Over the years, Helen Gordon and I have been working on Being a Writer, a book that summarizes the thoughts, tricks, and essays of our favorite writers, from the days of Samuel Johnson and Grab Street to the days of Silicon Roundabout and Rory Moore.
What is immediately clear in the research in this book is that there is no “right way” to get started with creative writing. It’s a little easier, isn’t it? If you need to isolate yourself in a quiet work room to work (Jonathan Franzen), there are the same number of people (Livka Garchen) who work hard at a coffee shop in the neighborhood, and anyone who desperately spends an hour between housework and childcare (Young Alice Mnlow).
On the other hand, it became clear that many writers share certain ideas and advice in common. In a letter to Mrs. Brookfield in 1866, Charles Dickens pointed out that “you are always rushing the story by suddenly talking in your own voice about the scenes where the characters should speak and act in their own words.” The basis of creation is “SHOW, DON’T TELL”. These three words are well-heard by anyone who has taken a literature (creative writing) class even today in the 21st century.
Our books have a lot of advice on writing, from rigorously practical to wonderfully erning. The writers talk about not only what went well, but also what didn’t. I couldn’t finish the manuscript, I couldn’t find a publisher, I couldn’t get the characters and complex settings into shape, the plot got out of hand. Here are just a few of our favorite tips. All of the artists who are willing to improve are the ones that I think should be kept in mind.
1. Hilary Mantel: A little arrogance can be very helpful
“The most useful qualities a writer can develop are self-confidence- arrogance (but only if he can control it). To write is to force yourself into the world. Even if you don’t get approval from the world for yourself, you have to believe in your own abilities.”
2. Lev Tolstoy and HP Lovecraft: Choose the time of day when you can do your best
Tolstoy is the style that starts first thing in the morning. “I always write in the morning. Recently, I was glad to hear that Russeau had started work after getting up in the morning and going for a short walk. My head is especially fresh in the morning. The best idea comes to mind most in the morning, when I’m still in bed or taking a walk.”
Some people are night-type like HP Lovecraft. “At night, when the world around you gently returns to the roost and the dreamers are free, the inspiration and abilities that have been breathtaking up to now spring up in that magical quiet moment. If you’ve never written at night, no one knows if he’s a writer or not.”
3. William Faulkner: Reading to Write
“I read, I read, I read a lot. It’s about reading all the bad works, classics, and masterpieces that don’t, and knowing how they’re written. Like an apprentice carpenter who learns from his parents. Anyway, it’s to read! I read it, absorb it, and then write it. If you can write well, you will understand for yourself. If it’s a pun, throw it out the window.”
4. Katherine Mansfield: Writing something is better than writing nothing.
“Looking back, I think I’ve always written. It was also a pun. However, it is much better than not writing anything at all even if it is a pun.
5. Ernest Hemingway: Stop while you’re in good shape
“Be sure to stop while you’re in good shape. And don’t worry until you start writing the next day. That way, your subconscious will always work on what you’re writing. On the other hand, if you think and care about writing consciously, you’ll lose your tone and your brain will get tired the next time you start writing.”
6. John Steinbeck: Up to one page at a time
“Let’s abandon the idea that we have to finish it. Forget about 400 pages and write only one page every day. That should be better.”
7. Miranda Juraj: I don’t care if the draft is bad
“When I was writing this novel, I was much more ignorant than I am now. I felt like I was inferior as a writer, and when I came home from work, I used to say every day, ‘I still like this story very much, but I wish I had written it better.’ At the time, I didn’t realize that what I was writing was the first draft. The first draft was the most difficult part. It became relatively easy from there. It was like working on a playdo (children’s clay) and playing around with it for a long time. Over and over again, things change completely, characters appear and disappear, and the mystery is solved. “Why is this here?” ‘Should I shave it anyway?’ I think, no, I can not scrape this. Rather, I realize that it is the key to this scene. I love the detective-like work that sticks to my beliefs until all the questions are pursued.”
8. F. Scott Fitzgerald: If you’re going to write, don’t drink.
“In my case, it gradually became clear that drinking alcohol would not work to improve the composition of long books and to sharpen awareness and judgment at the time of review. If it is a short story, it is possible to write while drinking, but it is not so in the case of the novel which puts all the flow in the head, and the rotation speed of the head is required to cut off the end clause of the branch and leaf mercilessly. If I could completely get drunk and cancel my past writing the third part of Tender Is the Night, I would do anything.”
9. Zeidi Smith: No Internet connection
“Let’s work on a computer that is not connected to the Internet.”
10. Muriel Sparke: Keeping a Cat
“If you want to focus deeply on something, and especially if it’s about writing or paper work, you should have a cat. If you’re alone with a cat in your work room, you’re sure to jump on the desk and take a position under the desk lamp. Because the light of the lamp gives a great satisfaction to the cat. The cat will calm down and be quiet, creating an inselding calmness. In the meantime, the calmness of the cat will gradually affect you. The characteristics of an excited cat that interfere with your concentration are sitting on a desk and lurking completely, allowing you to regain the self-control you had lost. You don’t have to look at the cat all the time. It is enough to have a cat there. The cat’s influence on your concentration is wonderful and very mysterious.”