Hemingway, Voltaire, You

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Do you find writing a painful undertaking?  You’re not alone.  Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Most of us aren’t pouring our souls into great American novels.  Still, at some point we’re all writers, and it’s comforting to know that even the masters have their struggles.

Here are few more quotes offering insights on concise, purposeful writing from folks who have put pen to paper with decent results:

“If any man wishes to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts.”  Johann von Goethe
In other words, know your purpose.

“Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.”  Mickey Spillane
Know your audience.

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very;’ otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”  C.S. Lewis
Word choice is important.  If a subject is worthwhile, there’s no need to exaggerate.

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”  Mark Twain
Adverbs and adjectives are often unnecessary and may weaken your point.

“There is but one art, to omit.”  Robert Louis Stevenson
Question whether everything you’ve written supports your purpose.

“You can never correct your work well until you have forgotten it.”  Voltaire
Take a break. You’ll be able to edit more objectively when you return.

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”  H.G. Wells
Editors will always, always find something to change.  Accept it.  Sometimes they’re right.

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  Somerset Maugham
There’s no one right way to write.  Find what works for you.

Finally, whether you’re writing a business letter, a news release or a book of sonnets in iambic pentameter, keep it in perspective.

As Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.”

-Kirsten Shaw

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