Thursday, 11 August 2011

On writing ...

Every person who is writing a novel at some point compiles one of these lists in the vain hope that it will somehow contribute to their writing project. It won’t and it doesn’t and here is mine …

Situationist slogans from May ’68 …

Write everywhere!

Before writing, learn to think!

I don’t know how to write but I would like to say beautiful things and I don’t know how!

I have something to say but I don’t know what!

I don’t have time to write!

‘As every dullard knows, the historical novel is neither history nor a novel. History means footnotes and careful citations from others tenured in the field, while the “serious” novel is about the daily lives of those who teach school and commit adultery.’

Gore Vidal

‘Only bad writers think that their work is really good.’

Anne Enwright

‘Dinginess is death to a writer…the damp small confines of the mediocre and the gradual corrosion of beauty and light, the compromising and the settling; these things make good work impossible. When Keats was depressed he put on a clean shirt. When Radclyffe Hall was oppressed she ordered new sets of silk underwear from Jermyn Street. Byron, as we all know, allowed only the softest, purest and whitest next to his heroic skin, and I am a great admirer of Byron … To do something large and to do it well demands such observances, personal and peculiar, laughable as they often are, because they stave off that dinginess of soul that says that everything is small and grubby and nothing is really worth the effort.’

Jeanette Winterson

‘Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.’

Elmore Leonard

‘From an early age they knew what little value the world placed in books, and so didn’t waste their time with them. Whereas I, even now, persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to capture the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.’

Jeffrey Eugenides

‘Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.’

Isaac Asimov

‘He didn't even know how some of his books ended. That's part of what makes those books existentialist masterpieces.’

Bret Easton Ellis

‘[T]o write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading. You write in order to read what you've written and see if it's O.K. and, since of course it never is, to rewrite it — once, twice, as many times as it takes to get it to be something you can bear to reread.’

Susan Sontag

‘No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.’

W.H. Auden

‘Every writer I know has trouble writing.’

Joseph Heller

‘A man will turn over half a library to make one book.’

Samuel Johnson

‘I do not like to write - I like to have written.’

Gloria Steinem

‘It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

E. L. Doctorow

Man at a party: I’m writing a novel.

Peter Cook: Oh really? Neither am I …

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