Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

— George Orwell, Why I Write

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(Thanks to T.C. Weber for this one, who’s doing the same damn thing.)

 


Steven Pinker

“Let verbs be verbs. ‘Appear,’ not ‘make an appearance.'”

–“Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker’s 13 Tips for Better Writing” on BoingBoing

(Amusingly, and showing just how difficult it is to follow one’s own advice, no matter how good, Pinker’s 13th tip is “Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. . . .” while his first tip is “Reverse-engineer what you read. . . .” which leads to the question, why should one “reverse-engineer” rather than analyze?)

 


campbell

“[W]hen you have trouble with the beginning of the story, that is because you are starting in the wrong place, and almost certainly too soon. Pick out a later place in the story and try again.”

–John W. Campbell, giving advice to a young Isaac Asimov, quoted in Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee


I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands, of films over the years. Here’re the first few in my list of favorites. I’m not saying these are the best films ever made — far from it; my knowledge is far too limited to say that — just that I really enjoyed them and that there’s a good chance you will too, if you decide to give ’em a view. Here are the first ones, in no particular order:

  • The Third Man (1949, directed by Carol Reed, original screenplay by Graham Greene). A visually stunning, subtly menacing, intelligently written European film noir with great performances by David Niven, Joseph Cotton, and Orson Welles. This contains some of the most memorable images ever recorded. (Fun fact: for decades I assumed Carol Reed was a woman. Not so. He was — the Brits, go figure ’em — a guy.)
  • Double Indemnity (1944, directed by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler). My all-time favorite film noir. Fred McMurray is absolutely great as a clueless insurance salesman manipulated by a femme fatale (the equally good Barbara Stanwyck) in this engrossing murder mystery that will keep you guessing until near the end. Edward G. Robinson is likewise great in a secondary role.
  • Life of Brian (1979, directed by Terry Jones, written by the Python crew). A fictional version of the life of Jesus, and one of the funniest films ever produced. As much about politics as religion, this incredibly insightful film remains as relevant today as it was four decades ago.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998, directed and written by Ethan and Joel Coen). Another nominee for funniest film ever produced. Great performances by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and David Huddleston. (As awful as it seems, The Dude reminds me all too much of myself — I even look like him.)
  • The Producers (1967, written and directed by Mel Brooks). Probably the funniest film ever made, it concerns the production by two Jewish hucksters of what they consider the certain-to-fail play, “Springtime for Hitler.” The choreographed scene is still jaw dropping four decades later.

As I said, enjoy ’em.

More to come.

It’s time for me to write some in-all-likelihood terrible fiction that will probably never see the light of day, and then practice guitar for a couple of hours for a band that will never be popular.

As some wise guy once said, “enjoy the trip, not the destination.”

Cheers


Barbara Kingsolver

“To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. Writer’s block is another name for writer’s dread—the paralyzing fear that our work won’t measure up. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published, starting the next one always feels as daunting as the first. A day comes when I just have to make a deal with myself: write something anyway, even if it’s awful. Nobody has to know. Maybe it never leaves this room! Just go. Bang out a draft.”

–Barbara Kingsolver in “5 Writing Tips: Barbara Kingsolver” on the Publishers Weekly site

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(Kingsolver’s five writing tips constitute the best writing advice in a short space I’ve ever seen. I’d highly recommend reading all of her tips.)


Danez Smith

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I am experiencing what feels like it, I know I need to do one of a few things. The first would be to stop writing and to focus on absorbing art. . . . The other thing I have to do is ask questions. (Why am I stuck? Is it the piece? Am I feeling balanced enough in other areas in my life to flourish in my writing? Am I hungry? Am I tired? Are the idea and the genre of what I’m working on agreeing with each other? Am I experiencing a road block or a directive to try something else?) Another option is to write through it, to write every ugly, horrible sentence that comes to mind and just work until I find something of value.”

–“Is it real? 25 famous writers on writer’s block” on LitHub


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

–quoted by Adam O’Fallon Price in “On Semicolons and the Rules of Writing