Aphorisms on Writing

I admit it, I had to look it up. An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form. (And a laconic phrase is a very concise or terse statement.) I found these on Huffington Post. If you go there, you can rate them and vote on your favorites.

Writing Aphorisms: 9 Bits of Wisdom On the Craft

Writing Aphorisms: More Wisdom About the Craft

Obviously, there are a lot more aphorisms about writing out there. Feel free to share some that have inspired you over the years. I have this one on the wall over my desk:

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best. –Somerset Maugham

This next one is my all-time favorite. It might be a little long to qualify as an aphorism, but I think it sums up what it’s like to be a writer.

Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death — fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant. –Edna Ferber

Telling Stories True

Deadwood's "eloquent" Al Swearingen, played by Ian McShane

The prematurely-deceased HBO series “Deadwood” is in the news again, not, alas, because it is going to be resumed, but because it has just been released on Blu-ray. In a Salon.com article about its new incarnation Matt Zoller Seitz writes that the technology “brings the series to glorious life” in a way that “proves why Blu-ray really matters.” He likens it “to getting a chance to stand close to a huge, elaborate mural that had previously been seen only in photographs, and admire the texture of the paint and the precision of the brushwork.”

But as a writer, what I took away from the article was what it had to say about the show’s use of language.

First of all, there was the shocking use of the F-word:

Some linguists pointed out that 1880s Americans did not use the F-word as often, or in as many grammatical variations, as characters on [David] Milch’s show; Milch replied that he’d thought about having the characters swear in period, using religious oaths instead of secular curses, but decided against it, because to modern, secular ears, 19th-century blasphemy sounds more quaint than shocking.

Secondly, some criticized the elaborate dialogue as not being realistic. Seitz defends the writing this way:

This is theatrical, not “naturalistic,” dialogue, and it’s staged and delivered with theatrical flair — passionately, paying maximum attention to the rhythm of sentences, savoring the sound of words.

I thought both of these defenses made a lot of sense. If we can make our writing more vivid by using words in unprecedented or even “inaccurate” ways, then why shouldn’t we?

Continue reading “Telling Stories True”

Interview With Harlan Coben

No, this is not an interview I was fortunate enough to have conducted. It’s by Jessica Strawser from the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest. But I wanted to share it with you because of Coben’s great comments about his own career and writing in general. For instance:

Writing is one of the few activities where quantity will inevitably make quality. The more you write, the better you’re going to get at it.


There comes a time when you finally have to get to work. It’s why I love this quote: Amateurs wait for the muse to arrive; the rest of us just get to work. That’s my own paraphrase of it, but I love that, because it’s so true. I remind myself sometimes that I’m a working man, and not an artist. A plumber can’t call up and say, “Oh, I can’t do pipes today.” And so when I feel that way there’s a lot of self-hatred, a lot of guilt, but eventually I would rather be tortured by writing than being tortured by guilt.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Coben’s official web site is here.

And another interview, this one from 2007, is here.