In 1938 aspiring author Frances Turnbull sent a copy of one of her stories to Francisc Scott Fitzgerald. In the feedback he offers her there’s one great piece of advice: “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.”
You can read the rest of the letter here. It’s really worth the time, and it’s the kind of advice writers give only to closest friends. It’s not something you can tell anyone about, because most people will think you’re crazy.
Now, about selling your heart… Continue reading You’ve Got to Sell Your Heart
“Don’t be a ‘writer.’ Be writing.” —William Faulkner
Ten steps to being a writer. Five rules to writing a great novel. Or seven rules. Or fifteen. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many rules, how many steps, how many lessons, who gives the advice, and what intentions they had behind it, because most of you don’t even see the staircase.
You want to know the truth? Continue reading So, You Want to Be a Writer…
“I just know that you have to be afraid to live your life in order to become a writer. Soon you realize that your life is becoming this incredible plot and every person you meet becomes a character. That’s when the world inside your head feels more real than the one outside your window, when a tragedy becomes nothing more than intriguing information. That’s when you can’t cry anymore because nothing around you feels real. Your entire life becomes a huge stash of stories and novels.
And you die one chapter at a time.
You either write or live. And every writer is bound to find that out someday.”
This is what Jonathan Fisher has to say about being a writer. He’s a fictional character, but I know that some of you will feel inclined to disagree with him.
In fact, sometimes I feel like disagreeing with him as well. It’s like that quote by Fitzgerald (I never seem to find it when I need to reference it.) You know, the one about a writer being able to believe in two opposite ideas at the same time — by the way, if you know the quote, please put it here. Continue reading TMM: Being an Observer
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent van Gogh
I see a lot of artists who just want to become artists. They believe novels simply get written, or that somehow they’ll magically get better at this. Many are reluctant to explore new possibilities or try new techniques… but that doesn’t make much sense.
I believe art to be the only reasonable way for us to venture beyond the limitations of our own world, and by doing so we reach the very essence of our humanity. We always feel close to figuring out some elusive answer to life’s most profound questions. Of course, we never do so, and that’s what keeps us going. Continue reading Art, Life, Love
“The apartment below mine had the only balcony of the house. I saw a girl standing on it, completely submerged in the pool of autumn twilight. She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” – J.D. Salinger
I have always considered these words to be some of the most beautiful I have ever read. The most breathtaking description. Simple, yet so effective in the way it makes you imagine someone with almost godlike characteristics into existence.
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles
Sometimes when I write I think too much. I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about, and I write as if I’ve got something to prove to someone. That’s a mistake. Over thinking, trying to outsmart the reader only to outsmart yourself.
When I wrote Jazz I wanted for the ending to the story to deliver a certain message. Throughout the novel there’s some talk about happy endings, about what we want to get from life, and stuff like that. Of course, those characters are mistaken in their belief that happiness is a destination, but nevertheless… they want and try to reach for something, and they’re not even sure what that something is. Continue reading If You Want a Happy Ending