Quotes on Poetry: Leonardo da Vinci

What is Art? What is Poetry?

For centuries, people have been asking what is art? Is art a question? An answer? An expression? A statement? Maybe it’s sheer entertainment.

It’s a question we must answer for ourselves, especially artists and writers.

I believe the best art entertains while it provokes thought or emotion, but that’s just my personal opinion. You might seek art that makes you laugh or fills you with awe. Some prefer art that is masterfully crafted, regardless of the content or messages it communicates. Read more

The Only Two Writing Tips You’ll Ever Need: Read and Write

writing tips read and write

Read and write!

I love collecting writing tips. You never know when you’re going to stumble across a golden nugget of wisdom that will make your writing richer and more vibrant. One of the reasons I started this website was so that I could share the many valuable tips that I’ve acquired over the years. I figure that if some bit of advice helped my writing, it’ll probably help other people’s as well.

But writing tips are funny things. What works for me might not work for you. Maybe you’re naturally inclined to show rather than tell whereas I need someone to say, “show, don’t tell.” Or maybe you only write nonfiction and have no use for tips on creating believable characters or riveting plots. Maybe you only write far-out, abstract poetry and could care less about good grammar.

We writers are a varied bunch with different needs, goals, and standards. But we all do have one thing in common: we write.

And because we all write, there are a couple of writing tips that apply to each and every one of us. In fact, I’d argue that there are just two things that every writer absolutely must do in order to succeed.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King




Stephen King’s statement is one of my favorite quotes on writing. It should be repeated often and expressed in as many ways as possible.

Writers Must Read

Writing begins with reading. It is through reading that we learn how to tell stories, how to choose words and craft sentences. The books we read will inform and inspire the books we’ll write, and there’s a lot we can learn from the authors who have gone before us. How can we write if we don’t read?

If you’re not well read, it will show in your writing. More than once, I’ve reviewed written work and asked the author, “Do you read much?” Almost always, the answer is exactly what I guessed. If the writing flows effortlessly, the writer reads a lot. If the writing is jagged, confusing, and amateurish, then the writer is not a big reader.

Can you imagine a musician who never listens to music? A film director who doesn’t watch movies? These are the arts. You’re in it because you love it, with fierce passion. You’re going to need that passion if you want to get anywhere, and you’re going to have to be immersed in the art to which you aspire. For writers, that means reading. Lots and lots of reading.

And if you read voraciously, you’ll reap the benefits:

  • You’ll naturally grow your vocabulary and pick up better language skills.
  • You’ll learn new information or be entertained by books, articles, and stories.
  • You’ll be able to speak intelligently about literature and writing.
  • You’ll observe a cacophony of styles and your own voice will emerge.
  • Your grammar, spelling, and punctuation will improve drastically, especially if you have high reading standards.

There are many more writerly perks that come from reading. Can you think of any to add?

Writers Write

It goes without saying, yet it has to be said again and again: If you want to be a writer, you must write. But how much must you write?

According to neurologist, Daniel Levitin, to become a true master at anything, one must put in 10,000 hours:

“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.“ – Daniel Levitin

Allow me to repeat the time it takes: 10,000 hours — three hours per day (or 20 hours per week) for ten years. That’s to become a master writer. Maybe you just want to be a published writer. In either case, you’re going to have to do a whole lot of writing. Take a few minutes today to think about how many hours you’ve spent writing (or reading, or both). A few hundred? A few thousand? Maybe you’re halfway there. Maybe you’ve passed the finish line and just need to start putting your work out there.

There’s no point sitting around daydreaming about becoming a writer, thinking someday I’ll write that novel. Someday is here. Someday was yesterday. It’s today. And it’s tomorrow. Someday is right now. So start writing — today and every day.

Learn from the Masters

Stephen King is an accomplished writer. He has sold an estimated 300-350 million copies of his novels and short stories. Many of his works have been adapted for film and television, including Carrie, Cujo, The Green Mile, and “The Body,” (which was made into the popular film Stand By Me). Mr. King has won numerous awards and received much critical acclaim. The sheer volume of his output is astounding. His success is vast, perhaps unparalleled. In fact, he’s one of the most successful writers of all time — if not the most successful.

Stephen King is exactly the kind of writer from whom the rest of us need to learn. Not just because he’s published (and published a lot), but also because his fans adore him, Hollywood loves him (writers make big bucks when they sell film rights), and of course, there are all those awards and all that acclaim. But most importantly, Stephen King succeeded in doing what the rest of us writers strive to do — he makes a living as a writer.

Guess what writing tips Stephen King offers the rest of us? (Hint: watch the video below to find out).

Other Writing Tips

Like I said, I collect writing tips. I have a whole bunch of them clanking around inside my head. Some have been vital; others I could have done without. I will keep collecting these tips and sharing them with you, but none of them will be as powerful as read and write.

So keep taking notes. Look for new ways to get inspired, fresh approaches to language and story. Jot down all your favorite writing tips and tricks in your journal. Use the ones that feel right and make your writing better.

But if you don’t do anything else, keep reading and writing.

Do you read every day? How often do you write? What other writing tips have been useful to you? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Sources:

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

Writing Tips: Write Now!

write now

Don’t put it off any longer: write now.

 

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.” – E. B. White

What are your ideal writing conditions? Is it quiet, or are there stimulating background noises? Are you alone, curled up in a chair with a pen and a notebook, or are you in a bustling café, gleaning inspiration from fellow patrons and a tasty meal or cup of coffee? Are you already rich and successful with all the time in the world to dedicate to your craft, or are you a starving artist, hungry to get that first publication credit, desperate to complete that first novel? Read more

How to Write Good Books

how to write good booksWe’re all influenced by the world around us. Natalie Goldberg’s quote on reading good books is a reminder that whatever we take in will affect whatever we put out:

“If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.”

I believe this is a truth that goes beyond writing. When we surround ourselves with positive, supportive people, we in turn become more positive and supportive, fostering a nurturing environment that is conductive to achieving our fullest potential — as writers and as human beings. Read more

You Can’t Edit a Blank Page

jodi picoult

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. We can say the same thing about writing: it’s better to write badly than to write nothing at all.

Jodi Picoult offers some insight that summarizes this idea in a clear, concise manner:

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

Read more

Quotes on Writing: Robert Frost on Emotions and Poetry

quotes on writing - robert frost

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ― Robert Frost

Emotions are fickle. Sometimes they’re clear and brilliant: we’re happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. But emotions can also be complicated, layered, and conflicting. Sure, we’re happy, but we’re also kind of annoyed about something. We’re sad, but we also have something to be glad about. When emotions are textured and gritty, they are difficult to describe. Read more

What is Poetry?

what is poetry

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.” — Mina Loy.

Prose Bewitched

When I read Mina Loy’s description of poetry as “prose bewitched,” I felt like someone had captured the true essence of poetry for the first time.

We often struggle to define abstract or obtuse concepts. One of the greatest and most challenging questions of all time is, what is art? Although dictionaries attempt to define art, no definition quite captures its essence, so artists and thinkers have tried to define art in their own words for centuries.

Like art, the definition of poetry has been explored by writers, thinkers, artists, and poets themselves. So what is it? What is poetry?

Defining Poetry




Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gives us plenty of definitions for the word poetry:

  • the writings of a poet : poems
  • something that is very beautiful or graceful
  • metrical writing : verse
  • writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm
  • something likened to poetry especially in beauty of expression

With all due respect to Merriam-Webster, I don’t think any of these definitions do poetry justice or truly convey an answer to the question, what is poetry?

I thought I’d take a stab at defining poetry:

Poetry is a linguistic art form that can be written, spoken, or performed. It focuses on the aesthetics of language. It is often composed in verse as opposed to prose and is more concerned with evoking an image or emotion (or both) over clearly communicating a thought or idea. Poetry makes liberal use of literary devices, such as alliteration and metaphor. It is the musicality of language, the rendering of abstract thoughts, ideas, and emotions, rendered with words and sounds. It is pictures painted with words.

As you can see, I can’t capture the essence of poetry any better than a dictionary. Poetry is all of these things and none of these things. There’s a magic in poetry that is difficult to describe in words, even though poetry itself often uses words to create magic.

What is Poetry?

I think we need poetry itself in order to truly convey what poetry is. Mina Loy said it well, so let’s revisit her explanation of poetry:

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.” — Mina Loy.

Do you ever write poetry? Which poems and poets are your favorites? How would you answer the question, what is poetry? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment, and keep writing poetry!

Maya Angelou: Write with Passion

write with passion“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” – Maya Angelou

We’ve all read books, articles, and poems that we completely forgot about once we were done. But some written works linger. They haunt us or stimulate our thoughts. They provoke our emotions.

That kind of writing is special.

When you create an emotional connection between your writing and your readers, there’s a lasting impression. That’s what happens when you write with passion.

The first book that had that kind of impact on me was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and the first poem that evoked that kind of response in me was “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.

Those two works, along with dozens of others, became threads in the tapestry of my world. That’s the power of writing that slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart, as Maya Angelou described. This kind of writing affects people, influences them, and shapes their lives because it’s imbued with passion.

Maybe your readers will enjoy your work but get back to their lives as soon as they’ve closed the cover on your story. Or maybe you’ll make a difference. Maybe you’ll change lives and make some small (or great) change in the world. There’s no right or wrong way, but when you write with passion, you certainly increases the chance that your work will stick with people.

Quotes on writing: source

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

Quotes on Writing: Elizabeth Gilbert Says Share Your Work

 

share your work“It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

Putting yourself out there isn’t easy. When you share your work, you open it up to criticism. What if people don’t like it? What if it gets a negative review? What if nobody reads it?

I share my writing all the time, thanks to this blog. In the early days, shortly after I launched Writing Forward, I would sometimes wake up in a panic the day after I’d published a new post. Had I said something stupid? Misspelled a word? Misplaced a comma? A few times, my fears were realized. I’ve published posts with typos in the headlines, and I once spelled a famous author’s name wrong — in a headline.

Putting your work out there is risky, and it can be scary.

Here’s the thing: you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes, a piece you thought was brilliant will turn out to be a dud. Other times, a piece you thought was dull will catch fire and go viral. Some people will like what you’ve written, but there will be others who don’t like it or who don’t care to read it at all. You never know how people are going to respond until you share your work.

Share Your Work




I’m of the belief that not every piece of writing should be shared. Some of your projects won’t turn out the way you had hoped. There’s no reason to force a piece to publication when it’s not ready or if you it’s not up to your usual standard.

However, there’s a difference between holding on to a piece of writing because it’s not polished and holding on to a piece of writing because you’re nervous about how people respond.

Some of us refuse to share our work because we’re hard on ourselves; nothing we do is good enough. Some of us are perfectionists — we’ll spend years revising and editing but never quite living up to our own perfectionism. Some lack confidence; they believe nobody cares what they have to say. Some are simply afraid of failure — the possibility of negative reviews or low sales is enough to prevent them from sharing their work.

The lucky among us never struggle with these thoughts. They gladly put their work out there for all the world to see. But everyone else needs to learn how to to put their egos aside. Most people will have no interest in what you’ve written. Many won’t like it. Some will leave negative reviews.

But don’t let that stop you, because if you don’t share your work, you’ll never find the readers who will hang on to your every word, who will leave glowing reviews and tell all their friends about your writing. We all have to learn to take the good with the bad.

A Worthwhile Risk

The point is that as a writer, sometimes you’re going to have to take risks and put yourself out there, even when you’re scared. And if you blow it, if it blows up in your face, you pick up the pieces, get back to writing, and then put it out there again. And again. And again.

So keep writing, and then go forth and share your work.

Quote: Thoughts on Writing [www.elizabethgilbert.com]
Image: Wikimedia Commons