Failure Is a Necessity

“The man who gets up is greater than the man who never fell.”  —Concepcion Arenal

Often, you have to fail as a writer before you write that bestselling novel or ground-breaking memoir. If you’re failing as a writer—which it definitely feels like when you’re struggling to write regularly or can’t seem to earn a living as a freelance writer—maybe you need to take a long-term perspective.

—J. K. Rowling

Don’t Kill the Fun in Your First Draft

Don’t chisel perfect sentences into stone, or try to. That’s no way to write a first draft. Don’t even think that you’re writing; think that you’re dancing, or conducting a symphony, or chasing moonbeans, or soaping windows. Don’t be a slave to grammar or syntax, or even to meaning. Write to the sound of words, not to their logic – not at first. Be guided by rhythms, hues, textures, game theory, astrological charts, whim. Be bold, be devilish; be outrageous. Forget about readers; tickle yourself. Should doubts, misgivings, or disgust arise during this honeymoon phase, shoo, shoo them away. If they persist, consider the possibility that bride and groom (artist and subject) aren’t truly meant for each other. However you manage it, try, at this juncture, to have at least some fun.

—Peter Selgin, By Cunning & Craft: Practical Wisdom for Fiction Writers

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Is Fear Keeping You from a Writing Career?

On Writing by Stephen King

You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.

—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The definition of cowardice is “lack of courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.”

Ask yourself for one moment what your feelings have been on the eve of some act involving courage, whether it be physical courage, or moral or intellectual . . . what has happened to you? If it has really called forth courage, has it not felt something like this: I cannot do this. This is too much for me. I shall ruin myself if I take this risk. I cannot take the leap, it’s impossible. All of me will be gone if I do this, and I cling to myself. 

And then supposing the Spirit has conquered and you have done this impossible thing, do you find afterwards that you possess yourself in a sense that you never had before. That there is more of you? . . . So it is throughout life . . . you know “nothing ventured nothing won” is true in every hour, it is the fibre of every experience that signs itself into the memory.

—John Neville Figgis

The One Thing That Will Kill Your Manuscript

The Artful Edit by Susal Bell

We all have writing or writers we admire and aspire to. It is not easy to abandon your ideal in order to accept what you perceive, at first, as your own meager self. It can take time to hear the power of your own voice, and until you do, you may keep hoping that you sound like George Eliot or Djuna Barnes, Stephen King or David Halberstam. Trying to sound like so-and-so is a fine exercise when you’re building your chops, but once you start your work in earnest as a relatively mature writer, it is literary suicide. To write falsely is not to write at all.

—Susan Bell, The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself