Know that you have talent, are original, and have something important to say. - Brenda Ueland

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Work ethic vs. inspiration

There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. - from a letter by Tchaikovsky at Brain Pickings

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's the first twelve years that are the hardest

"Tenacity and persistence are the key to a writing career. Keep writing (regularly and seriously), and you will be published. You will get better. You will go deeper." - novelist Ann Napolitano in a mini pep talk for writers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Overcome the timid circuits

The desire to make something beautiful, to express our luminous sensations, is not a rare drive confined to those with artistic training. We don't notice this need because we constantly suppress it, because the timid circuits of the prefrontal cortex keep us from risking self-expression. -- Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Friday, June 22, 2012

Four things

Be bold once it’s clear what you want. Be patient. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s what you do after that counts. - From Jane Friedman's farewell post at Writer Unboxed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I write because I love to read. I have loved to read since I was too young to even know what I was reading. For me, writing is the natural extension of reading. It is the other side of the same conversation about what makes our narratives feel special—the unique ways we experience joy, work through relationships and figure out what we want our lives to be. Writing is another way to experience stories, another way to share them. - author Laura Dave at The Divining Wand. Read the entire post; it's a good one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gnosticism III

First line has to make your brain race that’s how Homer does it, that’s how Frank O’Hara does it, why at such a pace Muses slam through the house — there goes one (fainting) up the rungs of your strange BULLFIGHT, buttered almost in a nearness to skyblue They pang — Pollock yourself! Just to hang on to life is why -- Anne Carson

Monday, March 26, 2012

If not proud, then honest

"I wanted to be a writer from almost the minute I could imagine “being” anything," says Susan Orlean. Comments like that make me envious and small. If I were smart, I'd take those feelings and channel them to writing. Usually I head to the pantry for snacks and then curl up with a silly book to read.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Children (who grow into adult readers) everywhere are happy for editors like her.

From Shelf Awareness:

"I was taken out to luncheon and offered, with great ceremony, the opportunity to be an editor in the adult department. The implication, of course, was that since I had learned to publish books for children with considerable success perhaps I was now ready to move along (or up) to the adult field. I almost pushed the luncheon table into the lap of the pompous gentleman opposite me and then explained kindly that publishing children's books was what I did, that I couldn't possibly be interested in books for dead dull finished adults, and thank you very much but I had to get back to my desk to publish some more good books for bad children."

-- Ursula Nordstrom, who was head of Harper's department of books for boys and girls from 1940 to 1973 (from the book Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, which was showcased by the Brain Pickings blog).

Good books for bad children. Love it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Inventing a horse

Today a friend reminded me of the poem, Inventing a Horse by Meghan O'Rourke, and likened it to inventing the life you want.

Inventing a horse is not easy.
One must not only think of the horse.
One must dig fence posts around him.
One must include a place where horses like to live;

It's true. Creating and living the life you've always wanted doesn't just happen. You don't stumble onto it. You have to make it and be fierce about protecting it and feeding it so it will thrive.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don’t waste your doubts. Use them to move you forward into that forest, into the pages of that story that you must write.

From the blog post, Does the world really need your story:

When Madeleine L’Engle’s husband says of her new work, “It’s been said better before,” she responds, “Of course, it has. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said, by me, ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try, to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.”

7 truths about writers

By Joanna Penn on Write to Done:

We are deeply creative but sometimes forget this.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters, on why she writes

Thanks to The Divining Wand for this lovely series of posts by writers:

The page has infinite patience. It lets me say ridiculous things and then retract them a moment later without judgment. It allows me to change my mind at will, to wander off on seemingly unrelated tangents and then circle back around to find the perfect thing to say. It is as broad and as narrow as I need it to be at any moment.

Someone asked me recently why I read, and my answer was instantaneous: to understand, and to connect. And I think these are the same reasons I write. In stories, as both a reader and a writer, I am trying on lives, meeting new people, learning. I am twelve, lying on the linoleum of the kitchen floor, the phone cord twisted around my finger, talking my way through the mysteries of life with my closest friends.

Read the entire post here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mastering the Art of Living

A lot of wisdom and joy packed in this poem by James Michener, which I read at Christina Katz's blog.

Master in the Art of Living

A master in the art of living

draws no sharp distinction

between his work and his play,

his labor and his leisure,

his mind and his body,

his education and his recreation.

He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision

of excellence through whatever

he is doing and leaves

others to determine

whether he is working or playing.

To himself, he always seems

to be doing both.

- James A. Michener

"Make yourself unavailable to anyone except your own imagination."

Great post about how to stop preparing to work and get to work.

And when should you begin? You already know the answer to that: the time to start is right now.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bring Your Own Weather to the Picnic

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, interviews author Harlan Coben. She asked if he had a happiness mantra:

I have two mantras.

One I’ve already typed twice before: “It’s all about balance.” Family, writing, health, friends, surfing the web—whatever. They all need to be in balance. If I’m not writing well, I’m not happy. If I’m not spending enough time with my family, I’m not happy. If I’m not connecting to friends or if I don’t work out enough... You get the point. Everything has to be balanced. Nothing should be an extreme.

My second mantra is more basic: “You bring your own weather to the picnic.” My kids roll their eyes at this one, but there is no question that attitude can go a long way.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fuel for Brilliance

Excerpted at Jane Friedman's blog from the book UNCERTAINTY: TURNING FEAR AND DOUBT INTO FUEL FOR BRILLIANCE by Jonathan Fields:

We are often terrified of getting answers to those questions we don’t want to hear. This aversion to being judged, to being told something doesn’t measure up, leads you to cut creative quests short or, worse, never even begin.

That alone is a tough enough challenge for the creative soul who typically spends a good chunk of time pining for acceptance.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You are exactly where you need to be

Read this fabulous post by Kathryn Trombly.

As a writer you are really a translator–a storyteller of life and this experience.

It doesn’t matter what you write, novels, articles, press releases, web content, grants or non-fiction pieces, everything is, and has, a story.

Through your words you help others to understand the ups and downs of life. Those moments of pure bliss and bitter heartache.

You teach others a little more about love and relationships. About finding and sometimes losing ones dreams.

You remind them that while everyone has their own unique journey through life, no one is every really alone.

But you have to live your own story.

You my friend, have to experience the peaks and valleys, the sadness and happiness, the fear and faith of everything in life.

So live.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We're In It For the Joy

Another great post from Victoria Mixon:

Writing is using the written word to reach into the fog of invisibility that shrouds our every waking moment and retrieve the primal experience of being alive.

Meaning in writing

From How to Find the Meaning of Life Through Writing, by Victoria Mixon, author of The Art & Craft of Fiction:

So when we have accepted that there is meaning to our lives, and sought that meaning through this extraordinary craft that is our chosen tool for revelation, and faced that meaning in those ephemeral moments of brilliance in our writing, and accepted our inevitable thwarting at its hands (which thwarting, I’m afraid, really is inevitable), we come to understand something.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Don't Write What You Know

Fantastic essay by Bret Anthony Johnston.

Maybe we’re afraid that if we write what we don’t know, we’ll discover something truer than anything our real lives will ever yield.

A resolution of sorts

When I choose to read blogs, I'm going to read more about books and reading and less about writing and plot structure and getting an agent and the publishing industry.

More about what made me love writing to begin with, which was stories.