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192 pages, Hardcover
First published April 4, 2017
"The whole point of good literature is to make newness durable. You are creating alternative time. You are making vivid that which did not exist before. You are not just the clockmaker, but the measure of the clockmaker’s creation. You are shaping past, present, and future. This is quite a responsibility. Respect it."
The Amazing thing about good writing, he says, is that it can find the pulse of the wound without having to inflict the actual violence" and "We have to understand that language is power, no matter how often power tries to strip us of language."Which reminds me of that old adage"the pen is mightier that the sword".
"It's only for a short while that you, young writer, will have such brazen confidence as to think the morning lasts forever. It’s only for a short while that you can be as optimistic as you currently are. Because, like it or not, eventually the younger writer becomes the older one, celebrating the joyful shuffle."Indeed, and isn't this a good lesson for any young person, even those that aren't aspiring writers?
”A writer is not someone who thinks obsessively about writing, or talks about it, or plans it, or dissects it, or even reveres it: a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.”
”To hell with grammar, but only if you know the grammar first. To hell with formality, but only if you have learned what it means to be formal. To hell with plot, but you better at some stage make something happen. To hell with structure, but only if you have though it through so thoroughly that you can safely walk through your work with your eyes closed.
The great ones break the rules on purpose.”
”Don’t write what you know, write toward what you want to know.”
“Your characters must be intricate, complicated, flawed.”
“In the end you should probably know your characters as well as you know yourself.”
”Make each character distinct. Give them verbal ticks.”
“Make action occur within the conversation.”
“Even if using dialect, or patois, or Dublinese, you must realize that there is a reader at the end of the sentence. Don’t confuse them. Don’t knock them out o the story. A wee bit is enough to get a Northern Irish accent. Don’t go Oirish on yourself. Don’t fall into stereotype. No arragh bejaysus and begob. No overdone Southern twang. It’ll make y’all wanna holler. No Jamaican overdose, mahn. No Bhrrooklyn nasal noise.”
“We get our voice from the voices of others. Read promiscuously. Imitate, copy, but become your own voice. Write about that which you want to know. Better still, write toward that which you don’t know. The best work comes from outside yourself. Only then will it reach within. Be bold in the face of the blank sheet.”
“So you go back and begin again. Open elegantly. Open fiercely. Open delicately. Open with surprise. Open with everything at stake. This, of course, is a bit like being told to walk a tightrope. Go ahead, then, walk the tightrope! Relax yourself into the tension of the wire. The first line, like the first step, is only the first of many, yet it sets the shape of what is to come. Try walking a foot off the ground, then two feet, then three. Eventually you might go a quarter mile in the sky. Then again, you might stumble and fall. No matter. It is, after all, a work of the imagination. You won’t die trying. At least not yet.”
“DON’T WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, WRITE toward what you want to know. Step out of your skin. Risk yourself. This opens up the world. Go to another place. Investigate what lies beyond your curtains, beyond the wall, beyond the corner, beyond your town, beyond the edges of your own known country.”
“DON’T LET THE TERROR OF THE WHITE page shrink-wrap your mind. The excuse that you have writer’s block is far too easy. You have to show up for work. You have to sit in the chair and fight the blankness. Don’t leave your desk. Don’t abandon the room. Don’t go off to pay the bills. Don’t wash the dishes. Don’t check the sports pages. Don’t open the mail. Don’t distract yourself in any way until you feel you have fought and tried. You have to put in the time. If you are not there, the words will not appear. Simple as that.”