10 great writing quotes from famous writers

August 08, 2018 | Writing
Erica Jong

Great writing inspires great writing. Some of the most compact and inspiring statements about writing are quotations from writers expressing their thoughts about the craft. Their individual choice of words and phrases inform better choices of our own, and the statements themselves give us a stronger perspective on methods and tactics that make for more creative and lucid prose.

How can we go wrong listening to the likes of Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King? You will hear from each of them and others in the ensuing collection of quotations from writers about writing. Let us begin.

Erica Jong: “Compose with utter freedom and edit with utter discipline.”

Donald Murray: “You write to discover what you want to say. You rewrite to discover what you have said and then rewrite to make it clear to other people.”

Sue Grafton: “Writing is a craft that takes many years to develop. The publishing world is full of talented, hardworking writers who’ve struggled for years to learn the necessary skills. I counsel any writer to focus on the job at hand — learning to write well — trusting that when the time comes, the Universe will step in and make the rest possible. Writing isn’t about the destination — writing is the journey that transforms the soul and gives meaning to all else.”

Saul Bellow: “A writer is a reader moved to emulation.”

Ernest Hemingway: “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Stephen King: “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Don’t talk about giftedness, inborn talents? One can name all kinds of great men who were not very gifted. They acquired greatness ... all of them had that diligent seriousness of a craftsman, learning first to construct the parts properly before daring to make a great whole. They allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.”

Joseph Conrad: “My task I am trying to achieve, is — by the power of the written word — to make you hear, to make you feel. It is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more. And it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”

Isaac Asimov: “What lasts in the reader’s mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what’s it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse.”

Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

Mike Consol teaches public speaking, PowerPoint presentation skills and business writing workshops to companies and business professionals. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 925-449-1040.

Confessions of a writer who bloomed late in life: ‘How I stopped sabotaging my writing goals’

July 30, 2018 | Writing

Despite long-standing aspirations of writing a book, initial successes with short stories and essays, and a healthy career in publishing, Andrea Jarrell published her first book at age 55. But, of course, she got through it. Jarrell shares her experiences and offers principles for achieving your writing goals in a first-person article in Writer’s Digest.
“Given that I published my first book at age 55, some might call me a late-blooming author. I am,” she writes. “But not because I suddenly discovered writing and decided to write a book. I am a late bloomer because I finally stopped sabotaging myself and did the work needed to realize life-long ambitions.”
How did Andrea Jarrell sabotage her efforts to write books, the only thing she ever dreamed of doing in life? (Click on the headline to read her account)

Authenticity: How to be genuine when you present

Critical to your success as a presenter is recognizing that your audience will be judging you from the moment you stand in front of them. They cannot help it and they do not consciously know they are doing it but judging you they are. An obvious question might be “what judgments are they making?” but we cannot know, we can only assume. The reality is that we judge ourselves based on our motivations and drivers (of which we are often consciously aware) but we have to judge others based on their observable behaviors. This is a well-proven concept based on the “fundamental attribution error,” according to trainers Tom Bird and Jeremy Cassell. As a presenter, they say, your behaviors are driven by:

>> Your values (those things you hold as being important)
>> Your ego and wider personality
>> Your beliefs, fears and aspirations

It’s a complex mix. Often it is only when we see ourselves back on video that we become aware of how others might see and experience us and it is often a wake-up call. Bird and Cassell say first piece of advice — and often the most important and powerful — to the clients they train is to be authentic when presenting. Authenticity is about being genuine and, in the context of presenting, it is about being a bigger version of yourself when you present rather than being an actor playing a role. What is it to be authentic as a presenter? (Click on the headline to continue reading)

The non-traditional writing path paved by Michael Pollan

July 02, 2018 | Writing

Whether he is writing a book on big farming and the way Americans think about food, or interviewing terminal cancer patients who have had life-altering experiences through hallucinogenic drugs, author Michael Pollan’s career as a writer has been anything but traditional. “The path of someone’s career only appears in retrospect. I really didn’t know where I was going. The path of a writer isn’t like the path of a doctor or a lawyer — it’s really crooked,” Pollan said at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as he delivered an autobiographical lecture, “One Writer’s Trip: From the Garden to the Plate and the Beyond,” to a packed audience. “On this journey you will never know which books you will have been grateful to have packed, or where your curiosity will take you.” Pollan, a Radcliffe fellow this year, is also a food activist and a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. In an article written for Harvard Magazine, by author Laura Levis, Pollan discusses his evolution as an author, starting with the realization that the books he had treasured in college — namely those by the great American nature writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson — would not serve him very well in some ways. (Click on the headline to continue reading)

A public speaking toolkit for introverts

June 25, 2018 | Writing

Throughout our early education, few of us are actually taught or encouraged to practice public speaking skills. For those who are naturally more introverted, this means it is relatively easy to sidestep any early opportunities and go for years without ever having to speak in public. As we grow older, a fear of exposure and failure can easily take hold and even cause speech anxiety. However, public speaking is a skill that is strengthened through practice, so if you want to be better at it, you need to do more speaking. There are lots of similarities between the skill sets for delivering training and mastering public speaking, including thorough planning and good subject knowledge. Unfortunately, the mind can become a powerful block. The introverted thinker, known for their ordered thoughts and perfectionist ideals, can easily sabotage themselves into thinking it is something they just can’t do and that public speaking is an ‘off-limits’ activity, says self-described introvert Kay Heald of Toastmasters International, writing for TrainingZone.
She says the terms “introversion” and “extroversion” are often misused to distinguish between shy and more outgoing personalities. More accurately, the Jungian and Myers-Briggs definitions define introversion and extroversion as existing on an energy spectrum to help describe the different and complicated ways that people respond to the world. Heald has much more to say about the subject, including the five components of a public speaking toolkit. Click on the headline to continue reading.

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