Monday, May 08, 2006

Encouragement for aspiring writers

I just got back from a weekend in Columbia, Maryland, where I led a workshop on book publishing for a group from Bridgeway Community Church. Columbia is a suburban community located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., that was designed to encourage racial and socioeconomic diversity, and Bridgeway reflects that in its demographics. Something else distinctive about Columbia is that commercial signage is not very visible at all. The roads are lined with trees, not billboards. While that can make it difficult to find a grocery store if you don't quite know where it's located, the relative absence of commercial advertising is quite refreshing.

Anyway, I and a colleague had an enjoyable time with about thirty folks, explaining the process of book writing and publishing. One of the handouts I provided included the following quotes I compiled a few years ago:

“First of all, if you want to write, write. And second, don’t do it. It’s the loneliest, most depressing work you can do.” Walker Percy

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

“Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.” Jessamyn West

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Red Smith

“It should surprise no one that the life of the writer – such as it is – is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience.” Annie Dillard

“In general, very little happens to a writer. Now do you understand why we put so much emphasis on artificial reality? Our actual reality is insufferably dull. A Federal Express delivery is far and away the most dramatic event in my day.” Philip Yancey

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.” Philip Roth

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller

“The first draft of anything is [poop].” Ernest Hemingway

“Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you’re going to say.” Francoise Sagan

“Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult.” Stephen Leacock

“Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.” Graham Greene

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing a new way or to say a new thing an old way.” Richard Harding Davis

1 comment:

Craver Vii said...

These words from your blog comforted me late last night as I sat down to write and nothing came to me. Praise God for the good timing!

I saw a promotional flyer for your upcoming book yesterday. I'm eager to get my hands on a copy! It's now less than a month away from availability, right?