Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Second That Emotion

Dan Chaon is the judge for the 2010 Indiana Review fiction prize. Last January I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a master class of his and one of the most reflective moments came when he discussed his writing process. He said he sometimes worked on multiple projects at once, going each day to what spoke to him. I found it similar to my own process, where six out of seven days in the week a look at my computer screen will give a glimpse of eight or nine opened documents, all in different states of completion. It’s funny how there’s a certain comfort as a writer knowing that what you’re doing is not that different from someone else.

When I’m working through a writing slump I often turn to the words of my favorite authors to get me going.

Here are a few:

"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."

-Black Boy (Richard Wright)

“The writer’s business is to make up convincing human beings and create for them basic situations and actions by means of which they come to know themselves and reveal themselves to the reader.”

-The Art of Fiction (John Gardner)

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”

-On Writing (Stephen King)

What’s your process? What are some of your favorite quotes on writing?



Maureen said...

Great quotes!

I do the same, either read quotations or, usually, read poetry.

Robert said...

Here is some William Hazlitt: “I will venture to say, that no one but a pedant ever read his own works regularly through. There are not his – they are become mere words, wastepaper, and have none of the glow, the creative enthusiasm, the vehemence, and natural spirit with which he wrote them.”

I've never heard a better statement on why it is we often come to dislike our own writing, after writing them with such affection.