Archive for the 'Commonplaces' Category

Commonplace: Doctorow.

Monday, June 20th, 2011

“Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere.
Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck.
Your conscious is having a panic attack
because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.”
Cory Doctorow


Related: Raison d’etre.

Photo by Amy Palko.

Commonplace: Rushdie.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

“I always think you start at the stupid end of the book,
and if you’re lucky you finish at the smart end.
When you start out, you feel inadequate to the task.
You don’t even understand the task.”

–Salman Rushdie, The Art of Fiction No. 186, The Paris Review

Commonplace: Yolen.

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

“Now, I am one of those people who makes a distinction between being a writer and being an author. A writer puts words on a page. An author lives in story. A writer is conversant with the keyboard, the author with character.

“Roland Barthes has said: ‘The author performs a function; the writer an activity.’ We are talking here about the difference between desire and obsession; between hobby and life. But in either case, I suggest you learn to write not with blood and fear, but with joy.”

—Jane Yolen (source)

Commonplace: Gibbon.

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

“Active valor may often be the present of nature;
but … patient diligence can be the fruit only of habit and discipline.”

—Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Commonplace: Mary-Louise Parker on self-image.

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

“It’s nice to have the luxury
of not being overburdened
with a self-image.”

—Mary-Louise Parker in Esquire

Commonplace: T. C. Boyle on having a family and being a writer.

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Having a family has been very good for me (and I hope good for them too). It gave me the stability I needed to begin and pursue a career as a writer. People tend to romanticize the picture of a writer—they want it to be easy, something a genius can just knock off between debauches, because if it is, if it doesn’t require talent, discipline and a lifelong commitment, then maybe there’s a hope that they, too, someday can knock out their own great and stirring work. We have the devastating example before us of the overwhelming numbers of American writers destroyed by dope and booze—Tom Dardis’s The Thirsty Muse is a real eye-opener—and people tend to think that chemically altering one’s mind is the way to inspiration. Maybe it is. But for me it seems counterproductive. I have never written a sentence—or even thought of writing a sentence—without being in the clearest state of mind. This is my life’s work. This is what I’m meant to do, and why screw with it? I think the way to be a writer is to experience things, certainly, and be open to things, but at some point to become dedicated to the craft of writing and to create a stable environment for that writing to occur in. At least in my case that’s true. So having a family and leading a stable life is absolutely essential to any writing I’ve ever done. When I did my earliest writing, I led a pretty wild life, and the writing was fairly spotty. I would write occasionally. Now I write every day, seven days a week, all year long. And it is my life.

T. C. Boyle
The Art of Fiction No. 161
The Paris Review, Summer 2000

Commonplace: Norman Fischer on Writing.

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I have noticed over the years in my conversations with writers that for a writer, writing is a sort of absolute bottom line. “Are you writing?” If the answer is yes, then no matter what else is going on, your life — and all of life — is basically OK. You are who you are supposed to be, and your existence makes sense. If the answer is no, then you are not doing well, your relationships and basic well-being are in jeopardy, and the rest of the world is dark and problematic.

—Norman Fischer, “Why I Have to Write”

Photo by tnarik.

Commonplace: Seneca the Elder.

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

“If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.”

—Marcus Annaeus Seneca


(Photo by desiretofire; quote found here.)

Commonplace: Carlyle.

Saturday, October 30th, 2010




“Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.”

–Thomas Carlyle


(Photo by fonso.) 

Commonplace: Thoreau on wealth.

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”

–Henry David Thoreau


(Photo by HDC Photography, used under a CC-Noncommercial license.)