Spending My Words: Sixteen Quotes on the Craft of Writing

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So many stacks, so little time. (And this is a small one to select from, in the “library”!)

For no particular reason other than word-love, here are some quotes on writing, perseverance, and the writing life. Some are also beautiful examples of writing. I hope at least a few are ones you’ve never read and they encourage you to seek out more from that author, if s/he is unfamiliar to you.

  • The incurable itch of writing possesses many. (Tenet insanabile multos scribendi cacoëthes.)–Juvenal, Satire, VII
  • True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,/As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.–Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, II
  • I have words to spend and sometimes spend them foolishly, of course, squandering verbs and nouns, sending metaphors askew, and using similes like fireworks whose sparks often fail to flame.–Robert Cormier, I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor
  • Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.–Jorge Luis Borges, Dr. Brodie’s Report, preface
  • Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.–Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar
  •   . . . it seems to me that subject matter doesn’t determine genre. Genres only start existing when there’s enough of them to form a sort of critical mass in a bookshop, and even that can go away.–Neil Gaiman, ” ‘Let’s talk about genre’: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation,” The New Statesman
  • If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.–Toni Morrison, attributed by New York Times
  • A good novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.–G.K. Chesterton, Heretics
  • If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.–William Faulkner, quoted in The Paris Review Interviews, 1959
  • You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  • This [being put in the “naughty box” by a teacher] was just the first of the many humiliations of my youth that I’ve tried to revenge through my writing. I have never fully exorcised shames that struck me to the heart as a child except through written violence, shadowy caricature, and dark jokes.–Louise Erdrich, The Paris Review, Art of Fiction No. 208
  • [As a mother who writes] Either you end up writing about terrible things happening to children—as if you could ward them off simply by writing about them—or you tie things up in easily opened packages, or you pull your punches as a writer. All deadfalls to watch for.–Erdrich, ibid
  • Get out of your own way and become willing to learn from people who are clearly qualified to offer you sound advice.–Christina Katz, Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids
  •  . . . everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.–Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • . . . The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone. so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. . . . –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Write your heart out. Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. Your “forbidden” passions are likely to be the fuel for your writing. . . . Without these ill-understood drives you might be a superficially happier person, and a more involved citizen of your community, but it isn’t likely that you will create anything of substance.–Joyce Carol Oates, “To a Young Writer,” in The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art
  • Words. Words that allow us to communicate, to reach out, to touch each other if only verbally. And the other side of words where we find silence. And how silence, too, is precious. Knowing when not to use the words and holding them back, which isn’t always easy.–Robert Cormier, ibid

QUOTES from (in no particular order)

I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor, Robert Cormier, ed. by Constance Senay Cormier, Delacorte Press, 1991.

” ‘Let’s talk about genre’: Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation,” The New Statesman

Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1990.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, Pantheon Books, 1994.

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carol Oates, HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2003.

The Pocket Book of Quotations, ed. by Henry Davidoff, Pocket Books Inc, 1942.

The New International Dictionary of Quotations, selected by Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner, Signet, 1988.

GoodReads

The Paris Review, Interviews: Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208

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Bunnies with Bombs: A Year (and Then Some) of Writing Dangerously

Bunnies with bombs_rotated

“Bunnies with bombs,” she says; I say: like a good book!

I write rough. And judging by the spate of rejections in the last 8 months, quite rough.

But this post is not about that. It’s my 100th post—pop the literary corks, y’all—and I’m reflecting on the past year and five months that I’ve been blogging on WordPress.

First and foremost, I thank you all again for being here.

Suffice it to say, I never expected to get to this destination. This writing-and-sharing-my-angst depot is a surprise, but a welcome one.

I never expected you wonderful 200-odd folks to trip the lines, occasionally fantastic, along with me, from my first few tenuous, nonfiction baby-blogging steps into full-blown fiction and what turned out to be a serial novella, called “Undelivered Valentines.”

My nebulous goal, I can safely say—to write more regularly and, moreover, to take gut-twisting chances with my fiction (and the occasional poem or nonfiction piece), including submitting it to applicable publications and contests—has been achieved, gang-busters.

Spooling through my Submittable account (one of the leaders in content-submission systems for fiction and poetry writers—hint, hint—along with others like the up-and-coming publishing platform Medium), which nevertheless doesn’t embrace all the legwork that I’ve done, I see I’ve submitted to at least 10 publications and/or contests since late November 2014, which exceeds what I’ve been able to do in the past, working within only a wedge of part-time. Several times, I’ve tried the same market; I haven’t pitched the same piece each time, but I have re-submitted. You know what they say about not succeeding the first time . . .

Speaking of submissions and rejections: if you are a writer, are you making time to resubmit your work? See Damyanti’s provocatively titled “Do You Submit Like a Man?” for inspiration.

That said, I have even had the good graces to not submit a piece but be approached to have a poem appear (titled “Bivalve’s Love Song”) in a literary magazine. This time, it was in Grammar Ghoul Press’ spring 2015 issue of The Ghouls’ Review.

Along the way, I have received numerous and invaluable feedback moments from editors, guest readers, beta readers, and many among you. I have also done a good deal of reading, although a person can never do enough of that! How does a writerly gal get so lucky?

toasting-image-blogiversary

Yep, I’ve left it all on the page and now am hollow. Time for a story re-fill!

In short, my year-and-almost-a-half blogging has been “bunnies with bombs,” a phrase suggested by my thoughtful and funny daughter (who has not, by the way, seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or its rabbit of Caerbannog). I suppose it’s fitting, as my Chinese astrological sign is that of the {presumed creative} rabbit. (All in good fun, my fellow STEAM-loving friends!) So, something agile and prolific linked to something painful, life-changing, and even lethal, making for quite a novel combination. Yep, that pretty much sums up what writing fiction and nonfiction (and drama and poetry, for that matter) require. Blood on the keyboard, tornadoes in the brain, tears on the cheeks, and vim, vinegar, and perseverance in the veins.

And so, a final toast: here’s to many more years, friends.

Let’s do what you fear most,/That from which you recoil/but which still makes your eyes moist.–attributed to Lou Reed