Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Colson Whitehead

How Do Writers Do It? ~ Getting the Job Done…


I spent over 50 years of my life waiting for inspiration to write—it did arrive, a few times

Writer's Productivity Habits

Gerard ter Borch, Woman Writing a Letter, ~1655, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thing is, during all that time, I wasn’t thinking of myself as a writer (but, I was learning most of what serves me well now that I do...).

With my current schedule of a new short tale every week, my “writing habits” or “productivity routines” are the heartbeat of my work.

Doing this blog helps keep me tuned up, too.

Recently, Kristin Wong had an article on LifeHacker called, The Best Productivity Habits of Famous Writers.

As is my reportorial habit, I’ll share a few excerpts and leave it to you to go find all the really interesting stuff in the full article :-)

Kristin’s first bullet point is On Getting Started”.

Toni Morrison: Change Your Definition of Failure

“Pay very close attention to failure, rather than get depressed or unnerved or feel ashamed. As a writer, a failure is just information…”

John Steinbeck: Focus on the System, Not the Goal

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps.”

Neil Gaiman: “You Learn By Finishing Things”

“When people come to me and they say, ‘I want to be a writer, what should i do?’ I say you have to write.”

The quotes from each of the authors is longer in Kristin’s article

The next major point is “On Staying Focused”.

Zadie Smith: Disconnect From Distractions

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­Internet.”

Jerry Seinfeld: Don’t Break The Chain (most of this quote is “about Jerry”—do go to the full article to find out what Jerry said…)

“He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write.”

Raymond Chandler: Write or Get Bored (another “about”—Kristen talking…)

“He blocked time into his schedule for writing, and if he didn’t write, his only other option was to do nothing.”

The next point is “On Warding Off Writer’s Block”.

Colson Whitehead: Embrace Adventure

“Keep ahead of the curve. Get out and see the world. It’s not going to kill you to butch it up a tad.”

Ernest Hemingway: Stop Mid-Sentence

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”

Anne Enright: Imagine Your Death to Find the Problem

“Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not?”

So…

Go to the full article to find out the endings of the quotes I’ve shared—discovering everything Kristin says is another good reason to go read it :-)
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More On The “Rules” of Writing . . .


Rules for creative writing?

Some folks have a large laundry list, some claim none

In the post Rules for Writers Are Slippery and Shifty . . . I said:

“…if the ‘rules’ for writing are impossible to nail down, the inner-self-factor that creates what’s written is completely incapable of being precisely described—hence the reversion to metaphysics, poetics, and figurative depiction—’Muse’, et al.”

That post also has some cool quotes from authors.

By the way, quotes from writers, usually taken out of context, are often presented as “rules”.

I’m going to quote some “rules” from author Colson Whitehead but first I’ll show you what a young writer said about them.

From the Sunday Book Review in The New York Times comes this:

“To the Editor:

“Thank you for Colson Whitehead’s essay “How to Write” (July 29). Reading it, I felt like a child again (although officially, I am just a year past childhood and, unofficially, I will probably be a child for at least another 10 years). I was raised on books and by their authors. The embrace of the written word comforted and guided and gave me strength. As I got older, I realized that I wanted to write — but that becoming a writer is hard. And my security turned to fear and my admiration to jealousy.”

There’s more, but the excerpt shows me this youngster is in the thick of learning some of the oldest “rules” of writing: writing is rewriting—write through the fear, write till you bleed on the page

So, what are the “rules” this letter to the editor extols?

You’ll find them in the article How to Write but here I’ll only list the titles:

Rule No. 1: Show and Tell.

Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you.

Rule No. 3: Write what you know.

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do.

Rule No. 5: Keep a dream diary.

Rule No. 6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said.

Rule No. 7: Writer’s block is a tool — use it.

Rule No. 8: Is secret.

Rule No. 9: Have adventures.

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise.

Rule No. 11: There are no rules.

What are some of your favorite “Rules” of Writing?
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