Category Archives: Writing craft

Rainer Maria Rilke on Writing

Valentine’s Day brings out the poet in the writer. Do you have a favorite? Mine is Rainer Maria Rilke, a master of imagery. He wrote exquisite poems, like this one:

MEMORIES OF A CHILDHOOD

The darkness hung like richness in the room
When like a dream the mother entered there
And then a glass’s tinkle stirred the air
Near where a boy sat in the silent gloom.
The room betrayed the mother—so she felt—
She kissed her boy and questioned “Are you here?”
And with a gesture that he held most dear
Down for a moment by his side she knelt.
Toward the piano they both shyly glanced
For she would sing to him on many a night,
And the child seated in the fading light
Would listen strangely as if half entranced,
His large eyes fastened with a quiet glow
Upon the hand which by her ring seemed bent
And slowly wandering o’er the white keys went
Moving as though against a drift of snow.

More advice from Rilke

More advice from Rilke

Rilke was not shy about giving advice to young poets. He believed that, “… even the best of us get the words wrong when we want them to express such intangible and almost unsayable things.” His letters to a young poet, Franz Kappus, reflect his views about being a writer.

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must’, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient.

Did you notice that Rilke discouraged Kappus from looking outside of himself for validation? Instead, he encouraged him to look into his own heart.

Good advice, on this Valentine’s Day, from a great poet.

____________________________________________________

largecover

My memoir, An Issue of Blood–Facing Uterine Cancer with Faith, is now available as an ebook for just $2.99. You can also buy it in paperback through Amazon.com, or your favorite bookseller.

______________________________________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Encouragement, Inspiration, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing craft

Writers, Are You Smiling at Your Readers?

In his post “Five Reasons You Should Smile More as a Leader,” Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, writes that his intensity when speaking often caused him not to smile. That gave others the impression that he was “ticked off.” He explains that he had to work at remembering to smile. He recognized that smiling:

  •  Helps others relax.Portrait of happy business woman
  • Draws people to you.
  • Enables you to connect.
  • Creates a positive culture.
  • Elevates your mood.

I’d like to add that smiling is important not only when speakers speak, but also when writers write.

Let me explain:

Sometimes, writers forget to smile at their audience. I don’t mean smile in the literal sense, as in beam or grin. Instead, let’s define smile as “writing in a way that always lifts people up instead of shutting them down.” This is especially important when writing fiction.

A fiction writer’s job is to entertain. The writer entertains by making readers feel diverse emotions. But sometimes when writers write a story, their own intensity when writing a scene intimidates their readers. Instead of lifting them up, it leaves them feeling down.

Any intensely written scene— a murder, a break up, a love scene, a reunion—should make readers smile. Why? Because that scene is so well crafted that it sinks deep into the reader’s heart. It does what it is supposed to do; it entertains. It makes the reader say: “Wow, that was really great! It made me feel scared (or it made me cry, or laugh, or whatever).”

Think about your own writing. It should

  • Help readers relax.
  • Draw them into your story.
  • Enable them to connect with your characters.
  • Leave them feeling entertained.
  • Elevate their mood and put a smile on their face.

Michael Hyatt discovered that his goal was to make smiling his “default—an unconscious behavior.”  This, too, should be the goal of every writer.

Are you smiling enough at your readers? What can you do to improve?

____________________________________________________

largecover

My memoir, An Issue of Blood–Facing Uterine Cancer with Faith, is now available as an ebook for just $2.99. You can also buy it in paperback through Amazon.com, or your favorite bookseller.

______________________________________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Writer's responsibility, Writing craft, Writing Tips

Kurt Vonnegut— 7 Rules from “How to Write with Style”

autumnforestiStock_000015040283XSmallI’ve just come back from a walk in the woods where the changing patterns of autumn colors and sunlight reminded me of this quotation:

“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as a painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”

—Truman Capote

Rearranging the rules = Style. Style is the unique way that a writer connects with his or her readers.

Kurt Vonnegut offered seven rules in his essay “How to Write with Style.”

1.  “Find A Subject You Care About. Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

2. Do Not Ramble.

3. Keep It Simple. Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is just this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

4. Have The Guts To Cut. If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound Like Yourself. The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child . . . I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.

6. Say What You Mean. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledly-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

7. Pity The Readers. Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately . . .Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.”

(You can read Vonnegut’s complete essay HERE.)

If you compare works from Capote and Vonnegut, you will discover two great writers with two distinct styles. How is your writing style unique? How do you rearrange the rules to suit yourself?

_________________________________________

*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

2 Comments

Filed under Tools for Writers, Uncategorized, Writing craft, Writing Style