to Reflect on During the New Year
January’s here again and with it the after-holiday pause, an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead. I think of my family and dreams, then I ponder my developing career -- that of a budding author and want-to-be-published writer. If you’re like me, you combine introspection with questions. How do others feel? Do they share my hopes and insecurities? What do others think?
I turn to books on writing done by those who have tasted success.
This year I discovered an insightful, sensitive book, “Writing Past Dark,” by Bonnie Friedman.
I’d like to share 13 quotes I’ve gleaned from her writing life.
1.) “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.”
2.) “When writing is going well, it is not like pushing. It’s like falling. You fall the way you do in dreams. You fall and fall. There is that same disorientation and breathlessness and speed and tension.”
3.) “The world has doors opening in all directions. I feel free, and awake and full of laughter. Writing has often been just like that for me.”
4.) “The best art risks most deeply.”
5.) “To supplement the formal workshop we need an informal one, where students are told: Write about what is most frightening to write. Write what makes you feel guiltiest. Write about the most passionate you ever have been. Write images, a whole string of images you do not understand.”
6.) “We should be told: Write fast, write close to the bone, write for 10 hours straight until you’re not thinking in words anymore but in colors, in smells, in waves of memory. Write what you care about.”
7.) “We want to abandon ourselves, to experience images that come to us ‘of their own free will,’ and yet we are opposed to it. We are, in fact, ambivalent.”
8.) “We are afraid of writing, even those of us who love it. And there are parts of it we hate. The necessary mess, the loss of control, its ability to betray us, as well as the possibility that what we write might be lousy, it might just stink and we’ll know it’s ours, or worse, we might think it’s lovely and show it to others only to realize by their constrained, uncomfortable response, that in fact we let loose a bad one. How to feel at ease with all this? How just to let one’s work be?”
9.) “On the one hand, we must write for ourselves. On the other, we must not forget the world. We must sit in our nook, our mental nook, the curtain around us in a space private as any voting booth or photographer’s cloaked crouch, and yet imagine always the needs of the audience.”
10.) The antidote to envy is one’s own work. (Brenda thinks this quote works for almost any emotion put in the blank.). Always one’s own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the DOING of it. The answers you want can come from work itself. It drives the spooks away.”
11.) “What we learn most deeply is usually what we do not know we are learning at all. Years later, if we are lucky, we recognize the shape of what we have learned -- its true anatomy.”
12.) “Fiction structures an experience for the reader to live through. This is why its force can be so great. You want your reader to feel a certain way; you want your reader to understand what you have been forced to understand—the insight that eludes words but that you know in your bones.”
13.) “To write well we must sink into the silt of this world.”
These, of course, are quotes that spoke to me. You’re likely to find even more inspiration in “Writing Past Dark” when you read the book or in your New Year’s ponderings.
Where are you in your writing life or whatever career you’re pursuing? What motivates you? Please share kernels of truth you’ve learned with the rest of us.
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