Friday, May 6, 2016

(Really Great) Writers on Writing By Gail Roughton

A few weeks ago, I took a couple of hours and "organized" my computer files. Like closets and file cabinets, computers tend to accumulate a lot of files and documents you had good reason to save at the time you saved them. Unfortunately, six months--or six years--later, you have absolutely no idea what that reason was.  That's when you need to bite the bullet and go through those accumulated files, organizing what's usable in such a fashion you can actually find it when you need to use it, and deleting the things you have no idea why you saved in the first place.  Sometimes, in the course of such a clean-up, you find some absolute gems you'd forgotten you'd ever saved. Like the following quotes from a few of the acknowledged greatest writers of our time. 

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W. Somerset Maugham. (That might be my favorite.)

"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy."  Dorothy Parker.  (No, wait! With apologies to Mr. Maugham, that's my favorite!)

Writing's tough. If it was easy, anybody could do it. Any seasoned writer will tell you--the first rule of writing is there are no rules, and that's been said by many people in many different ways.  Still, there are pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from listening to the greats. Like this one:  "The first draft of everything is s--t." Ernest Hemingway. And when an aspiring writer actually believes that insofar as their own first draft goes, they are well on the way to ceasing to be "aspiring" and becoming a seasoned writer. 

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide."  Harper Lee. Now who in their right mind would ignore advice from Harper Lee?  (Nobody in their right mind, of course.) I'd also add that without a thick hide, all the talent in the world isn't going to help you, because you won't survive long enough for that talent to be discovered. 

"If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do." William Zinsser.  Yes, it is. And that's why it's so satisfying when a reader's review lets the writer know that their words made an imaginary world populated with imaginary characters live for them. It's magic. Magic made real. And there's nothing like it. Speaking of magic...


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