Posts tagged ‘Brain Pickings’

November 20, 2013

Hemingway on How to Be a Writer

My beloved Brain Pickings has done it again. This time, Maria Popova has found a wonderful excerpt from Hemingway on Writing, in which Hemingway poses as “Your Correspondent,” answering the questions of “MICE” (aspiring writers.) Granted, mice is not the most flattering name Hemingway could have chosen for young writers, but perhaps with his knowledge we will one day graduate to correspondents. Hemingway writes:

MICE: How can a writer train himself?

Y.C.: Watch what happens today. If we get into a fish see exactly what it is that everyone does. If you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you the emotion. Whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped. Remember what the noises were and what was said. Find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling that you had. That’s a five finger exercise.

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November 6, 2013

How to See the World Like an Artist

Have I mentioned what a big fan I am of Brain Pickings? If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. This article from Maria Popova discusses the ways in which we are blind to the world that surrounds us. It delves into seeing our own world with artistic eyes, allowing us to be better, more creative writers, comedians, artists, and filmmakers:

“How we spend our days,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timelessly beautiful meditation on presence over productivity“is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life — in the city, high on the cult of productivity, where we float past each other, past the buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone earbuds and solipsism. And yet: “The art of seeing has to be learned,” Marguerite Duras reverberates — and it can be learned, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz invites us to believe in her breathlessly wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (public library) — a record of her quest to walk around a city block with eleven different “experts,” from an artist to a geologist to a dog, and emerge with fresh eyes mesmerized by the previously unseen fascinations of a familiar world.

Popova quotes from the book:

Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you.

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October 30, 2013

7 Life Lessons for Writers (and Everyone Else)

mauricesendakposters9Maria Popova of the wonderful website Brain Pickings recently celebrated seven years creating that site. As her way of acknowledging the achievement, Maria compiled seven life lessons that she has learned over the course of the last seven years. These lessons apply to the population at large, and more specifically to artists, and even more specifically to writers. If you’re feeling stifled or stuck or if you want to take your career and life to the next level, read on:

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
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March 20, 2013

The Writing Routines of Famous Authors

This post on Brain Pickings shares the writing habits of a number of famous authors. Trends that carry through include personal rules for times of day and locations for writing as well as a strict adherence (with occasional opportunities to bend the rules) to regular routines. Here is a quote from Ernest Hemingway on his method (from A Moveable Feast), which I have found quite helpful in my own writing (italics are my own):

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. 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. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

Read the habits of other famous authors here.

March 13, 2013

John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings (a site I highly suggest all writers peruse) has shared six writing tips that John Steinbeck originally shared in an interview with The Paris Review in 1975:

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
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