Like Michel de Montaigne, “I quote others in order to better express myself.” Here is what a few writers have to say about this business we call writing.
E.B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
E.L. Doctorow: “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
Ursula K. LeGuin: “I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work.”
Jennifer Egan: “Be willing to write really badly. It won’t hurt you to do that. I think there is this fear of writing badly, something primal about it, like: ‘This bad stuff is coming out of me…’ Forget it! Let it float away and the good stuff follows. For me, the bad beginning is just something to build on. It’s no big deal. You have to give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well. That’s when people get into the habit of waiting for the good moments, and that is where I think writer’s block comes from. Like: It’s not happening. Well, maybe good writing isn’t happening, but let some bad writing happen… When I was writing The Keep, my writing was so terrible. It was God-awful. My working title for that first draft was, A Short Bad Novel. I thought: ‘How can I disappoint?’”
The Egan quote is part of an article titled “25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer” by Jocelyn Glei. The other twenty-four are also worth a gander.
Doctorow again: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Stewart O’Nan, in an article titled “Finding Time to Write,” cites Joseph Conrad’s maxim that “there are only two difficult things about writing: starting and not stopping.” This neatly wraps up the enchilada.
Finally, poet Charles Bukowski offers a respite: “This is very important — to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you’re gonna lose everything. Whether you’re an actor, anything, a housewife … there has to be great pauses between highs, where you do nothing at all. You just lay on a bed and stare at the ceiling.”