The artistic insights of one age become the cliches of the next.
Fiction has to surprise me. If a character is going around doing only what such a person would do, I get very bored. I want to know more. Or have them come to a point where they’re not what I thought they were. Or that they’re not what they thought they were. It’s probably a form of childish curiosity that keeps me going as a fiction writer. I probably want to open everybody’s bureau drawers and see what they keep in there. I’m nosy.
Margaret Atwood, in a 1986 interview for the book Canadian Writers at Work. (via behindthepage)
I find this so instructive when thinking about writing characters.
I think [society’s] general attitude towards me when I started to be a writer was that I was crazy or somehow undecorous … I think that’s society’s attitude towards anybody when he’s first starting. But if you become successful, then it’s an okay thing for you to be doing because, as we all know, this society pays a lot of attention to success. But that is not a respect for writing per se as a legitimate activity; that’s a respect for success, which is a different thing. It would have the same respect for you if you were a successful used-car salesman.
Margaret Atwood, in a 1972 interview with Graeme Gibson.
This is exactly why we, in spite of ourselves, continue to accept and even extol the “accomplishments” and lifestyles of Wall Streeters.
It’s probably also exactly why I still sometimes get uncomfortable calling myself a writer out loud, even though there’s nothing else to call myself by now and it’s where my money comes from. Does this mean I am successful, but not quite successful enough?
It should also be said that even the writing industry at large (magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, etc) continues to see the working writer as crazy or indecorous, right up to the moment that writer becomes a household name. To break this attitude in industry insiders is the number one factor in attaining a successful writing career (much more so than the writing itself, I have found).
Thirteen chapters into this 18-chapter book I’m writing, I’ve started daydreaming about a moment of surprise when I find out that in fact the book is only to be 15 chapters long, and I can go sit under a palm tree and nothing else.
Is anyone using Medium yet? I figured Tumblr was the best place to ask.
I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced.
Ernest Hemingway, in Death in the Afternoon (via behindthepage)
Any writer worth anything will at many points face these challenges head on. I’m always struggling to extract my pure reaction to things from the conventional reaction to them.
The First 10 Chapters: On Final Revisions and Discovering the Limits of My Self-Imposed Seclusion
The deadline for the first 10 chapters of my book comes at the beginning of December, so I’m entering this month-long intensive maelstrom of reviewing everything endlessly, living with the thesaurus perpetually open on my laptop, engaging in spirited internal debates about the merits of the semicolon versus the period in very specific scenarios, and generally rewriting every single sentence out of thousands of them with the hopes of teasing the illusion of genius out of it.
From my other Tumblr, which I started to accompany the writing of my book (good time for a plug. It’s Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, due out sometime in 2014).
The Writing Group: Summer Passed Us By
The writing group has grown. No longer an oh-so-manageable three souls scribbling away under the stars in Greg’s backyard, today we number seven, so many that there’s a waiting list now for new members.
It means that only two of us now have apartments large enough to accommodate the group. It also means that not everyone sends their stories in to me in a timely manner. Seven people is a lot to track down, and I’m lazy. Thus, I present to you four stories, in the order in which they arrived in my inbox. (I put mine last because I didn’t have to send it to myself.)
And oh yeah, this time around we used first sentences from other literature as writing prompts, the sentence being required to appear somewhere in the story…