“I have two children. Dickens had ten — I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too father-ish to be writer-esque? … The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd.” (Zadie Smith)
“The key is not having one child, it is living in a place where there is excellent daycare and a social world that allows fathers to have the time and the motivation to fully share in raising kids.” (Jane Smiley)
“I think I have become a better writer since having children. It improves creativity, particularly because once you have children it makes you realise the story isn’t about you.” (Louise Doughty)
~ A ~
A, The first letter of the European alphabets, has, in the English language, three different sounds, which may be termed the broad, open, and slender.
The broad sound resembling that of the German a is found, in many of our monosyllables, as all, wall, malt, falt; in which a is pronounced as au in cause, or aw in law. Many of these words were anciently written with au, as sault, waulk; which happens to be still retained in fault. This was probably the ancient sound of the Saxons, since it is almost uniformly preserved in the rustic pronunciation, and the Northern dialects, as maun for man, haund for hand.
A open, not unlike the a of the Italians, is found in father, rather, and more obscurely in fancy, fast, &c.
A slender or close, is the peculiar a of the English language, resembling the sound of the French e masculine, or diphthong ai in païs, or perhaps a middle sound between them, or between the a and e; to this the Arabic a is said nearly to approach. Of this sound we have examples in the words, place, face, waste, and all those that terminate in ation; as, relation, nation, generation.
A is short, as, glass, grass; or long, as, glaze, graze: it is marked long, generally, by an e final, plane, or by an i added, as, plain.
All happy writers are the same, but each hardworking writer has a train wreck that is perfectly fitted to the task at hand. After all, as every novelist knows, writing a book is a collision between what one wants and what one gets.
My version of this started the moment I read a line by Robert Graves, who said that there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.
It seems to me that each time you add a new point of view and tell the story again, you will discover something you didn’t know before. And if this is true for point of view, it should hold true for structure, language, and all the other elements that go into a piece of fiction.
I think the basic belief behind this way of writing a novel is that the entire business is one long discovery, and no one, or no novelist I know, sits down one morning, the complete book in mind, and types it straight off. At least, with the writers I know it is one long slog through the most trying parts of the imagination and memory.
Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.
Fortunately, new research suggests a simple antidote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.
A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.
Okay, here’s my advice to you (and young journalists in general):
1. You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.
2. When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.
3. Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.
4. When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.
5. Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.
6. You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.
7. If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.
8. By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)
9. Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life—family, friends, social life, whatever.
10. Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.
Remembering celebrated reporter Michael Hastings, who was killed in a car accident on June 18, with wisdom from his Reddit AMA – a bittersweet addition to our ongoing archive of timeless advice on writing.
Kierkegaard on why anxiety helps rather than hinders creativity.
Maurice Sendak illustrates Tolstoy
There are two very clear indications of real science and real art: the first inner sign is that a scholar or an artist works not for profit, but for sacrifice, for his calling; the second, outer sign is that his works are understandable to all people. Real science studies and makes accessible that knowledge which people at that period of history think important, and real art transfers this truth from the domain of knowledge to the domain of feelings.
Creating art is not as elevated a thing as many people guess, but certainly it is a useful and kind thing to do, especially if it brings people together and arouses kind feelings in them.
Lovely little guerrilla exchange library in the streets of Bogota.
(Photo by Paola Antonelli)
On June 18, 1983, reconstructionist Sally Ride boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger and became the first American woman in space, the nation’s youngest astronaut in orbit, and the world’s first known lesbian astronaut in space, laying enduring foundations for diversity at NASA and in science.
This is her riveting play-by-play account of what it’s like to launch on the Space Shuttle.