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Great Advice for Writers

I’m always on the lookout for nuggets of wisdom from wiser and more experienced writers. There are plenty to be found in books about writing on all aspects of the craft and the writing life. However, sometimes I get really lucky and stumble onto advice that’s relevant to more than just writing. For spot-on general applicability, profundity and concision, I haven’t found any more valuable gems than the following:

“Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” –Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Gertrude Tennant

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” –Elmore Leonard, New York Times essay, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle"

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” –Samuel Beckett, “Worstward Ho!”*

“Chances are, no one wants you to write your novel—if they say they do, they are just meaning that you should get it over with or get on with it. The people you know actually dread reading the novel you are about to write—they don’t want to read about themselves, they don’t want to be bored, and they fear embarrassment for everyone. You are, therefore, free.” –Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I tried.” –The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

* It is true that, in context, the Beckett quote is less exhortatory and more resigned. No matter.

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