Sunday, January 25, 2009

Writers on writing.

I nicked this from Fidra Blog, which was in turn linked to the blog of successful Scottish author Nicola Morgan. Nicola has lots of useful and interesting things to say about bookworld - including advice on how to find a publisher. She also offers these favourite quotes from writers on writing:

*A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. (Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947.)

*It was fifteen years before I realised I was no good as a writer, but by then I was too famous to stop. (Robert Benchley.)

*Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. (George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947.)

*Every writer I know has trouble writing. (Joseph Heller.)

*Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. (Samuel Johnson, "Recalling the Advice of a College Tutor," Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1791.)

*Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. (A. Bronson Alcott.)

*It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. (Sinclair Lewis.)

*Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. (From the film Finding Forrester.)

*A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order. Jean Luc Godard

*Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason. They made no such demand upon those who wrote them. (Charles Caleb Colton.)

*As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. (Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894.)

*A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. (W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938.)

*You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. (Arthur Polotnik.)

*The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. (Agatha Christie.)

*When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. (Enrique Jardiel Poncela.)

*Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. (Flannery O'Connor.)

*Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. (Gene Fowler.)

*Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. (Anton Chekhov.)

*I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. (James Michener.)

*I try to leave out the parts that people skip. (Elmore Leonard.)

*There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. (Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Perpetual motion

'Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?' (Browning.)

It's part of the human condition, I think, to always be yearning for the unattainable, and it being Sunday I'm prompted to make this childish confession.

Since the age of about thirteen I've dabbled in experiments on perpetual motion. Every once in a while I'll sit down and do a few more drawings, play with a bunch of magnets, build silly little machines. It's a ludicrous pastime. Intellectually I understand perfectly well that the laws of physics forbid the possibility of perpetual motion, and yet and yet, etc.

Arrogant, quixotic, call it what you will - its very hopelessness is what makes the quest seem worthwhile.

(The above image is Boyle's self flowing flask, incidentally. And no, just in case you were wondering, it doesn't work.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Very Yorkshire

I was talking to one of the locals last night about amusement arcades. He told me a story about a seaside holiday he'd had some years ago, with his wife and young son. Seaside resorts are full of amusement arcades, of course, and the boy was duly drawn towards them - desperate to get in there amongst all the bright lights.

The man explained to his son that such places exist only to take your money.
"Tha'll never get owt from them," he said. "But if tha' should ever be lucky enough to win anything, then hold onto it. Never give them a second chance, lad." And with this advice he handed the boy a fifty pence piece to gamble with.

They went over to a change machine, and the man showed his son where to put the money in, and which button to push. When the coins came rattling out of the machine, the man said, "Ee, lad! Look at that! Tha's won! Now follow ma advice, and quit while tha's ahead. Tha can buy us both an ice cream wi' that."

So that's what they did. As I say, very Yorkshire.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Temperance Seven

Er... make that the Temperance Ten. Unless I'm seeing double somewhere.

For anyone thinking of taking the pledge (and who isn't at this time of year) beware. This is what you get when your vision clears.

An old pal sent me this in my email box. Thanks for the laugh, Col. Hope you're feeling better yourself.