“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”—W. Somerset Maugham
“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.”
The featured image is a detailed crop of Robert McCurdy’s stunning portrait of Toni Morrison. It currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. I encourage you to check out the full piece. Morrison’s impact on American culture and literature cannot be overstated. She lived an inspirational life and left this world a better place. Her voice will be missed, but her legacy will last forever.
“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”
Kari-Lise shared this quote with me today; it was too good not to post here. It’s solid advice from an incredibly prolific artist. So, what are you going to do? Wait around for the lighting to strike or are you going to show up and get to work? In the end, it’s up to you.
“If you’re waiting for the perfect moment, you’ll never write a thing because it will never arrive. I have no routine. I have no foolproof anything. There’s nothing foolproof.”
I cannot tell you how many people I know who talk and talk and talk about writing, and then spend their days picking away at excuses why they cannot write. They don’t have the right tools. They don’t have enough time. The weather isn’t right. They ran out of coffee. The excuses are endless. The trick, as Atwood says so eloquently, is recognizing that it’ll never be the right time. You just do and you keep doing until you’re done.
For years Stephen King has preached a much different approach to writing than other master writers. He doesn’t outline. He doesn’t write down ideas. He just writes. In this Q&A session from 2012, King goes into details about his ideas, screenwriting, Lovecraft, and a lot more. It’s really good. (I’m going to flag this NSFW since there is some strong language.)
My favorite quote from the talk:
“People will say, “do you keep a notebook.” And the answer is I think a writer’s notebook is the best way in the world to immortalize bad ideas. My idea about a good idea is one that sticks around and sticks around and sticks around.”