William Landay's Blog

January 28, 2015

In far too much bad fiction, suspense has replaced drama as the motive force of storytelling. There is, in fact, an entire subgenre of fiction dedicated to the ignorant error—“thrillers.” Suspense, however, is the sworn enemy of good fiction.


To create suspense is to induce anxiety—that is, to cause distress. And naturally, then, the craving is for relief. You read as quickly as possible to discover what happens, to allay your uneasiness, to release the tightness in your chest. The outcome is not a literary experience—literature is the freedom to dream up other possibilities—but the unpleasant feeling of being manipulated. Anxiety has a “coercive character,” Karen Horney says. So does suspense.


D. G. Myers


The literary critic and scholar D. G. Myers died of cancer last September. I miss reading his Commonplace Blog, which was written in such a distinctive voice — opinionated, smart, engaging, honest, unfathomably well read — that I almost felt I knew him. The blog is still online, and it is worth a visit.

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Published on January 28, 2015 04:00

January 25, 2015


“I knew well in advance that all of those people who had adored Eat Pray Love were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it wasn’t going to be Eat Pray Love, and all of those people who had hated Eat Pray Love were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it would provide evidence that I still lived.”


Hmm.

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Published on January 25, 2015 19:18 • 11 views

January 14, 2015

No matter how many awards you’ve won or how many sales you’ve got, come the next book it’s still a blank sheet of paper and you’re still panicking like hell that you’ve got nothing new to say. I still panic that the ideas aren’t going to come, it’s not going to be as good as my previous book, I’ve got nothing new to say, people are fed up with me, younger writers are doing better work. There are all kinds of fears that keep pushing at you. Thank God, otherwise you’d just sit back and write any old crap.


Ian Rankin

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Published on January 14, 2015 21:25 • 23 views

January 7, 2015

Happy are they who don’t doubt themselves and whose pens fly across the page. I myself hesitate, I falter, I become angry and fearful, my drive diminishes as my taste improves, and I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well-proportioned paragraph.


Gustave Flaubert, letter to Maxime during Camp, October 1847

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Published on January 07, 2015 13:31 • 39 views

January 2, 2015

[There is] evidence that environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance… The principles of memory retrieval suggest that certain practices should amplify performance. These practices encourage a state of flow rather than one of anxiety or boredom. Like strategies, these other aspects of a writer’s method may alleviate the difficulty of attentional overload. The room, time of day, or ritual selected for working may enable or even induce intense concentration or a favorable motivational or emotional state. Moreover, in accordance with encoding specificity, each of these aspects of method may trigger retrieval of ideas, facts, plans, and other relevant knowledge associated with the place, time, or frame of mind selected by the writer for work.


Ronald T. Kellogg, The Psychology of Writing. Read more at Brain Pickings.

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Published on January 02, 2015 05:00 • 21 views

January 1, 2015

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.


Seneca, On the Shortness of Life (via)

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Published on January 01, 2015 11:48 • 62 views

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Published on January 01, 2015 11:04 • 11 views

November 23, 2014

“I don’t have an audience; I have a set of standards.”


Don DeLillo

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Published on November 23, 2014 04:00 • 31 views

November 21, 2014

Creative Process


Creative Process” by Christoph Niemann

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Published on November 21, 2014 12:32 • 9 views

November 18, 2014

roth-inscription


A note by Philip Roth inscription in a first edition of Portnoy’s Complaint, which he recently reread after 45 years.

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Published on November 18, 2014 06:01 • 19 views