The best parts of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:
“You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards.” -James Thurber
There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up.
E. L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.
The first time you read through your galleys is heaven. The second time through, all you see are the typos no one caught. It looks like the typesetter typed it with frostbitten feet, drunk. And the typos are important ones. They make you look ignorant; they make you look like an ignorant racist.
Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper. So I keep trying gently to bring my mind back to what is really there to be seen, maybe to be seen and noted with a kind of reverence. Because if I don’t learn to do this, I think I’ll keep getting things wrong.
Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects.
The best parts of Model Home, by Eric Puchner:
“They had lost this feeling, the way you might lose a favorite gift you were no longer attached to. It had not seemed an important loss at the time: Dustin was born, and if anything a deeper,more devout-seeming love took its place. Once, while they were bathing Dustin together in the sink of their apartment, washing his scabbed-up bellybutton and tiny, heartbreaking penis, Camille had turned to Warren with a look of such stunning affection that he had actually lost his breath. I will never be happier than I am now, Warren had thought. Seventeen years later, he realized how sadly prescient that was.”
“[The guy in the top hat] sprayed some PAM into a plastic bag and then stuffed it up to his face. He blinked his eyes wide when he was finished, like something hatching from an egg.”
“The place gave Lyle a sludgy, unreal feeling, as though she were watching soap operas on a beautiful day.”
“He looked like one of those football players whose popularity hinged on their willingness to eat strange things.”
“The fact that you could know someone almost intimately and then a year later not know him at all seemed to be at the heart of everything sad and fucked up in the world.”
Do you have anything that smells more like despair?
You have 15,000 photos on your hard drive and nothing on your walls. Here are a few clever ways to display snapshots quickly and change them out often. Go ahead and hit print.
You know how you put a pillow on your lap so your computer doesn’t burn you while you work on the couch, but then your laptop fan wheezes and sucks in pillow dust? Stop doing that.
Invest in a lap desk. Here are five options that dramatically increase your ability to work from the couch. Which is what all of us want in the end.