Monday, January 12, 2009

Words of Wisdom (Not Mine)

Ever since way back when, I’ve been collecting quotations about writing that I find inspiring. Here are some of my favorites:

I can’t remember if this is from the deservedly beloved Bird by Bird or not:
“If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”
~~Anne Lamott

I think I find an excuse to read this out loud to every workshop class I teach--
“…in fiction every element has effect on every other, so that to change a character’s name from Jane to Cynthia is to make the fictional ground shudder under her feet.”
~~John Gardner

Workshops classes also get to hear this one quite frequently:
“Write with fire and edit with ice.” ~~Ernest Gaines

Here’s a cheerful one:
“A writer’s life is only ever acceptance or rejection, surfeit or famine, and nothing in between. That’s an emotionally draining way to live. As a result, it isn’t necessary to discourage young writers. Life will do that soon enough. There are yards of writers under the age of thirty, but not many who stay the course. The ones who do aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but those who can focus well, discipline themselves, persevere through hard times, and spring back after rejections that would cripple others.” ~~Diane Ackerman

I can’t quit you, John Gardner!:
“Really good fiction has a staying power that comes from its ability to jar, turn on, move the whole intellectual and emotional history of the reader. If the reader is a house, the really good book is a jubilant party that spreads through every room of it, or else a fire.” ~~John Gardner

This is perhaps my absolute favorite:
“There is no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come…patience is everything.” ~~Rilke

And, perversely, this one gives me hope at many points along the way:
“I write the first half of a novel without knowing what I’m doing. I write the second half knowing exactly what I’m doing and that I’m totally wrong in doing it.” ~~Alice McDermott

I’m always interested in the magical words that other writers find helpful, so if you’re inspired to do so, please send along one or two of your favorites and I’ll post them.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.