Monday, February 25, 2013

"Don't dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast..."

I have been traveling, ladies and gents. That being said, today's post is late. In fact, I sat down and didn't quite know what I was going to write about, so I committed the seventh deadly sin of all writers and decided to "check Facebook" quickly before getting to work. Contrary to the general run of luck, checking Facebook was exactly the thing I needed to do because my brother's girl's sister-in-law (but we shall refer to her as Abby) had posted a link on my timeline that I found rather apropos. The link lead to The Art of Manliness which (while for the gents) is hilarious, informative, and full of good, old-fashioned tips on how to be a real man. I read it occasionally and pass the information I glean on to my brother and cousin and anyone else who will listen. It's seriously entertaining! Anyway, the link was a bit of writing advice from the legend, Jack London, in an article written 1903 called "Getting Into Print" and it was such good advice all around (though we might differ in a philosophy) that I had to "reprint" it here:

       Don't dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don't write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a "stint," [London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life] and see that you do that "stint" each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.
       Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don't wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.
      See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all.
       Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.
      And work. Spell it in capital letters. WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to the Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.
        The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth--SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.
-Jack London "Getting Into Print" 1903


Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Love the part about the notebook. I don't know how many times I've lost an idea or a phrase because I didn't write it down in time, and regretted it! And also the part about studying good writers. "...dig it out for yourself." Exactly.

Jade said...

Good solid writing advice! This one in particular spoke to me: "Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen".

Carmel Elizabeth said...

Excellent advice! Thank you for passing it along! :)

Joy said...

A great piece of of advice for writers. Thank you for sharing, Rachel!