Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thirty-two Statements

Thirty-two Statements About Writing Poetry
Marvin Bell

Here are a few of my favorite statements by Bell:
9. The I in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.
19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed.
24. The dictionary is beautiful; for some poets, it's enough.

Thirty-two Statements About Writing
Catherynne M. Valente

Valente responded to Bell's list, mostly to show that lists about writing are useless. I don't like her list as much, but it has some good points:
11. ...write something every day, even if it's a grocery list. Groceries can be poetry if you allow it. Carrots and ice, lemons and salt.
14. Language is more important than you think. It is not a tool, it is, in the end, the sum of literature. Language has a taste, a texture, a smell.
25. You are not entitled to a book deal. Maybe it'll happen for you, maybe it won't, but one universal truth is this: no one likes an asshole who thinks he's owed something.
28. Own your work. No matter how it looks now, remember that when you wrote it, it lit up the page and melted the pen. Self-hate is a waste of time.

I wrote my own list. I can post the whole thing if anyone wants me to, but here are some of my statements:
1. Write what you can’t stop thinking about.
4. Read a lot. Write a lot. Those are the best and most important ways to become a good writer.
5. Reading how-to books on writing mostly serves as distraction.
10. You have to write the bad stuff to get to the good, and then you have to write more of the bad.
11. Writing the bad is just as important as writing the good.
20. It is less accurate to say “good writing” as it is to say “writing that appeals to an audience.”