Monday, May 28, 2007

Writers on Writing (3)

What can we learn from writers about writing?

Should you talk to people about books or articles you are writing? Angus Wilson: "So many people have talked out to me books they would otherwise have written; once you have talked, the act of communication has been made." Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Why write? John Hersey: "Writing is a 'search for understanding.' " Hull, ed., The Writer's Book.

How should you react to rejection notices? Ann Petry: "I have collected enough rejection slips for my short stories to paper four or five good-sized rooms." Hull, ed., The Writer's Book.

Why write? "That statement only is fit to be made public, which you have come at in attempting to satisfy your own curiosity." Emerson, Spiritual Laws.

How long does it take to write a book? Albert Schweitzer: "Some of my thoughts I had to carry for years in my head before I found time to put them on paper." Anderson, The Schweitzer Album.

What about dictating your writing? "Dictated sentences tend to be pompous, sloppy and redundant." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

What problems face the modern writer? "The reader is a person with an attention span of about twenty seconds...assailed on every side by forces competing for his time by newspapers and magazines, by television and radio and stereo, by his wife and children and pets, by his house and yard and all the gadgets that he has bought to keep them spruce, and by that most potent of competitors, sleep." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

How important is word choice? Thomas Paine's "These are the times that try men's souls": "Times like these try men's souls; how trying it is to live in these times; these are trying times for men's souls; soulwise, these are trying times." Zinsser, On Writing Well.

How do you know when to stop your writing for the day? Hemingway: "You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again." Plimpton, ed., The Writer's Chapbook.

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