Category Archives: Writing Process

Writing Is Better with Bacon

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If you are like me, you’ve ventured outside your comfort zone and sampled at least one strange bacon infused concoction. Donuts, pickles, jam, ice cream, brownies . . . Everything is better with bacon—even the craft of writing!

“Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”

1001_image1_slicker_francis_baconWho said it? 

The Renaissance-era scientist and philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon. He, perhaps unknowingly, packed a powerful writing lesson into that one simple sentence.

Let’s break it down.

READING fills a writer with knowledge, ideas and a better understanding of technique. When a writer reads, he or she learns more about the craft of writing by experiencing various writing styles, voices, forms and genres.

CONFERENCE inspires writers to write. Have you come away from a writers’ conference filled with ideas and readiness? Of course you have! Conversing with other writers and creative people sparks motivation. It prepares a writer to write.

EXACTNESS is the final part of Bacon’s lesson. A ready writer works diligently to find the exact words to convey an exact meaning. That’s the most difficult part of writing, taking knowledge and readiness and weaving them into something great.

Reading makes a full writer; conference a ready writer; and writing an exact writer.

The next time you feel stuck, remember Sir Francis’ words:

Read. 
Converse. 
Be exact.

and remember:
Writing is better with Bacon!

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Sir Francis’ mother was a cook who married a bacon.
Anne (nee Cooke) Bacon.

Some scholars believe Sir Francis faked his own death.
He wanted to live—without bringing home the bacon!

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Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing

Do you have a stringent work routine? The iconic and controversial author, Henry Miller, did. He stuck to his routine and even wrote eleven commandments for himself to follow:

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “(other work)”.
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Miller didn’t stop there. He also created what he called his “Daily Program.”

MORNINGS:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:
Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:
See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

I can’t help but wonder if Miller really stuck with this rigorous routine.
I doubt that I could.

Could you?

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Filed under Famous Authors, Writing Process

Writing—It’s Like This. . .

Writing_Quote_352I spent part of the Memorial Day weekend reading quotes about writing. Have you noticed how often authors use figurative language when describing their writing process? Here are a some of my favorites.

Writing is like . . .

DRIVING IN THE FOG

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E L Doctorow

WALLPAPERING

“[Writing] is like when you do wallpapering, you remember where all the little bits are that don’t meet. And then your friends say: It’s terrific!” Harrison Birtwistle

A WINDOWPANE

“Good writing is like a windowpane.” George Orwell

A CONTACT SPORT

“Writing is like a contact sport, like football. You can get hurt, but you enjoy it.” Irwin Shaw

MAKING A TABLE

“Writing is like making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved. . . . What is a privilege, however, is to do a job to your satisfaction.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

EXPLORING

“Writing is like exploring. . . . As an explorer makes maps of the country he has explored, so a writer’s works are maps of the country he has explored.” Lawrence Osgood

GIVING AWAY LOAVES AND FISHES

“Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to “give away” on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches.” Henri Nouwen

OPENING A CLOSET

“Writing is like opening the closet you haven’t cleared out in years. You are looking for the ice skates but find the Halloween costumes. Don’t start trying on all the costumes right now. You need the ice skates. So find the ice skates. You can go back later and try on all the Halloween costumes.” Michele Weldon

POUNDING A BRICK WALL

“Sometimes writing is like pounding a brick wall with a ball-peen hammer in the hope that the barricade will evolve into a revolving door.” Chuck Klosterman

DESCENDING INTO A MINE

“Writing is to descend like a miner to the depths of the mine with a lamp on your forehead, a light whose dubious brightness falsifies everything, whose wick is in permanent danger of explosion, whose blinking illumination in the coal dust exhausts and corrodes your eyes.” Blaise Cendrars

TRYING TO SMOOTH RIPPLES FROM WATER

“Writing is like trying to smooth ripples from water with one’s hand–the more I try, the more disturbed things get.” Kij Johnson

RIDING A HORSE

“Writing is like trying to ride a horse which is constantly changing beneath you, Proteus changing while you hang on to him. You have to hang on for dear life, but not hang on so hard that he can’t change and finally tell you the truth.” Peter Elbow

HUNTING

“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big. The entire process is beyond intoxicating.” Kate Braverman

RENEWING A DRIED WELL

“Writing is like renewing a dried well: at the bottom, mud, muck, dead birds. You clean it out well and leave room for water to spring up again and ascend almost up to the brim so clean that even the children look at their reflections in it.” Luz Pichel

SURFING

“Writing a book is a bit like surfing. . . . Most of the time you’re waiting. And it’s quite pleasant, sitting in the water waiting. But you are expecting that the result of a storm over the horizon, in another time zone, usually, days old, will radiate out in the form of waves. And eventually, when they show up, you turn around and ride that energy to the shore. It’s a lovely thing, feeling that momentum. If you’re lucky, it’s also about grace. As a writer, you roll up to the desk every day, and then you sit there, waiting, in the hope that something will come over the horizon. And then you turn around and ride it, in the form of a story.” Tim Winton

 

What is writing like for you?

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