify sitting at my computer for hours on end producing stories, stories that might not even sell or get published. Not a very lucrative business model. As writers, it becomes an act of faith on our part. And it doesn’t help when I keep hearing how J.K. Rowling hit a grand slam and is rolling in the dough.

But is that the ultimate aim? I would think producing quality work would be, because the money usually follows, maybe, possibly. Taking a purist point of view, I would tell you that we should write for the pleasure of it, and most of us do. But there’s that itch in the back of my mind that says I will be a failure if I don’t manage to make a living at it. Lord knows I have enough people in my life who tell me that all the time.

As I said, the older I get the harder the ‘money’ thing is to ignore. Friends, family, acquaintances, they all wonder why my ‘book’ isn’t finished, published, and sold in all the book stores yet and why I’m not on a yacht sipping champagne and smoking cigars. I begin to wonder this too, but …

It ain’t that easy, folks!

I write for pleasure – I have to or I’d go mad – but somewhere there’s a little gremlin muse tickling my ear telling me I need to write something for a mass audience or I’m doomed, doomed I tells ya! And I shoo him away, hoping he’ll go back to bothering Danielle Steel or Dan Brown.

Sometimes I listen to this evil muse – I conjure up a mainstream idea that I can write and possibly sell and go laughing all the way to the bank like John Grisham.

The eternal internal struggle!

I want everyone to like my book, certainly, but I also eschew mainstream; my mind is too unconventional, too quirky, and also I don’t know what mainstream is, or how to write it. I just write like me. When I tell myself I should target a book to a mass audience and make a truck-load of cash I only kid myself. I wouldn’t know how. Even if I did, what constitutes a ‘hit’ novel anyway? Ask anyone, bestselling authors, literary critics, J.K. Rowling; they’re just as baffled by what constitutes a success these days as I am. As William Goldman said once, “No one knows anything.”

Point of information: If I write a book, my own book, without residual thoughts of avarice and mass appeal and worldly love and it becomes a hit, I’d feel better. Baffled, but better. It’s The Stockton Paradox – Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

One last thing. I have nothing against mainstream authors or their resulting genre, far from it. If someone writes and this is what naturally results, great. They have a marketable commodity (Hello Stephen King! He once said “You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile) and I applaud them. But forcing myself to write this way goes against my grain. If I have a hit novel in me, wonderful, but if not, I can always host a gardening show in Amarillo. And even then I can write a book about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recently I came across a set of rules designed as a simple way to motivate writers:

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.

— Brian Clark

Taken at face value these seem like pretty good tips, boiled down to the craft’s basic elements; after all, sometimes we need to be told in simple terms how to get something done. Sometimes we need to blow the complexity off to see what’s underneath.

The trouble is, it doesn’t work for everyone all the time. To simply tell someone to ‘write’ may not help them through a bad stretch, or help them finish a difficult scene, but given the same advice someone else may have an epiphany and dash off an entire novel. There is no master narrative when it comes to writing advice because what works for Jim-Bob in Texas doesn’t work for Maggie in Seattle.

So why listen to advice at all? Because you take what you can from it. If someone tells you to ‘write even when you don’t feel like it’, you’d either throw your hands in the air in exasperation at such an affront, or quietly say, “Yeah, that sounds reasonable,” depending on your mood at the time. As for me, sometimes I heed the advice, and sometimes I don’t. Take the above motif – ‘Write even when you don’t feel like it’ – I have often followed that advice, and have often ignored it. Sometimes writing when I don’t feel like it actually gets me back in the groove, and sometimes it doesn’t. Take it for what it is. Take it or leave it.

Some people don’t want to hear it. To some, writing advice is simply an annoying noise to be ignored. Certainly if you have written enough and produced enough, advice on writing is simply preaching to the converted. Write? Write more? Thanks Einstein!

There are also echelons to the writing world as well. An author who’s been writing for twenty years hardly needs me to tell them how to go about their business. If I told Stephen King that he needs to ‘write when you have something to say’ he’d probably clap his hands and have his bodyguards haul me away. But some poor writer just starting out in the craft might need to hear it - every time-worn bit of it.

In response to those ten items of advice listed above, a good friend and fellow writer said this:

10 Steps to Being a Better Writer?

11. STFU and stop giving advice.
12. Sometimes you need NOT to write.
13. Knowing when will make you a better writer.

So you see, sometimes writing advice is good, and sometimes doing the opposite of said advice is good. It depends on your mood, your experience, your situation, your learning curve, your level of writing skill, and who knows what else.

Jimi Hendrix, possibly the greatest guitar player who ever lived, said that he could sit there and watch the most God-awful band playing, and yet he was able to get something positive from it and learn something. Maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe that’s the approach to take when someone’s telling you something you already know or have heard a thousand times.

So, if someone gives you some writing advice today, be polite, smile and say thank you, then maybe do the opposite.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

TheWriterFiles || 1.0

Here I was, toiling away for years by writing in notebooks and loose leaf paper, mastering my cursive and getting carpal tunnel syndrome, and all the while a new universe was being created around me: the internet, blogging, email, the whole enchilada. Mundane as it seems now, it was a revelation when I finally got plugged in to it (The world is a pretty small place when it’s just you and a pen and a piece of paper) because I realized that I wasn’t the only one with dreams of being a writer; there is, apparently, 30 million others with the same idea. This could be disconcerting to the uninitiated.

Even now, being a veteran blogger and internet surfer (do we still use that term?) whenever I lift my head out of the sand and browse around, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of bloggers and writers out there. I worry about getting lost in the shuffle. I worry that the nuanced little writer (me) will have to resort to low-brow tactics just to keep people’s attention.

But it’s just not me; I’m old school. I’m a quirky writer, not a populist writer. Alas, some people lead such interesting lives that they can post their misogynistic adventures daily and get heaps of readers. Me, I’m rather low-key. No jumping off cliffs and then posting about it on my blog the next day, sorry.

So, how to avoid getting lost in a literary wilderness? I haven’t the foggiest.

I suppose my philosophy has always been ‘slow and steady wins the race’. I suppose that the only competition I should be concerned about is me. I’m not going to shout over millions of other bloggers – that’s a fight I can’t win. I’m just going to keep chuggin’ along, working on my book, posting what I can. And occasionally I’ll jump off a cliff and write about it the next day (assuming I survive).

Question: is blogging a popularity contest or something? What draws the flies? I’ve seen bad blogs with hundreds of followers, and great blogs with as little as 5. There doesn’t appear to be any logic to it (I’m sure there is, I’m just being obtuse). I can offer this explanation: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and some people are squeakier than others (You can draw them in, but you have to keep them there somehow, which is a harder proposition).

Take this blog for instance; it started out as a catch-all for my thoughts on writing and life in general. But after hearing many blogging ‘experts’ talk ad nauseum on the subject, I decided to narrow it down to a blog about writing. Well, mostly. My one-track brain gets derailed from time to time (See my last post, for instance).


There’s a slight change in the program here at the Den. My writing column The Writer Files will appear once a week, hopefully on Wednesdays. Any additional posts will be consisting of variable subject matter. What that subject matter is, I cannot say. My brain will fire off something interesting, rest assured. It could be music, pop culture, or some variety of socio-political rhetoric. I’m also attempting to bring more guest bloggers in (a dastardly plan involving low-key blackmail is in the works).

Thanks for loitering! Come again!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The other night Walt Whitman appeared in my bedroom. This in itself was not shocking, as writers tend to hallucinate from time to time (especially after a bottle of Johnny Walker). I stared in wonder for a few moments. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Walt Whitman? What the hell are you doing in my bedroom? Aren’t you dead?”

"Whatever satisfies the soul is truth." He said.

“Are you a ghost? Or am I just imagining you?”

"I exist as I am, that is enough."

“I mean, love your stuff. Leaves of Grass and all that …”

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."

“Right. So, Mister Whitman, uh, what brings you by?”

"I act as the tongue of you, ... tied in your mouth . . . . in mine it begins to be loosened."

“So I guess you have some things on your mind …”

"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines."

“You’re not making much sense here, Walt …”

"O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) …”

“Uh, Walt? Mister Whitman …? I have to go to work in the morning …” I say, motioning to the digital clock on the bed stand; It reads 3:15 AM.

“Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d; Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined; The question, O me! So sad, recurring—what good amid these, O me, O life? (Begins walking around the room, his ghostly specter eerily translucent)

Great. Walt Whitman (Or his ghost anyway) is having existential issues. I offer him some tea, and tell him to relax, he’s dead. But he declines.

"All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier."

“Walt, you gotta relax. Too bad you died two hundred years ago, you missed the advent of Playboy magazine, great articles,” I say, tossing the magazine at him, an October, 1988 issue by the way. It goes through him and lands on the floor.

"The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book."

“So you HAVE read it?”

"O CAPTAIN! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
the ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won …”

Oh great, he’s ranting again. “Mister Walt? You got any useful advice for a struggling writer such as myself? You being a legendary poet and all …”

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls."

“Uh … “

“The mark of a true writer is their ability to mystify the familiar and familiarize the strange …”

“Right …” I say, feigning a yawn, “Listen Whitman, I need some sleep, dude. Can you come back some other time? It’s 3 AM in the damn morning and …”

"To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle."

“… And some of us have to WORK for a living …”

"I henceforth tread the world, chaste, temperate, an early riser, a steady grower."

“Could you tread somewhere else and come back tomorrow?” I say, picking up my alarm clock to show him the time, even though he doesn’t know what it is.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"

He finally heads for the door, which makes no sense because he’s a spirit, ethereal. He’s still yapping as he does this.

"For we cannot tarry here, we must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, we, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers! “, he cries, before disappearing through the wall next to the door.

Relieved that he’s gone, I nestle back into my bed and try to get back to sleep. I toss and turn for a few minutes, but the big fat image of Walt Whitman haunts my mind. Just as I start getting sleepy, he sticks his head back into the room.

"But where is what I started for so long ago? And why is it yet unfound?" he yells, his barbaric yops sounding off the walls in a great big echo.

“Get lost!” I say, tossing a copy of “The Di Vinci Code” across the room at him.

"You will hardly know who I am or what I mean" he says, and evaporates.

I can’t sleep after this, so I go to the kitchen and pour out all my bottles of booze. I warm up a glass of milk and grab a package of Oreo cookies and eat half the bag. Finally I get dozy, stagger back to bed.

When I get back to my room, William Shakespeare is standing at the foot of my bed …
As he recites parts of King Lear, I drift off to sleep.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

As it has been well documented here in my last few posts, I recently moved to a new apartment.  The space is fabulous; large, clean, and comes with a panoramic view of the city (photos later) so all in all it’s been a great experience.  Only, it was more expensive than I planned, and some things had to be cut back; Internet and cable primarily, albeit temporarily.  I’ve been relying on radio and newspapers for my daily fix on news and events, but it’s been slow as molasses going uphill.  Nothing can replace the immediacy of online news and the speed at which it transmits (The radio and newspapers report stories that are DAYS old.  Ugh.).

Writers of my vintage (growing up in the 70’s and 80’s) are used to this kind of thing.  Life BI (Before Internet) was quite interesting in that you could actually hear yourself think, and much as I love the constant chatter of the online community, it’s just too damned distracting and all-encompassing.  When the net is connected, I just always want to be on, like being addicted.  Just to go through the rounds of email sites, social networks like Facebook and Twitter (and now Google Plus?)  takes hordes of time away from the real important things (Like eating and sleeping) and that’s no good.  There’s a big fat stupid world out there, and sometimes you gotta go out galumphing in it instead of trying to interpret all the zillions of opinions online and making sense of it.  Living vicariously through wires and microchips is no way to go through  life.

In a way, it’s been therapeutic.  I sit down at my desk and write for a few hours, then take the dog out for a walk in the large park behind the building.  Sometimes I take Garcia Lorca with me, or Walt Whitman.  When I come back, I sit down again and write.  No blog post to worry about, no Twitter feed to update.  My only concern has been writing.

I thought I’d have gone crazy by now, but it’s been strangely peaceful and calming

But BOY do I miss it.

A lot has been written about ‘online fatigue’ and its effects on people, but for writers it seems to be a double-edged sword.  Much as we want to be off-line, to think, nay, to CONCENTRATE better, there remains a need for us to be there, in the midst of all the hurly-burly.  Almost like Jack Kerouac and the Beats gathering at a coffee shop in the Village, discussing love and art and writing.  Only they didn’t get eye strain and Carpel Tunnel syndrome from sitting behind a Laptop for hours on end.

Still, the question remains; can you live with the internet, and still live without it if you have to? Is there such a thing as moderation? Can we dole out our online time to natural levels and still be productive?  Don’t know.  As I mentioned, I get addicted at times, and it gets hard to stop.  Discipline: That is the cheese!

May The Good News Be Yours

Despite the absence of internet, I have managed a daily writing regimen of 5-10 pages a day.  It’s been nice.  The new writing space probably has something to do with it.  I have an actual office now, instead of a desk shoved between the bed and the closet.  And there’s a constant breeze blowing in off the Lake (No, I’m not living on a tropical isle) and the spirit of this place seems a lot more calm and writerly.  This bodes well, for I intend to write my novel, or get it finished at least, in the next few months.   Huzzah to change, change is good.

Have to make this post short and sweet: it’s a beautiful summer day out there and I want to go out in it.  There’s still breakfast to make – and orange juice to drink.  Be well fellow writers.

I remain, David Hunter

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The writing space; it is the one area in which authors feel completely comfortable and in control, except when staring at a blank document for 45 minutes and panic begins. It is our domain, our kingdom, our private place. We can do anything with it, up to and including having hidden caches of chocolate bars and Twinkies, or lining the desk with ugly trinkets and funny objects. It is where we do our best work (sometimes) and when it comes time to dismantle it and move to another place, the writer becomes distraught and confused. In this instance, a mild sedative usually helps.

Here are a few useful tips to help ease the situation:

1.) Don’t Panic

2.) When forced to clear your desk out (usually at the last minute) leave your laptop connected. If you have nowhere to sit or place the laptop, use the floor or a space between boxes. In the event that your internet has been shut off, just hug your laptop. This produces temporary euphoria due to the release of endorphins

3.) If you have no laptop (this is the darkest stage of the process) keep a pen and notebook handy. Your writing may come out rather garbled, illegible and incoherent, but even the act of scribbling randomly will help ease the tension. Chant your favorite mantra for extra relief.

4.) In the unlikely event that no pen or paper is available, and no laptop, DO NOT PANIC – it is only temporary! In this case, food makes a good substitute (Pizza, beer, tacos, anything bad for you will do.)

5.) If you cannot write, read! Anything mindless, like a Dan Brown Book, will do. It’ll help you relax knowing you can write a better book in your sleep. In fact, the book may produce sleep-inducing enzymes that will help you relax (Or if you’re me, throw a tantrum and whip the book off the 8th floor balcony, which also helps relieve tension)

A Final Communiqué

This may be my last transmission for a while – the situation around me is quickly deteriorating; there are boxes everywhere, and the Television has been packed up. The stereo too (although I have a small one here beside me) and the only amusement we’ll have left until Wednesday is the dog!

Monday the internet goes off. This may be the darkest time yet – I will be unable to communicate to all of you for a time (except by way of the Library which has free internet service, but who wants to do that? Yuck. Although I may become desperate enough to drag my laptop over there and fight for a spot because plugs are limited there, and once the geek-boys get settled in, it’s over: nothing but ass-grooves and pocket-protectors)

It’s not all bad. There’s the new writing space to consider. The possibilities are endless; you can get a new lamp, new pens, heck, even a new laptop just for the occasion. How about an elaborate Surround Sound system to place around your space? Fiber optic lights to line your desk? And books! Now you can buy 12 more book shelves and fill them up. A coffee maker would go nicely on the corner of the desk. Maybe a slow-cooker too (your significant other will protest heavily, but this is our space!)

There are all sorts of possibilities to make you feel better about the move – and forget about the pain of lugging all your books and papers and office junk across the city (or even the continent), see? Glass half full.

But in all likelihood, you’ll just shove your old desk against a wall and put the laptop on it and start writing again, just like me.

Okay, I’m off. As I write this my roomie keeps walking behind me and asking me to do stuff, like pack. But I wanted to finish writing this before it all goes dark.

Keep a candle in the window for me.

Your pal, David.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A while back I decided that I needed a change of scenery, so I started looking for a new apartment. This current one, in the heart of downtown Toronto, was starting to feel cramped; not enough elbow room for my brain. Plus, I was (am) getting tired of hearing the drunks singing on the street at 4 am on a Sunday morning, their inebriate voices echoing off the building walls and waking me up. Yes, this is life in Urbana.

The lure of this tiny place was steeped in Bohemian values, of course; it’s cheap, it’s small and cozy, and it’s in the middle of an urban and artsy area. It’s the kind of place that would make you feel like a writer, or supposed to anyway. But what of that? Do I have to live in a run-down area of the city in a shoebox apartment to feel like a writer? Maybe, if I were 25 again. Like the Grateful Dead’s exodus out of San Francisco to Marin County in the 1960’s, now all I crave is peace and quiet. But what a long strange trip its been.

And as much as I love the idea of a bohemian lifestyle, at my age I need something better to motivate me, something not quite so esthetic and external. After all, chasing that ‘Beat Writer’ lifestyle so lovingly immortalized by Jack Kerouac is futile; this ain’t the Village, man, it don’t matter where you write, as long as you write, right? Dig.

So now I’m moving. Can’t tell you how much that disrupts a me as a writer (and my life in general) but here I am packing up all my stuff, worried about bills, the moving truck, the new place – ugh – and nowhere in my brain has there been space for writing. Then I look around and see all the stuff I’ve been carrying with me: books, papers, magazines; after almost 40 years on this planet you can really accumulate a lot of shit. Then you have to drag said shit around with you for eternity – it begins to burden.

The worst part is I feel out of the loop and out of the groove. I haven’t been writing much and the flow is pretty much gone. It’s not like falling off a bicycle and getting back on – that’s easy, but after a lengthy absence from composing blogs posts and stories it becomes a little like that dream we all seem to have, the one where you’re trying to run away from something horrible but you can only move in slow motion; a ‘Writer’s Rigor Mortis’, for lack of a better term.

Such is the life of a writer; when you stop, you drop.

But I’m excited about the future too. I’m getting a much larger place, with my own writing space (this excites me more than anything!) and a new desk as well. The very idea of this artsy little nook has dominated my thoughts – even as I sit here among my boxed-up books and my near empty desk typing this.

This post marks another historic element; the two year anniversary of ‘The Writer’s Den’ blog. I’m amazed that it’s still around and that the followers have kept growing. This makes me want to try even harder to make it the best blog I can produce. Every post I write is painstaking because I know the quality of readers that come by and look around are above average, which probably has something to do with the infrequent updates. If you only knew how many abandoned and unfinished articles I’ve written because I thought they weren’t up to snuff; quality and not quantity being the operative term.

In any case, I want to thank all my loyal friends and readers for hanging around, even though I’ve been so scarce. I realize I haven’t updated this blog since April, and it really bothers me – I don’t want you to think I’ve been too lazy or lethargic to write. I’ve just been very busy (Nay, swamped) with other things, like real life. And if anything, the bane of most writers is real life.

So, onward and upward, goodbye to the old place and the old neighborhood (and hopefully goodbye to more old junk) and here’s to new places and entirely new junk! I’m off to pack up my things and head West (not the romantic ‘West’ of the Californian variety, although someday I’ll be there wandering the streets of San Francisco, or feeding the sea lions at pier 39) but West Toronto, where the air is decidedly less purple and my new writing space awaits.

Here’s to two years of the Den, and many more to come.

Keep the peace – David Hunter

Monday, April 25, 2011

It’s Not Just a Critique, it’s an Adventure!

"...We writers can’t operate in a vacuum forever – eventually someone has to read the stuff ..."

Recently I went out on a limb and asked some writer friends for a critique on a story I had been working on. This particular story was written in ridiculous haste for National Novel Writing Month (An experience I recommend at least once, but that’s it)

The initial jolt you get from spewing thousands of words in a short span is electrifying; it feels like you’re really getting something done. Of course, you shouldn’t wait for a cram session like NaNo to get yourself motivated. I went in rather unprepared, with no outline, and only a sketchy idea that I thought my main character could pull off.   The results were as expected; not great.

Cue the critiques …

I’m glad I asked for opinions, because I was under the illusion that the story was good, and the characters were working. Not really accurate, I must say. That’s the beauty of getting constructive criticism.

Not that I hadn’t suspected some of it; I knew the story was getting tough to write. Probably why I dropped it.

We writers can’t operate in a vacuum forever – eventually someone has to read the stuff. And of course, they’ll have opinions. I’ve learned not to be sensitive about it – life is too short. Instead, I’ve adopted a new set of Credos:

Just keep writing, eventually something’s gonna stick with the readers.

Not every story will be a home run. Let’s get real.

Take heart: If you can fix the story, fix it, if not, there are millions more out there.

Getting a heavy critique doesn’t mean you suck and you should trade your writer card in. It just means you need to ‘adjust’ things.

It’ll make your story better.  It's all about the story, not you.

A good critique will also let you know whether you should continue on with the story. If no one cares about the characters, the story, any of it, that’s a bad sign. Life is too short to keep working on bad projects.

Getting a critique is actually a sign that someone cares enough about your writing to even bother to help you out. This is a good thing.

I must thank Nickolas Furr, actually, a writer friend of mine, for bringing this up. He gave my story a thorough going over, told me what was good and bad. I was surprised at my reaction: relief. I was happy to be talking about the mechanics of the story and the characters – and to find out the truth about it. Sometimes a story just doesn’t work – and when that happens it’s best to get back on the horse. Why not? There are no lack of words, ideas, directions. Can I save the story? The Character? Sure I can. Do I want to? Maybe, maybe not.

I wouldn’t have known that, of course, unless I let some beta-readers tell me what is what. 

So, please, share your stuff with someone who’ll tell you the truth, or else you’ll be writing books that no one wants to read. And for us writers, that’s a fate worse than root canal.

The Story in Question: 500 Mondays, by David Hunter

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Writers: Are We Always Honest With Each Other? Just Curious ...

In an ironic twist of fate, I get most of my harshest critiques from non-writers – they seem to be the only ones without a filter when it comes to telling you what they think of your work. They’ll tell you everything, in a very unflinching manner. The problem is, do I take it seriously, or do the opinions of actual ‘writers’ matter more?

Upon finding out I was writing a book, a work-friend of mine recently declared that he too was a writer, had four or five books written, actually. He offered to bring in a few chapters for me to read – and I reluctantly agreed.

Big mistake.

Every time someone brings me something they wrote, especially someone who announces that they are suddenly a ‘writer’ I start to get this yucky feeling in my stomach. The work they hand me is usually so bad that I suppress the urge to light the thing with a match. And here’s the worst part; they always want an opinion! I used to smile and nod, and give my most upbeat speech, truth being so unruly and all … until I realize that its disingenuous. This poor schmuck wanted some real advice – so I decided that I would start being honest for a change. So I told him:

Your sentences run on too long. You realize there’s half a page without a comma or a period here??

When you write, don’t describe a guy going into the fridge, getting a beer, opening the beer, walking out to his backyard, sitting in his lawn chair, and taking another sip of beer. Shorthand!

Don’t reveal the entire story so soon or you’ll have no place to go with it.  Your book will be over in three chapters.

Plausibility!  Would this character really do this? Or That?

Does  your computer have Spell Check?

Oh, the guy is an alien named Stan? Real name Xartona? 

The basis of gravitas in a novel: Believable characters! 

Do you realize that all your character’s names start with a ‘J’ ?  Sounds like a Dr. Seuss convention.

Something must happen in every scene, otherwise its useless!  Why is your protagonist just sitting there?  Make him do something.

You sent this to a publisher??

Is this a children’s book, or …?

By the time I was finished, he looked like someone had kicked him in the groin. He had that thousand mile stare that writers get when they’ve just been lambasted by the truth. Another thing; unless he really put time and effort into the craft, he’d never be a writer. Writing is not a part time gig: you have to be committed because it’ll show in the work. I can tell when someone just ‘throws’ something together. I’ve been around.

I felt bad afterward of course; the truth was harsh. Is this why writers refrain from telling their peers the truth about their writing?

In all my time writing, only a few people have been honest with me – two are writers, and the rest are friends and family. Family will be honest with you if it suits them; most of them don’t think you’ll amount to much anyway, so they’ll gleefully tell you your story is lame and they’d never buy the book. Friends will generally look out for you and tell you if your story is good – or if it’s embarrassing.  And don't ask your mom, she'll love it no matter what. 

Fellow writers, on the other hand, will just blow smoke up your ass (which has its merits too)

Call it professional courtesy, or politeness, or distance, but getting a writer to give you an honest opinion is like getting a straight answer out of a politician. And the ones who do tell you a thing or two end up sounding a tad arrogant, at least to us sensitive types (I include myself in that).  Maybe we're just too nice ...

But here's a breakthrough - use this line whenever you want an honest opinion of your work from a peer:

Come on, don't bullshit me!

It worked for Schwarzenegger! So folks, let’s have a little honesty among us writers. How can we get better unless we’re straight-up with each other? Not telling me that my story is the biggest hunk of garbage ever written is kinda like letting me walk down the street with a smudge of mustard on my face …

Random Samplings For Your Consideration

Five common traits of good writers: 

(1) They have something to say.
(2) They read widely and have done so since childhood.
(3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a "capacity for clear thought," able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach.
(4) They're geniuses at putting their emotions into words.
(5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.

— James J. Kilpatrick

(1) the Muse visits during, not before, the act of composition, and

(2) the writer takes dictation from that place in his mind that knows what he should write next.

- from a review by Roger Ebert

Writer's Resolution

Enough's Enough! No more shall I

Pursue the Muse and scorch the pie

Or dream of Authoring a book

When I (unhappy soul) must cook;

Or burn the steak while I wool-gather,

And stir my spouse into a lather

Invoking words like "Darn!" and such

And others that are worse (Oh, much!)

Concerning culinary knack

Which I (HE says) completely lack.

I'll keep my mind upon my work;

I'll learn each boresome cooking quirk;

This day shall mark a new leaf's turning...

That smell! Oh Hell! The beans are burning!"

— Terry Ryan (The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less)

"The imagination doesn’t crop annually like a reliable fruit tree. The writer has to gather whatever’s there: sometimes too much, sometimes too little, sometimes nothing at all. And in the years of glut there is always a slatted wooden tray in some cool, dark attic, which the writer nervously visits from time to time; and yes, oh dear, while he’s been hard at work downstairs, up in the attic there are puckering skins, warning spots, a sudden brown collapse and the sprouting of snowflakes. What can he do about it?" — Julian Barnes (Flaubert's Parrot)

An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought."
— Mignon McLaughlin

"Man, wow, there's so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears..." — Jack Kerouac

"..the writer’s obsession – the desire to know and communicate, or, rather, to know everything so as to communicate with the greatest degree of precision." — Ivan Klíma

"I enjoy writing, I enjoy my house, my family and, more than anything I enjoy the feeling of seeing each day used to the full to actually produce something. The end." — Michael Palin

"That isn't writing at all, it's typing." — Truman Capote

Thanks for stopping by the Den ... honest opinions of this post will be ignored!

David Hunter >>

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