Matīss Gricmanis

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Joyce Carol Oates Has The Most Inspiring Writing Advice For Authors

"Young writers need a little nudge."<p>It's been 52 years since Joyce Carol Oates published her first book, a short story collection titled <i>By the North Gate.</i> Since then, Oates, now 77, has written over 40 novels and countless poems and short stories, and she has been honored with the National Book …

Kurt Vonnegut on the Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview

<b>Kurt Vonnegut</b> endures not only as one of the most beloved writers of the past century, but also as a kind of modern sage, with wisdom ranging from his insight on the shapes of stories to his 8 rules for writing with style to his life-advice to his children. In June of 1974, <b>Walter James Miller</b>, host …

Vladimir Nabokov on Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have

<i>“Often the object of a desire, when desire is transformed into hope, becomes more real than reality itself,”</i> Umberto Eco observed in his magnificent atlas of imaginary places. Indeed, our capacity for self-delusion is one of the most inescapable fundamentals of the human condition, and nowhere do …

Nabokov on Inspiration and the Six Short Stories Everyone Should Read

<i>“Show up, show up, show up,”</i> Isabel Allende advised, <i>“and after a while the muse shows up, too.”</i> <i>“Inspiration is for amateurs,”</i> Chuck Close famously proclaimed, <i>“the rest of us just show up and get to work.”</i> <i>“When you work regularly,”</i> Gretchen Rubin asserted, <i>“inspiration strikes regularly.”</i> But as …

Charles Bukowski on the Ideal Conditions and Myths of Creativity, Illustrated

<b>Charles Bukowski</b> (August 16, 1920–March 9, 1994) — man of outrageous daily routine, curious creature of proud cynicism and self-conscious sensitivity, occasional pessimist with a heartening view of the meaning of life — had a singular way of conveying immutable wisdom in his seemingly simple, often …

A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments of Critical Thinking and Democratic Decency

British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic <b>Bertrand Russell</b> (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of the most intellectually diverse and influential thinkers in modern history, his philosophy of religion in particular having shaped the work of such modern atheism …

Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

The secrets of good writing have been debated again and again and again. But “good writing” might, after all, be the wrong ideal to aim for. In <b>About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews</b> (<i>public library</i>), celebrated author and literary critic <b>Samuel Delany</b> — who, for a fascinating …

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

If this is indeed the year of reading more and writing better, we’ve been right on course with David Ogilvy’s 10 no-nonsense tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, and various invaluable advice from other great writers.<p>Now comes Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate <b>John Steinbeck</b> (February 27, …

John Green’s Superb Advice to Aspiring Writers and Creators in the Digital Age

Advice to aspiring authors from successful ones seems to be a special meta-genre of literature, with notable contributions from Ernest Hemingway, H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, and a running list of literary greats. But some of the best and timeliest advice ever given comes from prolific author <b>John</b> …

Leo Tolstoy on Emotional Infectiousness and What Separates Good Art from the Bad

By 1897, <b>Leo Tolstoy</b> (September 9, 1828–November 20, 1910) was already a literary legend of worldwide acclaim and a man deeply invested in his ultimate quest to unravel the most important wisdom on life. But he shocked the world when he published <b>What Is Art?</b> (<i>public library</i>; <i>public domain</i>) that year …

How to Read Like a Writer

Reading and writing are inextricably intertwined, and literature — like all cultural creation — is an endless labyrinth of influence. And while some have argued that writing well can be taught, our cultural narrative continues to perpetuate the myth of “God”-given, inborn talent, or what Charles …

The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses: Walter Benjamin’s Timeless Advice on Writing

<i>“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open,”</i> Stephen King advised. <i>“Do back exercises,”</i> Margaret Atwood suggested. <i>“Know everything about adjectives and punctuation, have moral intelligence,”</i> Susan Sontag counseled. Each accomplished author seems to have a different secret to the craft …

The Psychology of How Mind-Wandering and “Positive Constructive Daydreaming” Boost Our Creativity and Social Skills

Freud asserted that daydreaming is essential to creative writing — something a number of famous creators and theorists intuited in asserting that unconscious processing is essential to how creativity works, from T. S. Eliot’s notion of “idea incubation” to Alexander Graham Bell’s “unconscious …

Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication

Recent discussions of why writing for free commodifies creative work reminded me of an old letter Ernest Hemingway sent to his friends Ernest Walsh and Ethel Moorhead when they were about to launch <i>This Quarter</i> — the influential experimental Paris-based literary journal that would go on to publish …

Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews

<b>Jorge Luis Borges</b> (August 24, 1899–June 14, 1986) is the most celebrated and influential Latin-American author of the twentieth century, his literary legacy resounding loud as ever and exuding far-reaching philosophical reverberations. In 1972, when Borges was in his seventies and completely blind, …

The Psychology of Getting Unstuck: How to Overcome the “OK Plateau” of Performance & Personal Growth

<i>“Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself,”</i> William James wrote in his influential meditation on habit, <i>”so that we find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel, or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do, under like</i> …

Anaïs Nin on Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook

In December of 1946, Anaïs Nin was invited to give a lecture on writing at Dartmouth, which received an overwhelming response. The following summer, after receiving countless requests, Nin adapted the talk in chapbook titled <b>On Writing</b>, which she printed at her own Gremor Press — the small …

John Cleese on the Five Factors to Make Your Life More Creative

Much has been said about how creativity works, its secrets, its origins, and what we can do to optimize ourselves for it. In this excerpt from his fantastic 1991 lecture, <b>John Cleese</b> (b. October 27, 1939) offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and …

Ray Bradbury on How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity

Susan Sontag argued that lists confer value and guarantee our existence. Umberto Eco saw in them “the origin of culture.” But lists, it turns out, might be a remarkably potent tool for jostling the muse into manifesting — a powerful trigger for that stage of unconscious processing so central to the …

The Art of Thought: A Pioneering 1926 Model of the Four Stages of Creativity

In 1926, thirteen years before James Webb Young’s <i>Technique for Producing Ideas</i> and more than three decades before Arthur Koestler’s seminal “bisociation” theory of how creativity works, English social psychologist and London School of Economics co-founder <b>Graham Wallas</b>, sixty-eight at the time, …

How to Read Faster: Bill Cosby’s Three Proven Strategies

<i>“All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading,”</i> H. P. Lovecraft famously advised aspiring writers. Indeed, reading is an essential skill on par with writing, and though non-reading may be an intellectual choice on par with reading, reading itself — just like writing — …

William James on the Psychology of Habit

<i>“We are what we repeatedly do,”</i> Aristotle famously proclaimed. <i>“Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”</i> Perhaps most fascinating in Michael Lewis’s altogether fantastic recent <i>Vanity Fair</i> profile of Barack Obama is, indeed, the President’s relationship with habit — particularly his …

Vladimir Nabokov on What Makes a Good Reader

<i>“All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading,”</i> H.P. Lovecraft advised aspiring writers. We’ve already seen that reading is a learned skill and an optimizable technique, and that non-reading is as important an intellectual choice as reading itself, so it follows that …