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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Best Quotes on Writing

I dislike the many online articles and blog posts that offer a list of dos and don'ts on writing. They are nothing but click bait or shortcuts to the real work of writing. These are the ones that tell you to "start with action," or "show, don't tell," or the "ten rules of writing a novel." They are a disservice to the work, a disservice to the art, a disservice to you as a writer. Are there best practices? Of course. But good writing is not about rules and formulas.

However.

I might not like the articles that tell you to "do these ten things to write a winning novel," but I do love the quotes by writers that suggest a path to follow. Those little clips, sound bites (if you will) of inspiration and support are wonderful.

What are your favorites? Share them in the comments. These are mine.

Here we go...

"The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress." - Philip Roth

"Style is to forget all styles." - Jules Renard

"Genius gives birth, talent delivers. What Rembrandt or Van Gogh saw in the night can never be seen again. Born writers of the future are amazed already at what they’re seeing now, what we’ll all see in time for the first time, and then see imitated many times by made writers.” - Jack Kerouac

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.” - Ernest Hemingway
"To gain your own voice, you must forget about having it heard." - Allen Ginsberg

"Writing means sharing. It's part of the human condition to share things - thoughts, ideas, opinions." - Paul Coehlo

"Writing if an act of faith, not a trick of grammar." - E.B. White

"Art is never finished, only abandoned." - Leonardo da Vinci

 
"Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly." - Franz Kafka 

"I write entirely to find out what is on my mind. what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I'm seeing, and what it means." - Joan Didion





"I think there are a lot of similarities between writing and music. Music is much more direct and much more emotional and that's the level I want to be at when I'm writing." - Karl Ove Knausgaard

"Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little." - Holly Gerth


And one of my very favorites...

"Writing is the painting of the voice." - Voltaire

Got more?



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I Never Read it. You?

I'm a writer. I write. And writers read. You can't write without being a skilled reader. Reading like a writer is important to understand structure and pace and tone from the greatest of the great. Reading other writers works is a serious endeavor and should be considered important to the craft. 

But...

And this is a big but. 

What if you haven't read some of the books you and everyone else think you should have? I'm talking about the books that are considered essential, books one believes every writer worth his weight should have read—the best of all time, the greatest of a generation, modern classics, or just...classics, period.

Here is a list of books I have not read, or at least never finished after trying to get through them. This, I'll admit, is a confession in many ways. But like a lot of confessions, it is cathartic. 

Ulysses, James Joyce. Started. Bounced around it. Never finished.


Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. Started. Never finished.

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Never read.

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. Started. Never finished. Lost interest. 

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy. Never started. 

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert. Started. Never finished.


Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens. Started twice. Never finished. 

Nearly all of these books are on a shelf in my house or office or writing shed. Maybe someday I'll read at least one. Someday. 

There are many reasons for reading great works of literature, the modern classics. They are cannons of the art; they are models of literary brilliance. Knowing them, at least reading them once, helps to understand the world of literature and the world itself. Many say the first great American novel was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Every American novel afterward comes from what Twain started. So, reading a classic gives us insight and perspective into the history of literature and the authors who have contributed the most.

A classic is a book that people most always say they are "re-reading" not "reading." But in reality, many of us are not being truthful when we say this. It just sounds better, more appropriate, more well-read if we say we are "re-reading" Great Expectations than saying we are reading it for the first time. 

I'm a big Hemingway fan, especially his short stories and his nonfiction. But I have never read For Whom the Bell Tolls. So, a month ago I bought a used copy of it. I've read the first ten pages. Since then, nothing. I plan to get to it; I really do. And maybe someday I can say I'm "re-reading" For Whom the Bell Tolls and consider myself a well-read man. 

What classic have you not read? I'm sure you can add to the list...if you dare to admit. 



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Dog in Books

Been thinking a good deal about dogs in literature. I'm writing a blog these days, one I hope will turn into a book in the future, about walking your dog—for the good of the dog and for me. The bigger theme is the joy of a good walk and how a good dog opens up the mind to reexamine. reevaluate, renew.

John Steinbeck with "Charley" from  Travels with Charley


Dogs in books. Ah, there are so many and such memorable ones. There's Toto of The Wizard of Oz, and Clifford of the Children's books, and Snoopy. Buck from The Call of the Wild is as famous as they get. There's Fang from the Harry Potter seriesArgos from The Odyssey, and Old Yeller. Cujo and Jip from David Copperfield. Every single dog in The One Hundred and One Dalmatians. There's Marley and Lassie and Charley, John Steinbeck's traveling dog.




These lists of dogs in books are easy to find; they are all over the internet. What interests me most are not the many lists, not the fact that dogs can be such great characters in literature, but rather that they are such important ones, one to which we are inevitably drawn. 

Humans have a long history with wolves, the dog's ancestral predecessor. In pre-historic times, man kept a few around for protection and they were relatively trainable for hunting. In time, wolves became tamer and turned into the dogs we now know. But why do we keep them around? They cost a lot. They take up a great deal of time. Maybe it's that they just make us feel good. But why?


Some scientists suggest we keep pets, have dogs, because it's cultural. Others do, so we do. But other experts say our love affair with dogs comes from being social creatures. Humans are constantly seeking relationships with others and that also means a relationship with animals. Dogs happen to be the most amenable. We can share our stories with dogs; they can share theirs with us in their own way. We carry on through life together, as friends. And we crave this relationship, just as we do with other humans. Social we are. Social we will always be. And dogs live in the same dynamic.




Sam of "Walks With Sam"
Sharing stories. That's why we love dogs in books. They help further a theme, twist a plot, create emotion, build a narrative. Not only in literature but in our real lives, too.  

I urge you to follow my own dog stories @walkswithsam and the blog Walks With Sam