Tag Archives: writing

A story is not like a road to follow

A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.
Alice Munro (Selected Stories, 1968-1994) quoted here 

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Memory and imagination

The tricks that memory plays, the writer [García Márquez ] argues, actually shape our lives. ‘What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it,’ García Márquez writes at the opening of his personal account. Further on he demonstrates the point with an anecdote. He says that when his parents were married in 1926, his mother yearned for the little telegraph office house where she had spent her honeymoon. García Márquez says he and his brothers and sisters were soon able to describe it ‘room by room as if they had lived there’. As he approached the age of 60, the writer finally travelled to the place to look at the house and found it ‘was not at all like the one in my memory at all’. All the same, today he can ‘never visualise it as it is, but rather as I constructed it, stone by stone, without seeing it, through my mother’s nostalgia’. Vanessa Thorpe, Magical Realism . . . and fakery 

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writing from experience

Again, after much trying and failing, I’d seen that there was no way I could write directly about certain central parts of my own experience, my experience with my mom and my experience in my marriage. What made direct revelation impossible was partly my sense of shame and partly a wish to protect third parties, but it was mostly because the material was so hot that it deformed the writing whenever I came at it directly. And so, layer by layer, I built up the masks. Like with papier-mâché, strip after strip, molding ever more lifelike features, in order to perform the otherwise unperformable personal drama.                Jonathon Franzen, The Paris Review interview


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fear and fascination with mortality

Writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated deep down, by a fear or and fascination with mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the underworld and to bring something or someone back from the dead. Margaret Atwood Negotiating With The Dead: A Writer on Writing


Sometimes change comes not because we set out to fix ourselves, or repair our relation to the living; sometimes we change most when we repair our relation to the lost, the forgotten, the dead. Stephen Grosz The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves.

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Dreams remind us that there is a treasure locked away somewhere, and writing is the means to try and approach the treasure. And as we know, the treasure is in the searching, not in the finding. Hélène Cixous

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dissolving the borders

I’m trying to dissolve the borders between memoir and journalism and criticism by weaving them together.

Leslie Jamison, How to write a personal essay,

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on not being too clear

I learned more from trying to edit [William Maxwell] than the other way around. I still recall a recalcitrant sentence of his, near the bottom of a galley, that we stared at and scribbled over together for a good ten minutes. “It’s still not clear,” I said at last and when Bill, leaning his head on one hand, murmured, “I don’t want it to be too clear,” I saw, as if in a parable, the artist’s heart that ruled his editor’s brain.       Roger Angell, Let Me Finish

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Writing about writing. Writing about not writing. Who cares which when the bandwagon is rolling? My father’s death, the birth of my children, not writing my book and my general uselessness were all in the bag. So what next? Who can say whether memories are real or an act of imagination? No one, fortunately, so I was entirely free to reinvent some of my miserable childhood. Karl Ove Knausgaard, Boyhood Island,

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waiting for the kettle to boil

I put on some water for another cup of coffee and while I was waiting for it to boil, I skimmed through what I had written so far. The dust hovering in the broad, angled shafts of light anxiously followed every tiny current in the air. The neighbour in the adjacent flat had begun to play the piano. The kettle hissed. What I had written was not good. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either. I went to the cupboard, unscrewed the lid of the coffee tin, put two spoonfuls of coffee in the cup and poured the water, which rose up the sides, black and steaming.
The telephone rang.
I put the cup down on the desk and let the phone ring twice before I answered.
“Hello?” I said.       Karl Ove Knausgaard, A Death in the Family

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fear of writing

I am afraid of writing . . . because when I write I am always moving toward the unarticulated, the dangerous, the place where the walls don’t hold. I don’t know what’s there, but I am pulled toward it. Is the wounded self the writing self? Is the writing self an answer to the wounded self? Perhaps that is more accurate. The wound is static, a given. The writing self is multiple and elastic, and it circles the wound. Over time, I have become more aware of the fact that I must try not to cover that speechless, hurt core, that I must fight my dread of the mess and violence that are also there. I have to write the fear. The writing self is restless and searching, and it listens for voices. Where do they come from, these chatterers who talk to me before I fall asleep? My characters. I am making them and not making them, like people in my dreams.   Siri Hustvedt A Plea For Eros

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