Tag Archives: quotations

On being quiet and humble….

After a week of deadlines, meetings, being in three countries, leading a weekend intensive workshop in Cork with Art/Works and presenting two public lectures, I’ve felt busy and screechy and visible and loud and far too bossy and efficient for my own good as a writer….

To lead a workshop and speak publicly, I need to be highly organised and to have plans a, b, c, d, and e, so I can respond to the natural dynamic of the group and create an experience which works for as many as possible. To speak publicly I need to know my subject inside out and back to front, I need to rehearse, deliver on time, and be ready for left-field questions. In other words, I need to be totalitarian in my organisation and preparation…. In order to write I need to be invisible and quiet and as eccentric in my process as I need to be. I’ve found when I’m starting out on a new project if I try to be efficient creatively, I lose spontaneity; the chaos I allow when initially writing paradoxically saves me time in the long run.

The past week has been superb and I’ve met the most remarkable people, but going from the quiet privacy of my solitary writing life to this hugely stimulating and enjoyable social public life reminds me again of the dichotomy and contradiction at the heart of my working life. To travel between both halves of my life feels like I need a decompression chamber, a sort of air lock between atmospheres I’ve seen in Sci-fi movies.

How necessary then was a calming email from my friend the poet Chris Kinsey this morning, sharing a quotation from Gwyneth Lewis:

Writers have to know when to be quiet and humble enough to let the unexpected come to them. If you conceive of language as an entirely willed cultural construct, then you miss its ‘otherness’.                                            Gwyneth Lewis. On Nature Writing.   www.newwritingpartnership.org.uk/fp/aspen/public/getFile-49.doc‎

My major thanks to both poets for sharing this wisdom with me. I’m off into my snowdrop-scattered garden to breathe and be quiet and humble, and invite the unexpected and otherness of language in…. Hope you can, too.

Write what you would love to read.

A very simple yet profound thought occurred to me after coming across a quotation by Brian Eno online: Write the book you would love to read; the play you would love to see:

‘My interest in making music has been to create something that does not exist that I would like to listen to. I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist.’

Brian Eno. 

When I teach or mentor young in career writers, I always encourage them not to try and jump on whatever bandwagon is popular at that time. Those projects were developed eighteen to twenty-four months earlier and anything developed now will be passe and out of date. It’s always better to follow your own interests, your own passion.

The Eno quotation appeals to me for its obvious but clear-cut truth: be yourself, develop your own voice, style, or form, rooted in your personal taste, skills, imagination and predilections. Initiate, don’t imitate. Strive to be innovative.

One hundred and fifty ‘rules’ for writing fiction: 115 – 119

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More quotations on writing collected from interviews and festival interviews over the years…

115)  Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To invent. To leap. To fly. To fall. To be strict without being too self-excoriating. Not stopping too often to think it’s going well (or not too badly), simply to keep rowing along.  (Susan Sontag)

116)  Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.  (Hilary Mantel)

117)   Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.  (Ray Bradbury)

118)   Never fear [the audience] or despise it. Coax it, charm it, interest it, stimulate it, shock it now and then if you must, make it laugh, make it cry, but above all . . . never, never, never bore the hell out of it.  (Noel Coward)

119)  The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.  (William Saroyan)