Jan 31, 2008

a writing tip from Chris Bohjalian

Writing quotation: “Writing is as much discipline as it is desire. Don’t wait until you’re inspired, because if you do, you’ll never finish anything,” says Chris Bohjalian, author of several books including Midwives (loved it) and Trans-Sister Radio (wasn’t inspired to take it out of the library, but I can’t remember why).

Writing tip: Bohjalian's quote isn't just about writing. It's about exercising and staying fit, not giving up on finding a kindred spirit after a dozen bad dates, finally buying the right house, and scoring the perfect job.

Writing quotation: "This seems to surprise those who think they might give [writing] a shot: get inspired, bang out a book, do some signings, get interviewed, appear on talk shows. Those activities, of course, comprise one half of one percent of a writer's life," says Ralph Keyes in The Writer's Book of Hope. "The rest is just hard slogging, alone, with little encouragement and dubious prospects of success."

I don't believe in the writing muse. I believe in great ideas, and working really hard, and never ever giving up no matter how many times your work is rejected. One big difference - and perhaps the only difference - between published writers and wannabe writers is the discipline, hard work, and perserverance.

Okay, make that three big differences.

Jan 30, 2008

a brilliant writing quotation from a rabbi

Have you ever looked at your writing and cringed because it’s not the way Oscar Wilde or Anne Lamott or Adria Vasil would’ve written it?

I have. I sent an eco-friendly living book proposal to a publisher or two, and I’m not really happy with it. It’s okay, but I could’ve done better – maybe the way Adria Vasil did Ecoholic or Anne Lamott did Traveling Mercies.

But, I must tease out the difference between not giving my work my absolute best effort, and not being happy with the way I write. There’s a big difference – and I may have erred on the side of not giving it my best.

Ouch. Anyway, here’s a great writing quotation about finding your writing style.

Writing quotation: “In the world to come I shall not be asked “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked “Why were you not Zusya?” said Rabbi Zusya. (Okay, the rabbi was actually talking about life and being himself – but this quotation works in any capacity of authentic living!).

Writing tip: Not only must we give it our absolute best, we must remain true to our own personalities, thoughts, and dreams when we write. This means writing it all down with freedom and wild abandon, and editing out the fluff later. Our writing styles emerge naturally when we ignore the critical voice and just write the best we can.

Jan 28, 2008

writing suspense like Stephen King

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I don’t create suspense well because I like to blurt it out right from the start. I never was any good at keeping a secret, and I may not be that good at keeping people reading. Stephen King is definitely a master of suspense; he hooks readers from the first sentence.

Writing quotation: “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last,” said Oscar Wilde.

Another writing quotation about suspense: “To create suspense, what you do is withhold information. You don’t need a crime or a violent death in the lead to hook your reader, to get your reader to read on,” says Ted Kooser and Steve Cox in Writing Brave & Free.

Writing tip: Suspense is exciting, even if it goes away in a few words – such as in a newspaper or magazine article. Even a low level of suspense can keep people reading.

Simple ways to create suspense include:
  • Describing an action, but not explaining it right away.
  • Triggering curiosity by withholding information.
  • Setting up a controversy that you don’t immediately resolve.
For example, in the January 2008 issue of Oprah Magazine, Emily Yoffee wrote, “Sandra Blakeslee reentered her body one afternoon about 15 years ago.” That’s low level suspense. Was Sandra dead for 15 years? Where was her body? How did she reenter it? What makes this article even more suspenseful is its title: "Can You Think Yourself Fat?" You wouldn't think an article about size and shape would begin with "reentered her body" - this in itself is suspenseful.

Your readers love suspense because it keeps them curious. Your editors love suspense because it keeps people reading. You may already love writing suspense because it's easy and fun for you -- or perhaps you're like me, and you find it difficult and cumbersome. Either way, try to steep your work in suspense and your readers will clamor for more.

Jan 26, 2008

accepting your writer's mind

Writing quotation: “We need to learn to accept our minds. Believe me, for writing, it is all we have,” says Natalie Goldberg. “It would be nice if I could have Mark Twain’s mind, but I don’t. Mark Twain is Mark Twain. Natalie Goldberg is Natalie Goldberg.”

You know, I don’t think it would be nice if Natalie Goldberg had Mark Twain’s mind. Then we’d have less originality, less creativity – and we’d have more writers doing the same thing. Don't get me wrong - Twain is amazing - but maybe it's better to have different minds creating different worlds.

Writing tip: When you compare yourself to any other writer – whether it’s Joan Didion or Stephen King – you chip away at your self-confidence. You smother your writing style.

When you accept your mind, you express your thoughts without judging or censoring them. You write, and send out your ideas, and participate in the writer’s life. When you accept your mind you realize your originality and creativity: nobody has ideas like yours. Develop them.

This writing quotation came from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.

Jan 24, 2008

writing quotations about rejection

I discovered this fantastic book at the Vancouver Public Library: The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting From Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes. It’s exactly what I need as a writer.
Every week, I send a dozen query letters for my non-fiction articles. Once a week I’ll get a “no thanks, it’s not in our editorial line up.” Mostly I get no response. Once a month I’ll get an assignment. In December, I actually received 4 assignments, and last September I sold 5 articles.

But mostly I hear nothing, so I keep sending article queries out. It’s really really difficult to keep meeting my writing goals when I see minimal growth – but I remind myself there has been growth. That counts for a lot.

Sometimes, writing rejections motivate me to write better. Other times I just want to give up and go kayaking. Luckily, I found The Writer’s Book of Hope!

Writing quotation: “To working writers, rejection is like stings to a beekeeper: a painful but necessary part of their vocation. They understand that the return of their work isn’t meant as a personal rebuff (or seldom is, anyway). It just feels that way,” says Keyes.

Keyes described Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield’s rejections from twenty major publishers (the Chicken Soup for the Soul series). Their agent, Jeff Herman, says, “[Hansen and Canfield] instinctively understood that all those rejections were simply an uncomfortable part of a process that would eventually get them were they wanted to be.”

Writing tip: See rejection an unavoidable part of being a writer. It’s uncomfortable, and it can distract you from your writing dreams and goals, but it’s simply part of the process.

Another writing quotation about rejection: “No rejection is fatal until the writer walks away from the battle leaving dreams and goals behind,” says Jeff Herman (Hansen and Canfield’s literary agent).

Still another writing quotation about rejection: “Writers often feel…that repeated rejections accompanied by reasoned letters mean that in the end there’s no hope. This is simply not true,” says John Gardner.

Don't walk away from the battle, friends.

Jan 22, 2008

a writing quotation about “keeping going”

Do you ever feel empty of writing ideas or motivation? I’m sure you do – I’m sure even Stephen King or Margaret Atwood sometimes feels empty. At least I hope they do, because then I wouldn’t feel so bad.

Today, I need a writing quotation about keeping going despite all these rejections and silences from editors and publishers. Today, I’m discouraged (but the day isn’t over! I have this thin streak of hope and expectation that Today, I Could Get an Assignment). But how do writers keep going after so many rejections?

Writing quotation: “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror,” says Margaret Atwood. “What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?”

Writing tip: Well, that’s not really lack of writing motivation. That’s fear of failure, or fear of revision. It’s a good writing quotation, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Let’s try again.

Writing quotation: “I got so discouraged, I almost stopped writing. It was my 12-year-old son who changed my mind when he said to me, “Mother, you’ve been very cross and edgy with us and we notice you haven’t been writing. We wish you’d go back to the typewriter,” said Madeleine L’Engle. “That did a lot of good for my false guilts about spending so much time writing. At that point, I acknowledged that I am a writer and even if I were never published again, that’s what I am.”

Writing tip: Take Madeleine L’Engle’s writing advice and let go of your publishing expectations. Instead, just be a writer. (That doesn’t really work for me because my goal is to be able to support myself with my writing. For me, what helps is to keep focused on my ideas and plans despite fear of rejection and failure. I get discouraged when I’m bopping from one idea to another, one project to another – I can get too scattered and that makes me feel discouraged. So, I need to focus on one goal for the next hour: sending out 3 queries. Fine.)

One last writing quotation: Gloria Steinem said, “I do not like to write. I like to have written.”

The only way to enjoy having written is to…write.

Jan 21, 2008

a writing tip about judgment

This writing quotation isn’t really about writing. It’s about not stifling your life force (or writing muse). It’s about loving something for what it is – whether it’s a person, animal, house, poem, research short, or manuscript.

This works because excellent writing advice is often found in wise quotations about life, not just quotations about writing.

"Writing" quotation: “The life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than by disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression,” says Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom. “Unfortunately, judgment is commonplace. It is as rare to find someone who loves us as we are as it is to find someone who loves themselves whole.”

Writing tip: Don’t judge your writing, or your painting, or your thoughts, or your actions. Express yourself fully without hurting others. Be clear and direct – and be authentic. Do your best to write well, but don’t judge the content of your writing. Maybe you’ve already learned to discern the difference between editing yourself wisely versus judging yourself harshly, or maybe you didn’t even realize there is a difference. Either way, practice writing well and not judging your own uniqueness and creativity.
Stand out in red while everyone else wears white.
This writing inspiration came from Rachel Naomi Remen’s book called Kitchen Table Wisdom.

Jan 20, 2008

writing quotation about self-acceptance

Natalie Goldberg offers writing inspiration to gazillions of both emerging and established writers. The following writing quotation is from Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. Goldberg also wrote Writing Down the Bones and Thunder and Lightning. She has a new book, out in February 2008, called The Great Failure. She’s an amazing role model. She and Anne Tyler and Annie Dillard rock, man. So does Martha Beck and Robert Bly. And Stephen King has some pretty good writing tips too.

Anyway, on to Goldberg's writing advice.

Writing quotation: “We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance,” says Natalie in Wild Mind.

Writing tip: We can’t wait for life (or ourselves) to be perfect before we pursue our writing dreams. For me, this means I can’t hold off until I have the ideal office before I set my writing goals. I can’t wait until I accept myself or even love myself before I send out those article queries and book proposals. All I can do is take my writing ideas and inspirations, and put them on paper (or the screen), and send them out there. That may increase my self-acceptance. Or maybe it won’t. It doesn't really matter.
What's holding you back from setting and achieving your writing goals? The sooner you figure it out and practice self-acceptance, the sooner you'll be writing the way you want.

Jan 19, 2008

writing tips about brainstorming

After reading the first couple chapters of Think Better by Tim Hurson, I brainstormed 60 article ideas – sixty – and really 11, which I will write and send to magazines soon. Sixty writing ideas is huge, because finding new ideas can be the bane of a writer’s existence. It's the bane of mine, anyway.

Here's two of Hurson’s ideas about brainstorming: write or say all the ideas that pop into your heard no matter how crazy and, more importantly, keep going after you’re positive you have no more ideas. That’s the secret to fresh new plot twists, themes, characterizations, book ideas, and general writing ideas.

Writing quotation: “What if? What if? My mind raced, and my emotions kept pace at the sidelines, the way it always happens when a story idea arrives, like a small explosion of thought and feeling. What if? What if an incident like that in the park had been crucial to a relationship between father and daughter? What would make it crucial? Well, what if the father, say, was divorced from the child’s mother and the incident happened during one of his visiting days? And what if…” Robert Cormier's writing advice could make you a better writer.

Writing tip: Even if you don’t have the same passion and intensity as Cormier, you can sit down and brainstorm. In Tim Hurson’s Think Better, he urges readers to drop the judgmental censor and generate ideas that aren’t conventional. “It’s in the digging for more that your thinking becomes truly creative and novel,” he says.

Dig for more, fellow writers. It’s hard work to go deeper – and it’s infinitely more rewarding.

Jan 18, 2008

writing quotations about editing

“Revision is a lot like housecleaning. It’s dirty and overwhelming when you face off with the entire job. It would be easier just to dust the surfaces and sweep the dirt into the corners rather than do a thorough job,” says Jordan E. Rosenfeld in the February 2008 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Writers such as Joan Didion and Roald Dahl describe the writing process in a slightly different way.

Writing quotation: “My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. In the rewriting process you discover what’s going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point. Sometimes you’ll just push through, indicate a scene or a character, leave a space, then go back later and fill it in,” says Joan Didion.

Roald Dahl puts it this way: “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”

Writing tip: Even though editing your writing is worse than housecleaning (it’s a common habit to get distracted with housework to avoid actually writing), revision is obviously imperative to good writing. Approach it like you do with any task you dislike: promise you’ll only do it for 15 minutes or half an hour. If you’re still into it, keep going.

Before you know it, your first or second draft is revised. Then you can begin polishing the next one. C'mon, you know you wanna.

These writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 17, 2008

Dillard’s writing quotation about extraordinary states

Writing quotation: “But how, if you are neither an Aztec maiden or Zulu warrior, do you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning?” asks Annie Dillard.

Sarah Ban Breathnach has a practical answer. “By showing up. Day in, day out. By not judging how it’s going. If it’s going at all, that’s enough. You can’t afford to think about how the work will be received when you’re finished. That’s not your job. Remember, we’re learning to surrender the delivery details of our dreams. Our job, then, is just to do it.”

“It can’t be published, produced, performed or purchased if it doesn’t exist,” says Breathnach.

Writing tip: Set a schedule that will propel you towards your writing dreams. You don’t have to “feel” like writing and you don’t have to “feel” creative. All you have to do is show up. After you show up and work for half an hour, reward yourself with something you love to do. Don't reward yourself until you've worked for some predetermined amount of time.

These writing quotations came from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance.

Jan 16, 2008

learning from great writing quotations

Writing quotation: “Writing is not an unintelligent art. Writing is a craft before it is an art, and writers can and do discuss their craft in terms we can understand. There are good reasons teachers and students of writing should hear what writers say about their craft,” says Donald Murray in Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers.

Writing tip: Read writing quotations from authors such as Anne Lamott and W.H. Murray, and learn from their experience. They’re talented writers. They’ve put in their time, and they’re willing to tell you what they’ve learned.

Here’s Henry David Thoreau on the writing muse: “Write while the heat is in you. When the farmer burns a hole in his yoke, he carries the hot iron quickly from the fire to the wood, for every moment it is less effectual to penetrate it. It must be used instantly, or it is useless. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled…”

Writing tip: When you have a writing inspiration, get it down as soon as you can. The other day I had a great article idea, and I put it on my “to do” list, and…three days have passed and now I think it’s not such a hot idea after all. From now on, I’m heeding Thoreau’s writing advice. As soon as I have an idea, I'm writing it.

Jan 15, 2008

a writing tip about expectations

Writing quotation: “I approach my work with a passionate intensity, acting as if its success depends entirely on me,” says Sarah Ban Breathnach. “But once I’ve done my best, I try to let go as much as possible and have no expectations about how my work will be received by the world.”

If you’re afraid and anxious about people’s reactions to your poetry, stories or articles, you'll dampen or even kill your writing passion.

Writing tip: Tap into the source of your creativity, and let your thoughts and ideas flow. You can’t control how your work will be received; all you can do is write it. You don’t know if it’ll be loved, hated, or ignored -- and it really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you tried. You followed your passion and chased your writing dreams.

The rest is gravy.

This writing quotation came from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance.

Jan 14, 2008

writing quotations from Atwood & Michelangelo

When I was in Rome, I toured the Sistine Chapel with an audioguide. While I stared up at Michelangelo’s detailed, colourful ceiling of God, Scripture, and life on earth, the narrator said that Michelangelo was plagued with doubt and uncertainty. Michelangelo didn’t know how his creation would be viewed, but he forced himself to keep painting.
Writing fears work the same way.
Writing quotation: “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror,” says Margaret Atwood. “What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?” Even the great Atwood struggled with writing fears.

Writing tip: Listen to the Sistine Chapel's narrator who tells you that Michelangelo struggled with doubt and uncertainty. Listen to Margaret Atwood, who struggled with her own writing fears. Don’t listen to your own narrator who’s up to no good, who tells you your writing is flawed, weak, or stupid. Heed Margaret Atwood’s great writing quotation about feeling doubt...and write anyway. After you write, work towards your writing goals by revealing your writing to editors, publishers, or friends for feedback.

This writing quotation came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 13, 2008

writing quotations about why you write

It's time to figure out why you want to write and why you're not writing. Then, you can clarify your writing dreams. Here's why the great writers Anne Tyler, Maurice Sendak and E.B. White write.
Writing quotation: “For me, writing something down was the only road out…I hated childhood, and spent it sitting behind a book waiting for adulthood to arrive,” says Anne Tyler. “When I ran out of books I made up my own. At night, when I couldn’t sleep, I made up stories in the dark.”

Maurice Sendak said, “You write or paint because you have to. THERE IS NO CHOICE.”

“I haven’t told why I wrote the book [Charlotte’s Web], but I haven’t told why I sneeze either. A book is a sneeze,” says E.B. White.

Writing tip: Maybe you write to escape, or because you have no choice, or because it’s a natural part of who you are. But even a natural inclination to write can be smothered by the inanities of everyday life (chores, tv, self-grooming, paid employment). Read Annie Dillard’s writing quotation about not letting stuff distract you from your writing goals.
Figuring out why you write will increase your writing motivation. Me, I write because I...now that I think about it, I don't really know why I write. It just feels right, and I can't stop. Why do you write? Even more important, why AREN'T you writing?
These writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 12, 2008

a writing quotation about emotions

Do you write out of your emotions, such as passion, fear, hatred, or grief? Millions of poets and authors find writing motivation in acts of love and betrayal.
Writing quotation: “The best emotions to write out of are anger and fear or dread,” said Susan Sontag. “The least energizing emotion to write out of is admiration. It is very difficult to write out of it because the basic feeling that goes with admiration is a passive contemplative mood.”

Does this work the same way for nonfiction, which is my specialty? I don’t think so. I write service articles that show people how to do things, or feel better about themselves, or be more authentic in the world. Writing out of anger, fear or dread may work sometimes, but…curiosity and aha! and revelation work too.

But curiosity, aha!, and revelation aren’t emotions, are they?

Writing tip: Write out of whatever emotion motivates you. If it’s not an emotion – such as me writing out of curiosity – it doesn’t matter. Find your writing inspiration, and use it.
This writing quotation came from an article on Suite101: Writing Quotations That Inspire .

Jan 11, 2008

a writing tip about fear & perfectionism

Katherine Paterson said, “…the smarter you are, the more things can scare you…but to fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.”

To face your fears and keep writing anyway, remember that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to write perfectly, plot perfectly, or describe the surroundings perfectly. You don’t have to have a great idea – sometimes the great ideas have you (but not always right away).

Writing quotation: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you insane your whole life,” says Anne Lamott.

Writing tip: Write imperfectly. Anne Lamott’s writing advice to “write a really shitty first draft” reverberates in my head, whether I’m writing or exercising on the elliptical machine. Today’s writing tip is about not letting fear grab you by the tail, and writing it anyway.

Jan 10, 2008

take action with this writing tip

Writing quotation: “Action is absolutely essential for people who don’t know what they want. Action will help you think better and more clearly than if you sat still and weighed all the theoretical factors. Even action in the wrong direction is informative,” says Barbara Sher in I Could Do Anything…If Only I Knew What It Was!

Are you undecided whether you should write a book, article, memoir or inspirational essay? Take action, whether it's researching a topic or starting a journal. Are you paralyzed at the thought of writing a book proposal or contacting publishers? Take action. This writing tip will get you started - even if you're not quite sure what your writing passion is yet.

Writing tip: Start building strong writing habits, noticing writing ideas, thinking about your writing goals and collecting writing inspirations (and noting those great writing quotations). The sooner and more often you take writing action, the better you’ll feel.

Jan 9, 2008

Whitman's writing quotation about style

Writing quotation: “The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught,” says Walt Whitman.

His great writing quotation is in itself great writing. Note the pace of the sentences, the use of dashes and commas to create a faster and slower tempo. This writing quotation also contains a passive sentence (normally a no-no in most writing advice books). I think it works here.

Writing tip: Don't wait. Just write. Another take-away of this writing inspiration is: forget your writing style. Write it all down; you can edit it later. For now, make it your writing goal to just write. Of course that's easier said than done, especially when you want to tap into or develop your writing style. But you'll achieve your writing goals faster if you forget your writing style and just write for now.

This writing tip is based on Walt Whitman’s writing quotation, found in Quotationary by Leonard Roy Frank.

Jan 8, 2008

writing quotations about waiting

Here's a writing tip from Mark Twain and E.B. White. Their two great writing quotations seem contradictory, but could actually be complementary. What do you think?

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” said Mark Twain.

Compare that with E.B. White’s writing quotation:

“Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer – he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave and which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along,” White said.

Writing tip: The writing secret is to balance risk-taking (and possible regret) with waiting for the perfect wave. But don’t wait too long, writers. You may regret it.

E.B. White's writing quotation came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. Mark Twain's quote isn't a writing quotation at all! But I apply it to my writing habits almost every day.

Jan 7, 2008

a writing tip about writing habits

Since A. A. Milne is one of the masters of great writing, I have to include a writing tip from his fictional writing.
Writing quotation:
"When you first get up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.

Writing tip: The way to get and stay excited about your writing habits is to prepare yourself for a day full of surprises – because you never know what the day holds or when writing inspiration will hit. Maybe you’ll reach your writing goals, or exceed them. Maybe a publisher will accept a pitch, and you’ll be hired to write that assignment. Maybe an editor will call with a stack of edits for you to make on your article (groan) – and you learn more about your writing, the subject, and the magazine.

Live in anticipation that your writing passion will take you farther than you dreamed.

This great writing quotation is from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, of course.

Jan 6, 2008

Updike's writing quotation about ideas

Writing quotation: “A few places are specially conducive to inspiration – automobiles, church – public places. I plotted Couples almost entirely in church – little shivers and urgencies I would note down on the program, and carry down to the office Monday,” says John Updike.

Writing tip: When you do come up with writing ideas, make sure you write them down right away.

And don’t dawdle once the writing inspiration strikes! E.B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

These great writing quotations came from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. The writing advice in this book comes from hundreds of quotations from successful writers.

a writing quotation about inspiration

Are you waiting for the writing muse to inspire you? Arthur Hailey thinks you should stop that.

Writing quotation: “I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind or if I’m sick or well. There must be 600 finished words – not almost right words. Before you ask, I’ll tell you that yes, I do write 600 at the top of my pad every day, and I keep track of the word count to insure I reach my quota daily – without fail,” says Arthur Hailey.

Writing Tip: Don’t treat writing like a hobby if it’s your passion. Writing habits may have to be formal and professional before they're successful.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray.

Jan 5, 2008

writing tip: commit to your dreams

Writing quotation: “Unless one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the Providence moves too,” says W.H. Murray.

Writing tip: When you commit yourself to move in the direction of your writing dreams, the universe will work with you. It's the law of attraction, and it's all about writing advice. Watch:

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’ ”

Thanks to my friend Maggie Raynor for this great writing quotation and writing tip! It was from W.H. Murray and his experience with the Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

To learn more about how the universe responds when you take action, try:

Jan 4, 2008

a writing quotation about hoarding ideas

It can be tempting to save your best for future articles, short stories or poems. However, Annie Dillard has some great writing advice.

Writing quotation: "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book: give it, give it all, give it now," says Dillard.

"The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water."

Writing tip: Don't be cheap. Use your writing ideas, plot twists, characters and imagery freely. When you have a writing inspiration, wrestle it until it becomes yours.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. The writing advice in this book comes from hundreds of published writers.

Ephron & Didion's writing tips about leads

Nora Ephron writes movies, articles, books and essays. If you haven't read her stuff, you've probably seen her movies, which include When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Ephron can be the source of many writing inspirations and writing tips.

About writing leads, Ephron says:

"I don't write a word of the article until I have the lead. It just sets the whole tone - the whole point of view. I know exactly where I'm going as soon as I have the lead."

Joan Didion adds her two cents with this writing quotation:

"What's so hard about the first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone."
Writing tip: If writing your lead first works for you, then take Ephron and Didion's advice. If, however, you need to write the whole piece before you write your lead, then good on ya. Yo be a great writer, you have to do what feels natural.
These great writing quotations are from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray, which has hundreds of writing ideas, writing habits, and writing inspirations.

Jan 3, 2008

Dillard's writing quotation about priorities

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Quips & Tips for Freelance Writers.

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Writing quotation: About writing habits, Annie Dillard said "I don't do housework. Life is too short and I'm too much of a Puritan. If you want to take a year off to write a book, you have to take that year, or the year will take you by the hair and pull you toward the grave."

This is writing passion in action. But wait, it gets better:

"Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say, I kept a tidy house, I made my own cheese balls."

Writing tip: Break free from the chains of housework, the tv, or food. Focus on your passion.

This great writing quotation is from Shoptalk: Learning to Write With Writers by Donald Murray. It's busting with writing inspirations from hundreds of published writers.

Jan 1, 2008

writing great leads

Here's a freelance writing tip you've probably heard before: writing a great lead is like hitting the bull's eye. If your lead doesn't hook the editors and publishers first, or it won't ever hook readers, much less grab their attention.

A great lead:
  • brings the subject to life
  • intrigues, excites, or startles readers
  • appeals to the reader's emotions

Sometimes the article or chapter tells you how to write the lead. Other times, you need to figure out exactly how you'll hook readers. Anecdotes, questions, quotes, paradoxes, dramatic examples or startling statistics all draw people in. Real life can give you writing inspirations for leads.

Here's two examples of anecdotal leads: The Risks of Liposuction and Setting Healthy Boundaries. Are they interesting enough? If not, how would you improve them?

Writing tip: "Nothing hooks readers faster than a question that asks something they've always wondered about," writes Frank Peterson in The Magazine Writing Handbook. I'm getting ready to write a query for a Father's Day article, and I'm struggling with the lead. What have people always wondered about, with regard to Father's Day?

Hmmm.......what to give to their dads and how to celebrate are the natural answers. But what about asking a question that readers haven't thought of? For instance, what would it be like to meet your dad for the first time? I think a question like that might hook readers.

In fact, I think I'll try that writing idea right now.