Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Robert A. Heinlein

This weeks Writer’s Quote Wednesday is dedicated to Robert A. Heinlein. I don’t know much about him and after doing some research I admit I feel pretty stupid for not knowing his name. He was a great American science fiction writer and wrote some pretty popular books such as Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, both of which I’ve added to my “to-read” list. He is often referred to as the “dean of science fiction writers” and was very influential in the genre. He worked to increase the quality of writing in science fiction as well as the plausibility in the story telling.

From everything I have read he was an incredible author. He won many awards and popularized many terms in the english language such as “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, “waldo”, speculative fiction, “pay it forward”, and space marine and even anticipated the invention of the waterbed and the cell phone.

I plan to learn much more about Heinlein in the near future. I know if I want to be a writer I should read the greats and I can see he is one of them, and even just gathering bits of info for this post I can already tell I am going to be a fan.

I wasn’t really into science fiction growing up and didn’t know anyone else who was either, which explains my ignorance, but I am quickly learning that many of the great American authors wrote science fiction so I must give it a try. But, then again, I do like dystopian novels, which I guess would be a sub-genre of science fiction. So I guess I am a fan but I need to broaden my horizons and read more books outside of just the dystopian plots.

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

I first read this quote over a year ago, when I first began to think about writing as something I could seriously do. I found it very amusing but couldn’t quite figure out what Heinlein was trying to say about writing being something that could be considered shameful. That was until much later, when I started talking to people about my writing.

Whenever I bring up writing I discuss it as if it really were something to be ashamed of, my voice gets quiet and shaky and I notice the other person always gets a peculiar look, as if I am relieving too much. Their face says “ew, TMI!” and I feel like I have just discussed a weird, masturbatory habit. After I say what I have to say the other person always changes the subject as if to say, “I can’t believe you brought that up, let’s move on and I’ll pretend you didn’t defile my ears with that disgusting talk”.

I have a friend who calls the talks writers and artist and other creative types have among themselves as a “circle jerk”. Actually, to be fair, he describes any lengthy talk among like-minded people that way. He’s saying we get together and talk about how interesting what we do is, and how everybody ought to be doing it, and how awesome we are for knowing how awesome doing it feels, and we work ourselves up to an excited frenzy and if feels a lot like masturbating in a group. I think my friend is right but none the less it is a necessary activity that increases our dopamine levels and makes us happier people over-all.

In addition to that, when I am writing, I do prefer to do it alone, secretly, and away from judgmental eyes. I don’t like anyone to see and doing it in front of others seems just wrong and….dirty. Like a mother trying not to give her kid a complex I tell myself that writing is nothing to be ashamed of, but I must do it in my own room and with the door closed. I must never talk about it in public because it is a private thing and I must always wash my hands after.

Original Image by English: Sgt. Mark Fayloga [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

9 thoughts on “Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Robert A. Heinlein”

  1. Heinlein was being ironic, and bitter. Maybe he said that after an encounter like this one: about 15 years ago, I was looking for a used office desk. I told the guy in the store that I was a writer and needed a desk with a large surface. He instantly turned mean and said, “Writer?! That’s what people call themselves when they don’t have a job.” As usual, I was speechless. Finally, I replied, “Do you want to sell a desk, or not?” Personally, I like to read your posts and find them to be nourishing to my spirit.

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    1. Geez, that store would not have gotten my money! I think it’s a lot like when I tell people I write and they ask “why?” as if to say I must need a reason to do something so pointless.

      Thanks for reading :)

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      1. That guy had me over a barrel — his desks may have been filthy and battered, but they only cost $50, which was what I could pay.
        You know, friends I’ve had over the years who grew up outside North America (in Asia, Africa, the Mideast, Latin America, Europe) never could understand why I was so conflicted about writing. They’d been raised in cultures that respected reading, writing, thinking. Now that the whole world has become so Americanized, maybe it’s different. Maybe everyone who likes to read, write, and think gets the “if you so smart, why ain’t you rich?” treatment. I hope this is not true because it’s an attitude that’s hard to deal with gracefully.

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  2. Ha Ha! I had to laugh about this quote. It does feel like that sometimes doesn’t it? Seriously, I wonder if Heinlein is talking about expressing opinions in our writing… now that can get interesting. Great quote and I loved your commentary! <3

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  3. I read such a lot of his books when I was younger – esp. liked Stranger in a Strange Land – think the problem with any creative work is that it is just that a creation so if we make people uncomfortable with talking about it ,, it is as if we were having a discussion about birth. I went to a dinner party a while back when the talk was all about fetus pictures and birth – while the subject is okay I didn’t really want to sit through the intimate details with a group of mothers when out socializing. With all things the moment has to be right:)

    writing is creation, birth pangs and all.

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    1. I think you are exactly right in your comparison. Being creative is something revealing and personal and not everyone understands it so it can make others uncomfortable if talked about in the wrong setting.

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