Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writers on Writing

Mark Twain had three rules for writing. The first was “Write,” the second was “Write,” and the third was “Write.” Here are some more of my favorite quotes about the craft:

There are three rules for the writing of a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.—W. Somerset Maugham

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.—Thomas Jefferson

The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter.—Blaise Pascal

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all.—Winston Churchill

You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hard writing makes easy reading.—Wallace Stegner

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.—Flannery O'Connor

The wastepaper basket is the writer's best friend.—Isaac Bashevis Singer

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.—Truman Capote

Don’t try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.—Arthur Freed

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Remembering Eoin

Our son Eoin died at 16, and this week marks the 25th anniversary of his passing.

It began like any other day…

But no one wants to hear about this, unless there are lessons to be learned after 25 years. Are there any? I learned a new respect for fate--how arbitrary was it, to take the life of someone of such promise? Eoin was fifth in his sophomore class, always an honor student, spelling, math, and geography champion, recruited by West Point in the eighth grade, appeared in two movies, traveled a bit, already an established writer--I could go on and on. What could possibly be gained by cutting short such a life? I have learned I must be content with never knowing the answer to that.

We were close--all three of us--and I imagine we still would be. Skyping weekly, at least, if we didn’t live near each other. He could be in another part of the world on a movie set, or working in a physics lab, or just being a husband and father. One of the good guys.

Our last days with Eoin were good ones. We were proud parents at an honors dinner at school the week before, where he was awarded an academic letter jacket. For the Memorial Day weekend we cooked up a holiday feast, grilling chicken and turkey hot dogs and burgers, steaming corn, whipping up salads. Eoin deveined shrimp for appetizers and helped man the grill. He was looking forward to another summer at home, free from the pressures of a rigorous curriculum. For the summer of ’93, he planned to participate in an academic program in either France or Japan, he wasn’t certain yet…

We were so proud of the fine young man he’d become. I like to think of him now as having adventures journeying through time and space, occasionally looking in on the old folks. We miss you, buddy. Stop by any time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Quotes for Presidents' Day

History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.--Thomas Jefferson

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.--Theodore Roosevelt

I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.--Woodrow Wilson

If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.--Calvin Coolidge

To reach a port, we must sail--sail, not tie at anchor--sail, not drift.--Franklin D. Roosevelt

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.--Harry Truman

Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.--John F. Kennedy

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.--William J. Clinton

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it.--Clarence Darrow

Friday, August 5, 2016

A letter from Charles Fort

Charles Fort, born August 6, 1874, was a librarian of bizarre phenomenon in such books as The Book of the Damned and Wild Talents. He said of himself, "I am a collector of notes upon subjects that have diversity — such as deviations from concentricity in the lunar crater Copernicus, and a sudden appearance of purple Englishmen — stationary meteor-radiants, and a reported growth of hair on the bald head of a mummy — and 'Did the girl swallow the octopus?'"

And, concerning his research: "[Wise men] have tried to understand our state of being, by grasping at its stars, or its arts, or its economics. But, if there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin, whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Napoleon Bonaparte. One measures a circle, beginning anywhere."

His books make fascinating reading, and while he can be flippant at times ("I think we're all bugs and mice, and are only different expressions of an all-inclusive cheese"), the letter below indicates he did take his work seriously. John found it and the envelope it came in glued to the inside of the back cover of a third printing (Feb. 1931) of The Book of the Damned he purchased some years ago at a used book store for $4.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

10 Inspiring quotes from William Makepeace Thackeray

When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.

Bravery never goes out of fashion.

Follow your honest convictions and be strong.

To love and win is the best thing; to love and lose, the next best.

Dare and the world yields, or if it beats you sometimes, dare it again and you will succeed.

A good laugh is sunshine in the house.

Next to excellence is the appreciation of it.

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.

Do not be in a hurry to succeed. What would you have to live for afterwards? Better make the horizon your goal; it will always be ahead of you.

When you look at me, when you think of me, I am in paradise.

William Makepeace Thackeray
18 July 1811-24 Dec 1863

Monday, May 30, 2016

A dozen from Walt Whitman, born May 31, 1819

Keep your face always toward the sunshine--and shadows will fall behind you.

I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

We were together. I forget the rest.

I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends.

Happiness, not in another place, but this place... not for another hour, but for this hour.

I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.

I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.

To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.

I exist as I am, that is enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10 Inspiring Quotes

Here are 10 inspiring quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, born this day in 1803 (d. 1882):

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.

Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.