Monday, March 18, 2013

Freaking awesome quote on writing

This is one of the best quotes on writing I have ever seen.

It was posted on ProfessorFangirl's tumblr, and the subject is scholarly writing in the humanities. . . but it applies to any kind of writing. At least, any writing that we actually want others to read.

The whole post is here, but these are my favorite bits:

5. You are a writer. Think of yourself as a writer and not God. When you get caught up in trying to know (and say) everything, you’re confusing your role with that of Athena or the omniscient god of bloodless abstract theology or the Oversoul or the ubermench or whatever.

6. Send your imagined critics to the Bahamas. When you imagine and try to anticipate every possible objection to your thought, it stifles your creativity and clouds your thinking. Let that critical review come later. Put your critics on a plane and start serving cocktails immediately; you can write while they’re drunk, distracted, and intriguing to sleep with each other.

7. Keep moving. Remember Goldberg. Do free writings so you can get used to writing that you’re not invested in. Every word doesn’t have to count. Get comfortable with words that don’t.

8. Who are you when you write? A scholarly fortress? An impregnable pedant? Who do you want to be? Alive. I want to be alive, and to be alive is to be transitory. This knowledge that I build, this stuff that I produce, it’s transitory. No eternal temple, merely me and you, my reader, locked in a momentary dance step that will pass and move on. Other readers, other dance steps. No permanence or security here. That’s what living prose is.

Think of your writing as dancing, and keep moving those feet. There is no perfect step. There is no set of moves that everyone will adore. You have only your body; if you’re going to dance, it’s the one you must use. You have only your own mind and your own language; if you’re going to think and to write, use them.

Delight in that body. Delight in your mind. The desire for eternal words, eternal certainty, eternal life—it’s a death wish.

—Warren Hedges

I don't know who this Warren Hedges is that Professor Fangirl is quoting, but he is now one of my heroes. And Professor Fangirl? In a follow-up post, she quotes the Litany Against Fear from the classic sci-fi novel, Dune. I am totally fangirling over her now.

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