Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Toni Morrison

Yet More Conversation About “What Should I Write?” . . .

In this continuing conversation, we’ve discussed quite a bit about the Muse as inspiration for writing… What Should I Write About?

The last installment was, Continuing the Blog Conversation About “What Should I Write?” . . .

And, just before I reveal the first reader comment that let me keep this discussion going, I need to share a quote, from that last post, about the Muse:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.” ~ Stephen King

And, here’s the first reader comment, from an established writer:

“My Muse does not live in a basement. She’s more a balcony kind of gal and she hates cigars. She likes to lean over the rooftop balcony and listen to the birds. However I find she is more present when I keep up a regular meditation practice. Somehow this seems to clear out my mind so that she can open the balcony door and slip inside :-) “

So, the Muse and Meditation—Paths to what should be written

And, yet another reader comment in this discussion; again, from an established writer:

“My best ideas don’t come when I sit down to write, rather at spontaneous and sometimes inopportune moments. Hence, I have a notebook in every room, my car, and my purse. :-) “

The Muse, Meditation, and Spontaneous sometimes Inopportune Ideational Visitations

I’m hoping a few more readers will comment on this post and share how they decide or are Aided to Determine their next bit of writing…

And, to add yet more ideas for this conversation, here are links to a few other answers to the question, “What Should I Write?” {value of links may vary…} :

What Should I Write About? Finding Inspiration

What Should I Write About? ~ Here are 5 prompts to encourage inspiration for article writing

What Should I Write About? ~ Quiz

Stuck for Ideas? 20 Quotes Telling You What To Write About ~ from Toni Morrison, Francis Bacon, Neil Gaiman, Marilyn Manson, Emile M. Cioran, Cyril Connolly, Dolly Parton, Tom Stoppard, Larry David, James Maynard Keenan, Anais Nin, Joseph Joubert,  Jack Kerouac, Demetri Martin, D. H. Lawrence, Ray Bradbury, Rebecca West, Lois Lowry, Joan Didion, and Sylvia Plath…

Finally, and as I regularly remind folks, it only takes one reader comment, no matter how short, to propel this particular conversation forward { though, you could also comment with ideas for other conversational topics in the realms of Reading, Writing, and Publishing……… }
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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?”


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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” In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.”

This was written before Toni passed away………

The quote in the title of this post is from Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, playwright, literary critic, editor, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.

Toni Morrison

Image Courtesy of Entheta Under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

In the disturbing political and social climate throughout the U.S.A.’s recent Presidential Campaign, much dread was spread…

It seems to be still spreading—disturbing many, engulfing some, inflaming a few…

The Nation had an article by Toni (that, to me, speaks eloquently to the dread).

I’ll share just a few excerpts.

Concerning dictators and tyrants, she says:

“Their plan is simple:

“1. Select a useful enemy—an ‘Other’—to convert rage into conflict, even war.

“2. Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.

“3. Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.”

She asks the question:

“In this contemporary world of violent protests, internecine war, cries for food and peace, in which whole desert cities are thrown up to shelter the dispossessed, abandoned, terrified populations running for their lives and the breath of their children, what are we (the so-called civilized) to do?”

More insight and another question:

“The solutions gravitate toward military intervention and/or internment—killing or jailing. Any gesture other than those two in this debased political climate is understood to be a sign of weakness. One wonders why the label ‘weak’ has become the ultimate and unforgivable sin. Is it because we have become a nation so frightened of others, itself and its citizens that it does not recognize true weakness: the cowardice in the insistence on guns everywhere, war anywhere?”

And, her rallying cry:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

Her final statement:

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.”

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Would You Like A Hand-Annotated, First Edition of An Acclaimed Book?

Hand-Annotated First Editions

Image from PEN American’s Auction Site — Don DeLillo’s Handwriting

I’ve just begun re-reading the novel I published nearly four years ago and I’m going to annotate it with notes for my next book which will live in the same universe

After I’d decided to engage in this strange activity, I discovered that a group of authors and artists have also been writing in their own books

Christie’s (New York) is holding an auction of 75 hand-annotated, first edition books to support PEN American Center‘s work to protect the freedom to write.

PEN American Center says:
“Through annotations including notes, essays, drawings, photographs, letters to the reader, and inserted memorabilia, each contributor has transformed a first edition of a classic work into a distinct new artifact for one lucky buyer.”

The auction starts Today at 7 p.m. EST, USA and you can bid online.

There’s a link to more auction information and a Fascinating Video below; but, first, here are the books:

Marina Abramovic, “Dream Book” — Woody Allen, “Play It Again, Sam” — John Ashbery, “The Tennis Court Oath” — Paul Auster, “City of Glass” — T.C. Boyle, “Descent of Man” — Peter Carey, “True History of the Kelly Gang” — Eric Carle, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — Robert A. Caro, “The Power Broker” — Michael Chabon, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”— Billy Collins, “Questions About Angels” — Michael Connelly, “The Black Echo” — Patricia Cornwell, “Postmortem” — Michael Cunningham, “The Hours” — Lydia Davis, “Break it Down”— Angela Y. Davis, “If They Come in the Morning”— Don DeLillo, “Underworld” — Junot Díaz, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” — E.L. Doctorow, “City of God” — Rita Dove, “Ten Poems” — Jennifer Egan, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” — Louise Erdrich, “Love Medicine” — Jules Feiffer, “Little Murders” — Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”— Richard Ford, “The Sportswriter”— Neil Gaiman, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”— William Gass, “The Tunnel”— Malcolm Gladwell, “The Tipping Point”— Robert Gober, “Robert Gober: Sculpture and Drawing” — Sue Grafton, “‘A’ is for Alibi” — Roni Horn, “Bird” — Khaled Hosseini, “The Kite Runner” — Paul Karasik, “City of Glass: The Graphic Novel” — Garrison Keillor, “Lake Wobegon Days” — Barbara Kingsolver, “The Poisonwood Bible” — Joseph Kosuth, “Purloined” — Tony Kushner, “Angels in America” — Jhumpa Lahiri, “Interpreter of Maladies”  — Glenn Ligon, “Neon” — Peter Matthiessen, “The Snow Leopard” — David Mazzucchelli, “City of Glass: The Graphic Novel” — Julie Mehretu, “Grey Area” — Colum McCann, “Let the Great World Spin” — Jay McInerney, “Bright Lights, Big City” — Larry McMurtry, “Streets of Laredo” — Toni Morrison, “Beloved” — Paul Muldoon, “Knowing My Place” — Shirin Neshat, “Shirin Neshat: Untitled” — Joyce Carol Oates, “Them” — Yoko Ono, “Acorn” — Orhan Pamuk, “Snow” — Katherine Paterson, “Bridge to Terabithia” — Marilynne Robinson, “Housekeeping” — Philip Roth, “American Pastoral” and “Portnoy’s Complaint” — Ed Ruscha, “Past Stuff” — James Salter, “The Hunters” — George Saunders, “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” — Simon Schama, “The Story of the Jews” — Richard Serra, “Richard Serra 2013” — Sam Shepard, “Buried Child” — David Simon, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” — Jane Smiley, “A Thousand Acres” — Kiki Smith, “Her Memory” — Patti Smith, “Just Kids” — Lemony Snicket, “The Bad Beginning” — Stephen Sondheim, “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” — Alec Soth, “Niagara” — Amy Tan, “The Joy Luck Club” — Colm Tóibín, “Brooklyn” — Fred Tomaselli, “Fred Tomaselli: Monsters of Paradise” — Anne Tyler, “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” — Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” — Lawrence Weiner, “NAU EM I ART BILONG YUMI” — Edmund White, “A Boy’s Own Story” — John Edgar Wideman, “Brothers and Keepers” — Tobias Wolff, “This Boy’s Life”

PEN American Center’s Auction Page (If you want Auction Updates scroll to the bottom of that page…)

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