On writing – from one of the best

Q: What is the best training for writing? Courses in writing? Or what?

William Faulkner: Read, read, read! Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read! You’ll absorb it. Write. If it is good you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.

via This Recording.

Por la mañana todo es posible

Yo trabajo por la mañana, cuando el soporte biológico del escritor mejor funciona. Al lado de una ventana que da a un patio interior que se llena de luz y por el que oigo cantar a las vecinas, a los pájaros, incluso al perro.

Porque por la mañana todo es posible. Es cuando encuentras la clave de todos los problemas técnicos que de noche te han parecido insolubles.

via Javier Tomeo.

On finding your voice

When I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca

that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice, that is to locate a self, a self that that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.

As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.

via Leonard Cohen’s Prince of Asturias Awards Speech.

The writing process: continual but not continuous

Writing, then, should be continual but not continuous, for those who observe the differentiation between those two adjectives. You need to write frequently, but with fresh eyes on your project at the beginning of every writing session.

I have to stop myself from writing even though I know I could produce more on a particular day, because I know from experience that I will be better on a fresh day. I try not to do much on the project between writing sessions, except to think about planning in the general sense how many more days I need or check a few books I need out of the library.

via Stupid Motivational Tricks.

Six words that changed a life

After procrastinating till the night before it was due, I wrote a paper about the play — the first paper I typed on a typewriter — and turned it in the next day.

I got a good grade on it, and below the grade Mr. Criche wrote, “Sure hope you become a writer.” That was it. Just those six words, written in his signature handwriting — a bit shaky, but with a very steady baseline.

It was the first time he or anyone had indicated in any way that writing was a career option for me. Wed never had any writers in our family line, and we didnt know any writers personally, even distantly, so writing for a living didnt seem something available to me. But then, just like that, it was as if hed ripped off the ceiling and shown me the sky.

via Remembering an inspiring teacher.

JK Galbraith on the art of good writing

“One extraordinary part of good writing is to avoid excess, which many writers do not understand.

“The next thing, which of course is obvious, is to be aware of the music, the symphony of words, and to make written expression acceptable to the ear. How successfully and how one does that, I don’t know. But certainly it is something that has always been a concern of mine. I worked on it very hard in one of my first widely read books, The Great Crash of 1929, and I was enormously pleased when it was so reviewed. The Great Crash is an ambiguous title, I must say, one should always watch titles. I saw this many times. I looked once to see if a copy was in the LaGuardia Airport bookstore in New York and the lady there said, “That’s not a title you could sell in an airport.”

“The third thing is never to assume that your first draft is right. The first draft, when you’re writing, involves the terrible problem of thought combined with the terrible problem of composition. And it is only in the second and third and fourth drafts that you really escape that original pain and have the opportunity to get it right. Again, I’m repeating myself; I’ve said many times that I do not put that note of spontaneity that my critics like into anything but the fifth draft. It may have a slightly artificial sound as a consequence of that.

“The final thing, in economics, is to have one great truth always in mind. That is, that there are no propositions in economics that can’t be stated in clear, plain language. There just aren’t.”

The above is an excerpt [paragraph breaks are mine]. The full interview is here. From the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: “John Kenneth Galbraith is one of the most widely read economists in the United States. One reason is that he writes so well.”

Speaking is NOT writing

Language has its own structure (not unchanging, to be sure, but fixed enough at any one moment to serve as both a constraint and a resource). If you do not submit yourself to the conventional meanings of words and to the grammatical forms that specify the relationships between the objects words refer to, the prose you produce will say something — language, not you or I, means — but it will not say what you wanted to say. That’s only because your readers will not be inside your head where they might ask the self-seeking expression what it had in mind, but will instead be on the outside processing the formal patterns of your written language and reaching the conclusions dictated and generated by those patterns.

In fact, however, what I’ve just said is a bit misleading because it suggests that fully formed thoughts exist in some inner mental space and manage to make it into the outside world when they are clothed in the proper syntactical and lexical forms. But as everyone used to know before the cult of self-expression triumphed, the ability even to have certain kinds of thoughts depends on the prior ability to produce (and comprehend) certain kinds of sentences. Continue reading