He enjoyed reading and writing. He liked words. Words didn’t shout or make loud noises, which pretty much defined the rest of his family. They didn’t involve getting muddy in the freezing cold. They didn’t hunt inoffensive animals, either. They did what he told them to. So, he’d said, he wanted to write.
I've read interviews where he talked about writing the story in the middle of the night; he said the muse entered him and he didn't have control anymore, ... I love his leaps of imagination. It is wonderful for an author to sit back and let it [the story] happen without imposing academic formalities.
An editor doesn't just read, he reads well, and reading well is a creative, powerful act. The ancients knew this and it frightened them. Mesopotamian society, for instance, did not want great reading from its scribes, only great writing. Scribes had to submit to a curious ruse: they had to downplay their reading skills lest they antagonize their employer. The Attic poet Menander wrote: "those who can read see twice as well." Ancient autocrats did not want their subjects to see that well. Order relied on obedience, not knowledge and reflection. So even though he was paid to read as much as write messages, the scribe's title cautiously referred to writing alone (scribere = "to write"); and the symbol for Nisaba, the Mesopotamian goddess of scribes, was not a tablet but a stylus. In his excellent book A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel writes, "It was safer for a scribe to be seen not as one who interpreted information, but who merely recorded it for the public good."In their fear of readers, ancients understood something we have forgotten about the magnitude of readership. Reading breeds the power of an independent mind. When we read well, we are thinking hard for ourselves—this is the essence of freedom. It is also the essence of editing. Editors are scribes liberated to not simply record and disseminate information, but think hard about it, interpret, and ultimately, influence it.
The words of his various writing instructors and professional mentors over the years came back to him at times like these, and he found a new understanding in their advice: Writing is rewriting. The rough draft is just that. You can’t polish what you haven’t written. Things that made for a normal life—like a daily routine that followed the sun—took a back seat to times like these, and he exulted in that change because it served as proof that his writing was indeed the most important thing in his life. It wasn’t a conscious choice on his part, like deciding to repaint the bathroom or go buy the groceries, but an overarching reallocation of his existence that was as undeniable as breathing. Day turned into night, breakfast turned into dinner, and the laptop or the writing tablet beckoned even when he was asleep. He would often awake with a new idea—as if he’d merely been on a break and not unconscious—and he would see the empty seat before the desk not as his station in some pointless assembly line, but as the pilot’s seat in a ship that could go anywhere.
Real mystery - the very reason to read (and certainly write) any book - was to them a thing to dismantle, distill and mine out into rubble they could tyrannize into sorry but more permanent explanations; monuments to themselves, in other words. In my view all teachers should be required to stop teaching at age thirty-two and not allowed to resume until they're sixty-five, so that they can live their lives, not teach them away - live lives full of ambiguity and transience and regret and wonder, be asked to explain nothing in public until very near the end when they can't do anything else. Explaining is where we all get into trouble.
You read a book for the story, for each of its words," Gordy said, "and you draw your cartoons for the story, for each of the words and images. And, yeah, you need to take that seriously, but you should also read and draw because really good books and cartoons give you a boner."I was shocked:"Did you just say books should give me a boner?""Yes, I did.""Are you serious?""Yeah... don't you get excited about books?""I don't think that you're supposed to get THAT excited about books.""You should get a boner! You have to get a boner!" Gordy shouted. "Come on!"We ran into the Reardan High School Library."Look at all these books," he said."There aren't that many," I said. It was a small library in a small high school in a small town."There are three thousand four hundred and twelve books here," Gordy said. "I know that because I counted them.""Okay, now you're officially a freak," I said."Yes, it's a small library. It's a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almost ten years to finish.""What's your point?""The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know."Wow. That was a huge idea.Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant Wellpinit, the smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery."Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all of the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you keep on learning so much more you need to learn.""Yes, yes, yes, yes," Gordy said. "Now doesn't that give you a boner?""I am rock hard," I said.
Write all the time. I believe in writing every day, at least a thousand words a day. We have a strange idea about writing: that it can be done, and done well, without a great deal of effort. Dancers practice every day, musicians practice every day, even when they are at the peak of their careers – especially then. Somehow, we don’t take writing as seriously. But writing – writing wonderfully – takes just as much dedication.
Billos ran. He tore down the shore, bounded up on the rock, and dove into the air. The warm water engulfed him. A boiling heat knocked the wind from his lungs. The shock alone might kill him. But it was pleasure that surged through his body, not pain. The sensations coursed through his bones in great unrelenting waves. Elyon. How he was certain, he did not know. But he knew. Elyon was in this lake with him. Billos opened his eyes. Gold light drifted by. He lost all sense of direction. The water pressed in on every inch of his body, as intense as any acid, but one that burned with pleasure instead of pain. He sank into the water, opened his mouth and laughed. He wanted more, much more. He wanted to suck the water in and drink it. Without thinking, he did just that. The liquid hit his lungs. Billos pulled up, panicked. He tried to hack the water from his lungs, but inhaled more instead. No pain. He carefully sucked more water and breathed it out slowly. Then again, deep and hard. Out with a soft whoosh. He was breathing the water! Billos shrieked with laughter. He swam into the lake, deeper and deeper. The power contained in this lake was far greater than anything he'd ever imagined. "I made this, Billos." Billos whipped his body around, searching for the words' source. "Elyon?" His voice was muffled, hardly a voice at all. "Do you like it?" "Yes!" Billos said. He might have spoken; he might have shouted--he didn't know. He only knew that his whole body screamed it. Billos looked around. "Elyon?" "Why do you doubt me, Billos?" In that single moment the full weight of Billos's foolishness crashed on him like a sledgehammer. "I see you, Billos." "I made you." "I love you." The words crashed over him, reaching into the deepest folds of his flesh, caressing each hidden synapse, flowing through every vein, as though he had been given a transfusion. "I choose you, Billos." Billos began to weep. The feeling was more intense than any pain he had ever felt. The current pulled at him, tugging him up through the colors. His body trembled with pleasure. He wanted to speak, to yell, to tell the whole world that he was the most fortunate person in the universe. That he was loved by Elyon. Elyon himself. "Never leave me, Billos." "Never! I will never leave you." The current pushed him through the water and then above the surface not ten meters from the shore. He stood on the sandy bottom. For a moment he had such clarity of mind that he was sure he could understand the very fabric of space if he put his mind to it. He was chosen. He was loved.
Writers possess magic. It's in their words. They compose phrases as powerful as incantations, creating illusions in the minds of readers. These spells make eyes envision things that aren't real; they make hearts feel things that aren't actual. A writer's work is to pen enchantments meant to entrance and hypnotize the mind, causing neglect of all other duties and responsibilities in order for the reader to remain a puppet controlled by the writer's wand. And if some foul friend does manage to break the spell, he is despised for it. His heroics are too late in coming. The words―the fairytales―have seeped beyond the body and into the soul, taking possession. Our poor reader is infected, compromised, never to be cured. The notion of magic found in simple words such as, 'Once upon a time...' has always fascinated me. It is no wonder I am compelled to write.
Do you think that Hemingway knew he was a writer at twenty years old? No, he did not. Or Fitzgerald, or Wolfe. This is a difficult concept to grasp. Hemingway didn't know he was Ernest Hemingway when he was a young man. Faulkner didn't know he was William Faulkner. But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it's necessary
Hair the color of lemons,'" Rudy read. His fingers touched the words. "You told him about me?"At first, Liesel could not talk. Perhaps it was the sudden bumpiness of love she felt for him. Or had she always loved him? It's likely. Restricted as she was from speaking, she wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to drag her hand across and pull her over. It didn't matter where. Her mouth, her neck, her cheek. Her skin was empty for it, waiting.Years ago, when they'd raced on a muddy field, Rudy was a hastily assembled set of bones, with a jagged, rocky smile. In the trees this afternoon, he was a giver of bread and teddy bears. He was a triple Hitler Youth athletics champion. He was her best friend. And he was a month from his death.Of course I told him about you," Liesel said.
I bought you something" Willows blurts out."You bought...What?"Willow closes her eyes for a second. She's a little surprised she's going to give it to him after all, but there's no going back now. She has to."At the bookstore." She reaches into her bag again, and pushes the package across the table towards him.Guy takes the book out of the bag slowly, Willow waits for him to look disappointed, to look confused that she would buy him such a battered, old-"I love it when used books have notes in the margins, it's the best," Guy says as he flips through the pages. "I always imagine who read it before me." He pauses and looks at one of Prospero's speeches. "I have way too much homework to read this now, but you know what? Screw it. I want to know why it's your favorite Shakespeare. Thank you, that was really nice of you. I mean, you really didn't have to.""But I did anyway," Willow says so quietly she's not even sure hears her.Hey," Guy frowns for a second. "You didn't write anything in here.""Oh, I didn't even think...I, well, I wouldn't even know what to write," Willow says shyly."Well, maybe you'll think of something later," he says.Willow watches Guy read the opening. There's no mistaking it. His smile is genuine, and she can't help thinking that if she can't make David look like this, at least she can do it for someone.
It's a weird thing, writing.Sometimes you can look out across what you're writing, and it's like looking out over a landscape on a glorious, clear summer's day. You can see every leaf on every tree, and hear the birdsong, and you know where you'll be going on your walk. And that's wonderful.Sometimes it's like driving through fog. You can't really see where you're going. You have just enough of the road in front of you to know that you're probably still on the road, and if you drive slowly and keep your headlamps lowered you'll still get where you were going.And that's hard while you're doing it, but satisfying at the end of a day like that, where you look down and you got 1500 words that didn't exist in that order down on paper, half of what you'd get on a good day, and you drove slowly, but you drove.And sometimes you come out of the fog into clarity, and you can see just what you're doing and where you're going, and you couldn't see or know any of that five minutes before.And that's magic.
You should spend more time reading the Good Book and less reading all those novels. What are you going to tell the Lord on Judgement Day when He asks you why you didn't read your bible? Hmm?"I will tell Him that His press agents could have done with a writing lesson or two, I said. To myself.
When I started out, I didn't have any writing routine, I had a job. Writing was a hobby I indulged in over the weekends or in the evening when I wasn't too knackered, watching TV, reading a book, or up the pub. I only ever started counting words upon discovering, in John Braine's 'Writing a Novel,' that this might be a professional approach.
Vowels were something else. He didn't like them, and they didn't like him. There were only five of them, but they seemed to be everywhere. Why, you could go through twenty words without bumping into some of the shyer consonants, but it seemed as if you couldn't tiptoe past a syllable without waking up a vowel. Consonants, you knew pretty much where they stood, but you could never trust a vowel. To the old pitcher, they were like his own best knuckle ball come back to haunt him. In, out, up, down - not even the pitcher, much much less the batter, knew which way it would break. He kept swinging and missing.
When he was in college, a famous poet made a useful distinction for him. He had drunk enough in the poet's company to be compelled to describe to him a poem he was thinking of. It would be a monologue of sorts, the self-contemplation of a student on a summer afternoon who is reading Euphues. The poem itself would be a subtle series of euphuisms, translating the heat, the day, the student's concerns, into symmetrical posies; translating even his contempt and boredom with that famously foolish book into a euphuism.The poet nodded his big head in a sympathetic, rhythmic way as this was explained to him, then told him that there are two kinds of poems. There is the kind you write; there is the kind you talk about in bars. Both kinds have value and both are poems; but it's fatal to confuse them.In the Seventh Saint, many years later, it had struck him that the difference between himself and Shakespeare wasn't talent - not especially - but nerve. The capacity not to be frightened by his largest and most potent conceptions, to simply (simply!) sit down and execute them. The dreadful lassitude he felt when something really large and multifarious came suddenly clear to him, something Lear-sized yet sonnet-precise. If only they didn't rush on him whole, all at once, massive and perfect, leaving him frightened and nerveless at the prospect of articulating them word by scene by page. He would try to believe they were of the kind told in bars, not the kind to be written, though there was no way to be sure of this except to attempt the writing; he would raise a finger (the novelist in the bar mirror raising the obverse finger) and push forward his change. Wailing like a neglected ghost, the vast notion would beat its wings into the void.Sometimes it would pursue him for days and years as he fled desperately. Sometimes he would turn to face it, and do battle. Once, twice, he had been victorious, objectively at least. Out of an immense concatenation of feeling, thought, word, transcendent meaning had come his first novel, a slim, pageant of a book, tombstone for his slain conception. A publisher had taken it, gingerly; had slipped it quietly into the deep pool of spring releases, where it sank without a ripple, and where he supposes it lies still, its calm Bodoni gone long since green. A second, just as slim but more lurid, nightmarish even, about imaginary murders in an imaginary exotic locale, had been sold for a movie, though the movie had never been made. He felt guilt for the producer's failure (which perhaps the producer didn't feel), having known the book could not be filmed; he had made a large sum, enough to finance years of this kind of thing, on a book whose first printing was largely returned.
FV: Hasn't all art, in a way, submitted to words - reduced itself to the literary...admitted its failure through all the catalogues and criticism, monographs and manifestos —ML: Explanations? FV: Exactly. All the artistry, now, seems expended in the rhetoric and sophistry used to differentiate, to justify its own existence now that so little is left to do. And who's to say how much of it ever needed doing in the first place? [...] Nothing's been done here but the re-writing of rules, in denial that the game was already won, long ago, by the likes of Duchamp, Arp, or Malevich. I mean, what's more, or, what's less to be said than a single black square? ML: Well, a triangle has fewer sides, I suppose.FV: Then a circle, a line, a dot. The rest is academic; obvious variations on an unnecessary theme, until you're left with just an empty canvas - which I'm sure has been done, too. ML: Franz Kline, wasn't it? Or, Yves Klein - didn't he once exhibit a completely empty gallery? No canvases at all. FV: I guess, from there, to not exhibit anything - to do absolutely nothing at all - would be the next "conceptual" act; the ultimate multimedia performance, where all artforms converge in negation and silence. And someone's probably already put their signature to that, as well. But even this should be too much, to involve an artist, a name. Surely nothing, done by no-one, is the greatest possible artistic achievement. Yet, that too has been done. Long, long ago. Before the very first artists ever walked the earth.