The best from the best 2013: on writing

A series of posts on what I learned about writing, uncertainty, sensitivity, creativity, and more this year from the smartest people who ever lived — maybe they can help you, too.

In this post, the best quotations/thoughts on :

Writing

I’ve written most of my life (mostly for myself), but when I thought about starting a blog, I had to figure out who I was writing for and why I was writing for them.  These passages helped me figure it out. — MM

***

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.  It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. — Barbara Kingslover

I do it for me and like-minded people.  That’s it, that’s it…I’m going to do exactly what I want and I’m going to survive or I’m not.  I’m not going to pander, I’m not going to change things, I’m not going to do focus groups.  I’ll live and die by the sword.  I don’t care.  Because I couldn’t live with myself…  — Ricky Gervais

We do not write to be understood.  We write in order to understand.  — C. Day Lewis

Write as if you were dying.  At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.  That is, after all, the case.  What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon?  What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality? – Annie Dillard

…writing fiction becomes a way to go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don’t want to see or let anyone else see, and this stuff usually turns out (paradoxically) to be precisely the stuff all writers and readers share and respond to feel.  Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likeable.  This process is complicated and confusing and scary, and also hard work, but it turns out to be the best fun there is.  — David Foster Wallace

What writers have is a license and also the freedom to sit — to sit, clench their fists and make themselves be excruciatingly aware of the stuff that we’re mostly aware of only on a certain level.  And that if the writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart the reader is, is to wake the reader up to stuff that the reader’s been aware of all the time.  And it’s not a question of the writer having more capacity than the average person.  It’s that the writer is willing I think to cut off, cut himself off from certain stuff, and develop…and just think really hard.  Which not everybody has the luxury to do. — David Foster Wallace

I gotta tell you, I just think to look across the room and automatically assume that someone else is less aware than me, or that somehow their interior life is less rich, and complicated, and acutely perceived than mine, makes me not as good a writer.  Because that means I’m going to be performing for a faceless audience, instead of trying to have a conversation with a person…it’s true that I want that very much– I treasure my regular guy-ness.  I’ve started to think it’s my biggest asset as a writer.  Is that I’m pretty much like everybody else. — David Foster Wallace

(I love DFW.)

When you write from your gut and let the stuff stay flawed and don’t let anybody tell you to make it better, it can end up looking like nothing else. — Louis C.K.

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.  That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part.  It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony.  The act of writing turns out to be its own reward. — Anne Lamott

Did you come across anything that inspired you as a writer?  Please share in the comments section!

Next post — On sensitivity and vulnerability

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