I’m continuing to focus this month, traditionally a season of hope, on the importance of our creative work to the world.
“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and play and dance and live as only you can.”
The world has been a difficult place lately, you’ve noticed. And while the holiday season is traditionally a time of hope, the plagues of fire, flood, anger, hatred, divisiveness, and inequality can challenge even the perkiest of cozy-mystery protagonists and their authors and readers. So, for this month of December, I’m sharing a few quotes about the importance of our voices, our creative work, to the world.
“You are the magic for which the world hungers. … [T]he world needs your voice! Stories send ripples across continents and through cultures. Stories shape minds. And most importantly, particularly in times like these, stories change hearts. Your writings contribute to a tapestry that captures what it means to be human, at our best and at our very worst. It doesn’t matter if you write comedies or mysteries or dramas set in our own world, past or present, or ones set in alien galaxies a billion light years away. It doesn’t matter if your tales are as vast as a global war or as small as a single household. Your protagonist may be an aging matriarch or an orphaned youth. They may be timid, kind, brave or cruel (and maybe all of those and more). What matters is your devotion to getting it right, to conveying what is real in your world, aligning with your unique perspective. For when writing hits upon truth, eyes are opened. Maybe millions will eventually see your story. But even if it only reaches a dozen, you will have built a bridge where a wall once stood.
So do your duty.”
John J. Kelley, on Writer Unboxed, 10/29/18
If I were to summarize the message of Stephen King’s On Writing (2000) in a single sentence — and why would I do that, but here goes anyway — it’s a message he repeats over and over: “Write the first draft with the door closed, the second with the door open.”
By that he means write quickly, passionately, focusing on getting the story inside you down on paper. Then, he says, you can start to think about your Ideal Reader, your use of adverbs, and whether you’ve over-described a minor setting.
And because we all have busy lives that force that door open when we’d rather it stay shut, I’ll end my month of quotes from King with this:
“In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.” (P. 232)
I’m continuing my month of quotes from one of the perennial favorite craft books, Stephen King’s On Writing (2000).
“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” (P 147)
This month, I’m sharing favorite quotes from Stephen King’s classic, On Writing (2000).
“[T]he reader must always be your main concern; without Constant Reader, you are just a voice quacking in the void.” (P 124)
I just reread Stephen King’s On Writing, which I first read when it came out in 2000. It’s a perennial on writers’ lists of favorite craft books for good reason. It might sound odd for a cozy mystery writer who’s more than a tad squeamish to admire a horror writer and be inspired by him, but I do and I am. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite quotes from On Writing.
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” (P. 106)
(Cover image from the 2010 anniversary edition.)
“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practicing are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas of your life and promotes proper perspectives on all of life’s difficulties.”
– Thomas Sterner, Swedish economist, quoted by David Allen in Getting Things Done (rev ed 2015)
A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
-Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer (1899-1986) (hat-tip – PJ Coldren)
“The boss is happy when the words are written. Sure, she gives out hearty handshakes when other things get done, but she only gives raises when the words get done, when the edits are made and sent back to the press, when the publicist’s emails have been answered. She doesn’t care as much when the Facebook status is updated or the Twitter account is humming. All of it is business, but some of it is in the mission statement, and some of it isn’t.”
– Lori Rader-Day, award-winning author of The Day I Died, Under a Dark Sky, and other novels
“Write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night.”
– Khaled Houssani, author of The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and other novels