Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Very Different

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

The novel we sit down to write and the one we end up writing may be very different, just as the Jesus we grasp and the Jesus who grasps us may also differ.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 14

The Benefit of Routine

Friday, July 7th, 2017

The worst thing a day job does is take time away from you, but it makes up for that by giving you a daily routine in which you can schedule a regular time for your creative pursuits. Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time. Inertia is the death of creativity. You have to stay in the groove.

— Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist, p. 124

Easter Is the Answer

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

A graduate student wrote to ask if my Christianity affects my novels, and I replied that it is the other way around. My writing affects my Christianity. In a way one might say that my stories keep converting me back to Christianity, from which I am constantly tempted to stray because the circle of blessing seems frayed and close to breaking, and my faith is so frail and flawed that I fall away over and over again from my God. There are times when I feel that he has withdrawn from me, and I have often given him cause; but Easter is always the answer to My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!

— Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season, p. 99, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase

True Art

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

True art has a mythic quality in that it speaks of that which was true, is true, and will be true.

Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, p. 11

The Power of Words

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counternarrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads — the one that says You can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have. Quotes, at their core, almost always shout, Yes!

— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough, p. x.

Keeping a Journal

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you reread your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and same experiences.

— Thomas Merton, A Thomas Merton Reader, p. 195

Meaning Through Reduction

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Writers reduce when they write, and readers reduce when they read. The brain itself is built to reduce, replace, emblemize . . . Verisimilitude is not only a false idol, but also an unattainable goal. So we reduce. And it is not without reverence that we reduce. This is how we apprehend our world. This is what humans do.

Picturing stories is making reductions. Through reduction, we create meaning.

These reductions are the world as we see it — they are what we see when we read, and they are what we see when we read the world.

— Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read, p. 415-416

When the Pattern Breaks

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Stories are about the dropped stitch. About what happens when the pattern breaks. Though there is a certain poetry in the rhythm of the everyday, it is most often a shift, a moment of not-always-so, that ends up being the story. Why is this moment different? What has changed? And why now? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions when we’re at work. This shift can be a massive one (here I am thinking of the dystopian novel in which the very rhythms of the universe are called into question: the sun no longer predictably rises in the east or sets in the west; a meteor is hurling toward earth; the oceans are rising), or it can be as subtle and internal as the Steven Millhauser story, “Getting Closer,” in which a nine-year-old boy on vacation with his family feels, for the first time, a searing, wordless awareness of time’s passage.

Why are we writing about this moment, and no other? And what can we do — stylistically, structurally, linguistically — to get inside it? How can we reveal the innards, the pulsing truth of this character who is — let’s face it — at some sort of juncture, because if he isn’t, why would the story be worth telling?

— Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, p. 136-137

The Practice of Writing

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

It’s the same with writing, which is a practice like any other. If I waited to be in the mood to write, I’d barely have a chapbook of material to my name. Who would ever be in the mood to write? Do marathon runners get in the mood to run? Do teachers wake up with the urge to lecture? I don’t know, but I doubt it. My guess is that it’s the very act that is generative. The doing of the thing that makes possible the desire for it. A runner suits up, stretches, begins to run. An inventor trudges down to his workroom, closing the door behind him. A writer sits in her writing space, setting aside the time to be alone with her work. Is she inspired doing it? Very possibly not. Is she distracted, bored, lonely, in need of stimulation? Oh, absolutely, without a doubt it’s hard to sit there. Who wants to sit there? Something nags at the edges of her mind. Should she make soup for dinner tonight? She’s on the verge of jumping up from her chair — in which case all will be lost — but wait. Suddenly she remembers: this is her hour (or two, or three). This is her habit, her job, her discipline. Think of a ballet dancer at the barre. Plié, elevé, battement tendu. She is practicing, because she knows there is no difference between practice and art. The practice is the art.

— Dani Shapiro, Still Writing, p. 50-51

Permission

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Writers! You must give yourself permission, by a daily act of will, to believe in your remembered truth. Do not remain nameless to yourself. Only you can turn on the switch; nobody is going to do it for you. Nobody gave George Gershwin permission to write “Rhapsody in Blue” at the age of 25, when he had only written 32-bar popular songs. Nobody gave Frank Lloyd Wright permission to design a round museum.

— William Zinsser, The Writer Who Stayed, p. 161