Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quotes: Writing 03. Wrongs. WWII.

Writing 03
Today’s reader has an attention span of about twenty seconds and is inundated by temptations to many other attractive activities.
Writing and the reader 9 [The reader] is a person with an attention span of about twenty seconds…assailed on every side by forces competing for his time by newspapers and magazines, by television and radio and stereo, by his wife and children and pets, by his house and yard and all the gadgets that he has bought to keep them spruce, and by that most potent of competitors, sleep. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Using five words when one word will do.
Writing and usage 14 It only takes a John Dean testifying on TV to have everyone in the country saying “at this point in time” instead of “now.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Perfect phrasing of an idea translated into modern expressions.
Writing and word choice 39 Thomas Paine’s “These are the times that try men’s souls”: Times like these try men’s souls; how trying it is to live in these times; these are trying times for men’s souls; soulwise, these are trying times. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

We don’t know when childhood ends and adulthood begins.
Writing for children 242 P.L. Travers: If we’re completely honest, not sentimental or nostalgic, we have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins…one unending thread, not a life chopped up into sections out of touch with one another. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Basic motivation for writing: you’re bothered by something and you need to say it.
Writing Motivation 29 James Baldwin on motivation for writing: Something that irritates you and won’t let go. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

The speed with which Dr. Johnson wrote—and no reading it over and revising it; sent off as is.
Writing Process 201 Mr. Langdon remembers Johnson, when on a visit to Oxford, asking him one evening how long it was till the post went out; and on being told about half an hour, he exclaimed, “Then we shall do very well”…[and] instantly sat down and finished an “Idler,” which it was necessary should be in London the next day…[but when] Mr. Langdon having signified a wish to read it, “Sir, (said he) you shall not do more than I have done myself”…folded it up and sent it off. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

All writers have an inner critic that tells them something is wrong with what they have written.
Writing process 35 Hemingway: the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector…the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

You write until you know what you’re going to say next and you stop.
Writing process 58 Hemingway: You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Most writing is done away from the typewriter.
Writing process 83 Henry Miller: After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk…occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game…your mind is working on this problem in the back of your head. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

I always try my material out on my dogs.
Writing process 98 John Steinbeck: I’ve always tried out my material on my dogs first. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Writing process 101 E.M. Forster: How do I know what I think until I see what I say? Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Writing is like an iceberg.
Writing process 111 Hemingway: [The iceberg principle]: There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

The fundamental purpose for writing: to make it clear and simple.
Writing purpose 49 …to express myself clearly and simply to someone else. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Say the truth, not what others want to hear.
Writing speaking 583 Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Thoreau, Walden.

A man’s style of writing: strong, concise, clear, with proper words; women are diffuse.
Writing style 51 Emma on writing style: ...and yet it is not the style of a woman; no, certainly, it is too strong and concise; not diffuse enough for a woman...thinks strongly and clearly--and when he takes a pen in hand, his thoughts naturally find proper words. Austen, Emma

With a good style you can make any subject interesting.
Writing style 89 Style: the author who writes really well can make even an unlikely subject seem interesting. Marek, R. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

An effective style requires the least effort of understanding.
Writing style 393 Spencer…defined [writing] style as that which requires the least effort of understanding. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Herbert Spencer.

You need to try to understand why people behave as they do.
Writing, character 58 Joyce Cary: You’ve got to find out what people believe, what is pushing them on…. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Too much editing is when you don’t get the sense of the story.
Writing, editing 91 Thurber on Harold Ross: In fact, Ross read so carefully that often he didn’t get the sense of your story. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Writing, editing 91 Thurber on Harold Ross: He used to fuss for an hour over a comma. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Professional writing cites support from other professionals’ published work.
Writing, professional 165 …findings… buttressed with citations from German, English, Italian and American medical journals. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

To write professionally, we have to admit to what we don’t know.
Writing, professional 359 …if we are going to publish at all, we have to be tentative…we must freely and openly admit everything we don’t know and cannot yet deduce before we set forth our puny hypotheses as medical knowledge. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

He explained what he knew as a basis for further research.
Writing, professional 557 He had avoided pontificating, yet had confided all he had learned about the unconscious and the emerging structure of the human psyche, simply, as starting points for further research and exploration. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Use a case history to reveal your methods.
Writing, professional 626 …a full case history which will reveal your methods. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Learning who discovered a new idea and who developed someone else’s idea.
Writing, professional 677 A big bone of contention, as it was with other scientific bodies, was the element of priority: who first discovered a new idea or developed an old one…. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Writing, Professional 48 Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. Mencken, Minority Report.

Every topic needs a treatise with the usual tables and graphs.
Writing, Professional 107 If there is no scientific treatise on the subject, equipped with all the usual tables and graphs, then there sure ought to be one. Mencken, Minority Report.

The professional writing in journals on English compares poorly to the writing in scientific journals.
Writing, Professional 122 The papers printed in the English Journal, the Proceedings of the Modern Language Association and similar periodicals seldom show any professional competence or contribute anything worth knowing to the subject…would certainly be unusual to find any similar rubbish in a journal of chemistry, astronomy or zoology, or even in a medical journal. Mencken, Minority Report.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had 122 rejection slips pasted around his room.
Writing, rejection 109 I had one hundred and twenty-two rejection slips pinned in a frieze about my room. F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing.

I revise as I write.
Writing, revision 79 Dorothy Parker: I can’t write five words but that I change seven. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Thurber rewrote to make his writing smooth and seemingly effortless.
Writing, revision 88 Thurber: [Rewriting] …a constant attempt on my part to make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

You have a story when you must tell it to someone else.
Writing, speaking 181 Frank O’Connor: The moment you grab somebody by the lapels and you’ve got something to tell, that’s a real story. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

To redress wrongs, use reason, not force.
Wrongs 223 Wrongs have to be redressed by reason, not by force. T. H. White, The Once and Future King.

Rebuilding Europe and Japan means rebuilding industry in the United States to meet their competition.
WWII 44 …for it becomes manifest that the United States, which escaped unscathed from both wars, will have to destroy deliberately much of the sort of property that was destroyed in Europe and Asia by military vandalism…its plants will need modernizing to meet the competition of the new plants built to replace the war's ruins. Mencken, Minority Report.

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