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15 Writers on Writing

After I’m done with my own writing each day, I read.  Lately I’ve been reading about writing.  As my publishing deadline creeps ever closer, any waning energy I  feel can usually be stoked again by reading someone who’s been there.

Like these folks.  You’ve probably heard of most of them. The links go to Amazon, the websites featuring the quotes, or posts I’ve written about these authors and their books. Enjoy!

1. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

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.

2. Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style

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.

3. Jonathan Franzen, quoted in The Guardian

The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.

4. George Orwell: Politics and the English Language

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

5. Steven Pressfield: The War of Art

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

6. Seth Godin: From Seth’s Blog

Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure.

Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

7. Ann Patchette: The Getaway Car

Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it.

8. William T. Vollmann, interviewed for Bookslut.com

I guess you have to start by as Hemingway says, write about what you know, which is usually yourself… and trying to have as many experiences as you can and read as widely as you can so that you’re capable of creating different voices and knowing more.

9. Henry Miller: Henry Miller on Writing

Work on one thing at a time until finished.

10. Alexander McCall Smith: Block That Adjective!

I am not at all sure—convinced, certain, persuaded—that creative-writing courses are a good idea unless they prevent people from writing sentences like this one, where adjectives—useful, helpful, intensely descriptive words—are stacked upon one another

11. Larry Brooks, from storyfix.com

Principles, not rules, give us access to the physics of storytelling.These universal literary forces don’t care if you understand them or not (kind of like gravity and the certainty that the sun will rise in the morning), they will always be there to influence your story, to either drag it down or lift it up… depending how you apply them.

12. Stephen King: On Writing

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.

13. Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.

14. Erik Quisling, interview with Wrytestuff.com

If a writer sets out to write something to please someone else, the self-expression is apt to be contrived and the output will probably not be that great – this goes for any art form

15. Hugh McLeod, Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chris Johnson (@genuinechris) June 29, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Nice list, good work.

  • Merlene June 29, 2012, 9:16 pm

    That’s a pretty fine list you have there 🙂

  • Mich July 1, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Thank you! I particularly like #10, #6 and #1.
    My favorite quote about writing is Heinlein’s “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”. I like his five rules too, especially as explained by Robert J. Sawyer.