Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Writers Are Most Alive While Alone (i.e., Introverts)?


James Baldwin wrote in the essay “The Creative Process” (1962):
The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.

Per The Paris Review's "The Art of Fiction No. 151, Martin Amis said, 

"The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when he is alone."

And we related previously that Jenn Granneman shared on the blog Introvert, Dear that John Green, The Fault in Our Stars author, opined: 

“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” 

Of course, there are a number of writers who are not introverts (e.g., Hemingway); thus, like Baldwin advised, they must actively cultivate the state of being alone to attain the state of feeling alive.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Fill Empty Pools with Words

Reportedly, Bethany Ball, the author of What to Do About the Solomons, said:
Writing a book is like having an empty pool in the yard and every day going out and throwing in a cup of water to fill it.

This is a good analogy - even for New Yorkers. Although, some writers may throw in more than a cup per day, one of the keys to writing, after picking a topic that one is passionate about, is consistency. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Writer's Ability of Extended Concentration

Reportedly, Joyce Carol Oates opined

First requirement of the writer is the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Second, more urgent requirement, the wish to do so.

However, it appears that Oates may have put the cart [i.e., the ability to concentrate] before the horse [i.e., the wish to do so]. Does Patricia Highsmith and Malcolm Gladwell have better writing advice?

Patricia Highsmith, the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, related that self-amusement is needed to concentrate for long enough to write a book:

The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself. If you can amuse yourself for the length of time it takes to write a book, the publishers and the readers can and will come later [إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ].

And Malcolm Gladwell advised that a writer has to possess a desire to tell a story:

You need to have a desire to tell the story. You need to be personally invested in some way. 

Thus, it appears that if a writer is self-amused and\or is invested in his or her writing, then he or she will (organically) have the ability to concentrate consistently and for long enough to write a book(s).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Write to Entertain or to Inspire?

It's not uncommon to hear writers (e.g., Nabokov) say that they don't aspire to inspire the minds and lives of their readers. In other words, they solely write to entertain. 

However, per Allegra Goodman - the winner of the Whiting Award for Fiction (1991):

A true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work.

Maybe the solution is to write to inspire by entertaining the readers. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Write About What Fascinates and Electrifies

Per AdvicetoWriters, Warm Bodies author Isaac Marion advised:

Please don't write to appease others. Not the market, not a demographic, and not your family. Write the story that fascinates you in the way that electrifies you, and ignore everything else.

And I would add that writing about topics that "fascinates" and "electrifies" the writer will make writing, not easy, but a lot easier. 

And this advise extends beyond writing. For example, if you workout, not because you want to live a long and healthy life, but you hit the gym three times per week to be attractive to the opposite sex, you may come off as needy, which is not attractive. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

I Love [What I'm] Writing [About]

S.C. Gwynne, the author of Empire of the Summer Moon - New York Times Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, was asked by AdviceToWriters

What’s your advice to new writers? 

Gwynne replied: 

[...] I would say the most important thing is to discover what you want to write about.

And I would agree with Gwynne, because writers don’t particularly love writing, but they love what they write about.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

THE PARIS REVIEW'S "Eat Your Words" | Food in Literature


The Paris Review's website has an Eat Your Words category that's described as: "Cooking up recipes drawn from the works of various writers", which reminded me that I'm not the only writer who enjoys reading about food in novels. How about an example from Nabokov's Ada:

The classical beauty of clover honey, smooth, pale, translucent, freely flowing from the spoon and soaking my love's bread and butter in liquid brass. The crumb steeped in nectar. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Writer's Notebook

John Irving, the author of The Cider House Rules, reportedly said:
It doesn't really matter who said it, it's so obviously true: Before you can write anything, you have to notice something.
And it's advised to write down what you have noticed. 

Horne, Theroux, Boyt and Chaudhuri posted on The Guardian ‘Messy attics of the mind’: what’s inside a writer’s notebook?" (6 April 2018). In the post, they related the following about Henry James:
Jotting things down in a notebook is one way writers shape and discipline the unpredictable flow of ideas. For Henry James, in 1881, just after publishing The Portrait of a Lady, it was already a matter of regret that he had “lost too much by losing, or rather by not having acquired, the note-taking habit”. But he would make up for it over the next 30 years by filling innumerable pages with his records of story ideas, anecdotes from dinner parties and newspapers, things noticed on his travels. He developed personal rituals around the process of expressing his thoughts, through the pressure of pen on paper.
Thus, keep a cahier handy to jot down fiction that you may (creatively) turn into non-fiction. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"Bob with Books"


Source: Nancy Holt Bob with Books: Roof of 799 Greenwich St., New York, 1971

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sleep Less | Write More

Mary Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, reportedly advised:
If anybody has a job and starts at 9, there's no reason why they can't get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second-best effort of the day—which is what I did.

However, if you're like me, a night owl, I would recommend, after a twenty minute power nap, staying up a couple of hours after one's bedtime to write. 

Like Mary Oliver alluded to, it's difficult to find time to write if you work and sleep for a a combined 16 hours per day.