I believe that students learn by doing. The factory model where students take notes on a lecture and then repeat them in their assignment is anathema to me. In my Seattle writing classes, I lecture briefly and distribute handouts to provide clear goals, but then quickly get students working on writing exercises, critiquing each others’ work, reading and analyzing published stories, and putting the skills and techniques into practice in their own writing. In online courses, I provide you with the lectures and explain in detail the writing exercises that accompany them. Students need to find their own voice and approach to these techniques. You can read more about our Teaching Philosophy here.
Get it down. Take chances.
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
Pleasure in a good novel…
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
There are only two or three human stories.
Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you.
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word…
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Literature is nothing but carpentry.
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One false word, one extra word…
One false word, one extra word, and somebody's thinking about how they have to buy paper towels at the store.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unravelling.
Just follow your hero.
First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
The forms of things unknown and the the poet’s pen…
And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.
William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Writing a novel is a terrible experience.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.
…with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced…the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.