Holiday Fragment: Opening up Chinks

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A writer has to open up chinks in the walls of cliché that surround each scene. Sometimes the walls are lead, sometimes they’re paper. Reading good books thins the walls or at least tell you where to look for the hairline fissures.

When stuck, apply books to walls (heads tend to get headaches).

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Ad Nauseam.

 

 

Holiday Fragment: The Microcosm of Your Next Story

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Repeating words in a description indicates a poor vocabulary or a poor imagination. Of the latter: the real world does not repeat itself because it is infinitely rich, this too should be the apparent case of any fabricated world.

Fictional worlds are often found ballooning at the edges of other work. While editing one piece of writing or reading something entirely different, capture those tantalising ideas that pop up—as iridescent and evanescent as foam-bubbles—they could form the microcosm of your next story.

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Startled, the Armchair.

 

Holiday Fragment: Motivation

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As an independent unit of life, man faces two limits: that of body and that of mind.

Any instance of human activity ceases either because of a hard biological limit (I broke my arm therefore I cannot paint), or because the discomfort becomes too great (no one is buying the paintings therefore I shall not paint).

The latter is a soft limit that can be stretched through training (perseverance can be learned: maybe I should continue painting anyway?).

However, if the soft limit stretches so far it meets the hard limit, you get the bodily smack-down of madness or illness: you will go no further.

The difference between the soft and the hard limit is measured in effort.

A personal anecdote

A long time ago my high-school sociology teacher delivered a blow to my pride that set me in my place for life. I had asked him for a reference. He wasn’t too worried about keeping what he wrote a secret, indeed, he encouraged me to look at the form, right there, in front of him.

Only one point surprised me: he’d scored me 4 out of 5 on “General Effort”.

Tell me my facts are wrong, tell me my form is poor, but how dare you tell me I didn’t try to the utmost of my ability?

I brought this up in diplomatic tones, and I witnessed the first and so far only instance of someone’s eyes glinting.

Silence.

Then a grin.

Then he said: “Well, if you’re honest with yourself, do you try as hard as you could be trying?”

You only get so many of those self-searching moments where circumstance, mood, and honesty join in a bitter-sweet union. This was one of them.

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Holiday Fragment: New Year’s Resolution

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Welcome to 2018.

May you spend today, and every other day of the year, full of good cheer.

Quiver Quotes resolves to continue diverting its readers and even, occasionally, inciting moments of divergent-thinking. The word continue belies reality: this is no proposal of stasis because each hard-won, minuscule writing improvement in one post incentivises my next post like the head of the ouroboros chasing its own tail. But unlike the ouroboros, I daren’t let one end catch the other, so the circle never completes but instead is a dense, slow, and shallow-inclined spiral that eventually goes up and up and up. (Or so I imagine; do let me imagine.)

What is your New Year’s Resolution?

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Charged With Eternity: Quirks and Perks.

Style: Quirks and Perks

Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzegerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. All writers, by the way they use language, reveal something of their spirit, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.
E. B. WhiteAn Approach to Style in Strunk & White

White puts it so plainly, so delicately. Only skilled writers show their spirit, their capacities, their biases because their expressive medium is no longer cluttered by ungainly turns of phrase and forced plot devices. Don’t his words make you want to reach that increment in writing where you too have style? (Not to say that you don’t already.)

White also reaffirms that hiding behind words is not possible: the better you write, the more each word says about who you are.

Perhaps I will now commit sacrilege—if so, please avert your eyes and ears, and click away—by placing alongside one of the most timid and decorous writers, E. B. White, the complete opposite: one of the most brash and indecorous men, Charles Bukowski.

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Writing: Quirks and Perks

It is now necessary to warn you that your concern for the reader must be pure: you must sympathize with the reader’s plight (most readers are in trouble about half the time) but never seek to know the reader’s wants. Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.
— E. B. White, Approach to Style in Strunk & White

 

bird

Fly free

 

In other words, stop trying to imitate J. K. Rowling or Stephen King; their duty is to themselves, your duty is to yourself.

A bit of motivation for all those (in the complement of Rowling and King) who are planning to write this weekend.


Reading recommendations

  1. The Elements of Style, by William I. Strunk and E. B. White. 
  2.  Essays of E. B. White, by E. B. White.
  3. My other two blog posts on White’s work: Avian Black Humour and Rosebuds Bow Courteously.