User:FrJohn/thoughts on writing

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Thoughts on Writing

  • "[M]any of us write unclearly not because we choose to, but because we are seized by a kind of literary asphasia, a dismaying experience that renders us unable to write as well as we though we once could, or in some severe cases, unable to write at all. This typically happens when we are learning to think and write in a new academic or professional field, when we start to write about matters we do not entirely understand for readers who do. The afflicted include not just undergraduates taking their first course in economics or psychology, but graduate students, business people, doctors, lawyers, professors—anyone writing about a new topic, aimed at readers who are unfamiliar to them and therefore intimidating.
    As we struggle to master complex ideas, many of us, probably most of us, have to pass through this period of stylistic confusion. If you find yourself in that situation, your floundering should dismay you less if you know you are sharing an experience endured by generations of other writers. You will discover that you can write more clearly once you more clearly understand what you are writing about." - Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 6th ed. (NY: Longman, 2000), p. 11
  • "Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers." - George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language�? (May 1945)
  • "I have spent...decades in an evolving reshaping of my faith. I have done this by writing novels; that is my personal way of giving shape to my thought." - Chaim Potok, Wanderings, p. 13.
  • "Since it's thought by experts that the world is really ending, a writer should get moving. There'll be no more publications once the End comes. We'll have to make do with whatever livelihood we've gotten together beforehand. There won't be any new books after the End. Any book you've written had better be published before then. A fellow can't publish in any too much of a rush now." - Dennis Larkin, A Walk to Rome (Manasses, VA: Trinity Communications 1987), p. 7
  • "Writing is 3% talent and 97% not getting distracted by the internet." - Anonymous
  • “Technology can do little for people who have nothing to say.�? — Eric Auchard, “Blog Publishers Stealing Web Limelight�? (3/1/03), Reuters Internet Report
  • “In short, he so buried himself in his books, that he spent his nights reading from twilight to daybreak, and the days from dawn till dark; and so from little sleep and much reading, his brain dried up and he lost his wits.�? — Cervantes, Don Quixote

From Conversations with Žižek by Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 42:

Daly: Since The Sublime Object, you have averaged something like a book a year with numerous supplementary publications. Is this an expression of psychoanalytic drive?

Žižek: Yes, and do know in what sense? My reference here would be to Stephen King’s Shining. What people tend to forget is that this novel is basically about writer’s block. In the film version, the Jack Nicholson character always types the same sentence, cannot start his text, and then the situation explodes into axe killings. But I think the true horror is actually the opposite one: that you have the compulsion to write on and on. That’s much more horrifying that writer’s block I think. In the same way as when Kierkegaard refers to the human being as an animal that is sick until death, the true horror is immortality; that it will never end. That is my horror – I simply cannot stop.
And I hate writing. I so intensely hate writing – I cannot tell you how much. The moment I am at the end of one project I have the idea that I didn’t really succeed in telling what I wanted to tell, that I need a new project – it’s an absolute nightmare. But my whole economy of writing is in fact based on an obsessional ritual to avoid the actual act of writing. I never begin with the idea that I am going to write something. I always begin with one or two observations that lead on to other points – and so on.
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