Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spend Some Time Living Before You Start Writing

Spend some time living before you start writing. What I find to be very bad advice is the snappy little sentence, “Write what you know.” It is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given. If we write simply about what we know we never grow. We don't develop any facility for languages, or an interest in others, or a desire to travel and explore and face experience head-on. We just coil tighter and tighter into our boring little selves. What one should write about is what interests one.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Become A Slow Reader

Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one's own writing. The first step is to become a slow reader. No good writer is a fast reader, at least not of work with the standing of literature. Writers perforce read differently from everyone else. 

Most people ask three questions of what they read: 
(1) What is being said?
(2) Does it interest me?
(3) Is it well constructed? 
Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them: 
(4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? 
(5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing? 

This can slow things down a good bit.