“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
– Nora Ephron
“Sometimes people say to me, ‘I want to write, but I have five kids, a full-time job, a wife who beats me, a tremendous debt to my parents,’ and so on. I say to them, ‘There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes once a week.’”
– Natalie Goldberg
“I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90 percent of my first drafts … so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90 percent chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating. I also like to remind myself of something my dad said in [response] to writers’ block: ‘Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block.’”
– John Green
“I believe in the democracy of storytelling. I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. I feel humbled by the notion that I’m even a small part of the literary experience. I grew up in a house, in a city, in a country shaped by books. I don’t know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They’re the only thing we have that can trump life itself.”
– Colum McCann
“Self-doubt is the best friend and the worst enemy of the writer. Because being a writer isn’t like being a tennis player or a boxer, where you presumably have to hunt down and ruthlessly eliminate the source of any flickering shadow of suspicion that you might not be destined for victory. As a writer, you have to take your own misgivings seriously; you have to attend, now and then, to the little voice in your head or the booming baritone in your gut that wishes you to know that what you are writing is entirely without value. The trick, of course, is to know when to listen to it and when to tell it to shut its stupid fat face.”
– Mark O’Connell
“It is just pebble by pebble by pebble by pebble. I write one sentence until I am happy with it until I go on to the next one and write that one until I am happy with it. And I look at my paragraph and if I am not happy with that I’ll write the paragraph until I’m happy with it and then I go on this way. And, of course, even writing this very slow way, one does have to go back. One does start off on the wrong foot sometimes and a whole scene has to be chopped and you have to start over again. Generally, you know that pretty quickly though. You realize you have painted yourself into a corner and you think, ‘Okay I am just going to trace my footsteps back to the last solid bit of ground that I know. Look around start again and take a different tack.’”
– Donna Tartt (via @AdviceToWriters)
Recently I posted two of my favorite writing mantras:
The only way out is through.
Trust the process.
Then I invited people on Twitter to tweet their favorites. There were some good ones. I’ve included the lot of them here:
“Get it done now, get it right later.”
“Writing is orchestrated daydreaming.”
“If you can’t make it better, make it shorter.”
“First drafts are for you…and you alone.”
“Write the first draft with the door closed. Write the second draft with the door open.”
– Stephen King via @mikesmithwriter
“The story will go where it needs to go.”
“Writing is 10% inspiration, 90% staying off the internet.”
“Don’t be afraid. Just play the music.”
– Attributed to Charlie Parker via @astro_lass
“Screenwriting is simply asking the right questions of your story/characters.”
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
– Ernest Hemmingway via @The_Tiny_Ninja
“Write like you’re dying.”
– Ernes Hemmingway via @jodyamato_
So as we wind our way out of 2013 and into the New Year, let’s see if we can aggregate even more writing mantras.
Drop by comments and tell us your favorite writing aphorism.