February 23, 2021

My Favourite Quotes from Several Short Sentences About Writing

Page 45:

A cliché is dead matter.

It causes gangrene in the prose around it, and sooner or later it eats your brain.

Page 57:

Many people assume there’s an inherent conflict between creativity and a critical, analytic awareness of the medium you work in.

They assume that the creative artist works unconsciously and that knowing too much about matters like grammar and syntax diminishes or blunts creativity.

This is nonsense. You don’t need to be an expert in grammar and style to write well.

Page 68:

The difficulty of writing isn’t a sign of failure.

It’s simply the nature of the work itself.

For the writer, flow” is a trap.

So is any word that suggests that writing is a spontaneous emission.

Writing doesn’t flow, unless you’re plagiarizing or collecting clichés or enlisting volunteer sentences.

Page 80:

One of the few sad parts about writing is that it’s almost impossible to surrender to the manipulation of your own prose.

Page 89:

A belief that the writer’s real work is making newness out of nothing.

As if creativity only takes place where the ink stops and the blank page begins.

Where the cursor starts blinking.

As if newness couldn’t originate between sentences or within a sentence.

As if revision were essentially secondary and uncreative.

Page 100:

Resist the temptation to start organizing and structuring your thoughts too soon,

Boxing them in, forcing them into genre-based containers.

Postpone the search for order, for the single line through the piece.

Let your thoughts overlap and collide and see what they dislodge.

Page 100:

How do you begin to write?

Look for a sentence that interests you.

A sentence that might begin the piece.

Don’t look too hard.

Page 103:

The piece is now two sentences long.

Not two sentences plus the missing pages that haunt you.

Page 117:

Writing doesn’t prove anything,

And it only rarely persuades.

It does something much better.

It attests.

It witnesses.

It shares your interest in what you’ve noticed.

It reports on the nature of your attention.

Page 121:

Novels contain far less chronological narrative than you think.

Take a page from almost any novelist.

Look carefully at each sentence.

How many propel the story forward in time?

And how many are devoted to enriching our sense of place and character?

Page 134:

Discipline is nothing more than interest and expectation, a looking forward.

It’s never hard to work when you’re interested in what you’re working on.


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