Hello and happy middle of the week everyone! It’s time for Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. Each week bloggers share their favorite quotes to inspire and motivate each other to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution this week is from legendary crime and mystery writer, Lawrence Block.
Block was born June 24, 1938, in Buffalo, New York. He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, but left before graduating. His earliest published writing appeared in the 1950s, frequently under pseudonyms, and many of these novels are now considered classics of the pulp fiction genre. During his early writing years, Block also worked in the mailroom of a publishing house and reviewed the submission slush pile for a literary agency. He has cited the latter experience as a valuable lesson for a beginning writer.
Block’s first short story, “You Can’t Lose,” was published in 1957 in Manhunt, the first of dozens of short stories and articles that he would publish over the years in publications including American Heritage, Redbook, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, GQ, and the New York Times. He has published more than 50 novels and more than 100 short stories, as well as a series of books for writers.
Block is probably best known for two long-running New York–set series about the ex-cop and recovering alcoholic P.I. Matthew Scudder and the gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr.
A father of three daughters, Block lives in New York City with his second wife, Lynne. When he isn’t touring or attending mystery conventions, he and Lynne are frequent travelers, as members of the Travelers’ Century Club for nearly a decade now, and have visited about 150 countries.
One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.
One of my new years resolutions this year was to start doing more writing outside of this blog. Blogging is good practice and it helps build a good writing habit but it is not the kind of writing I want to as a career. I don’t want to be a professional blogger, I want to be an author. The thing is, writing fiction is scary. I have ideas, I have characters but the process for getting all of that out of my head and into a readable story seems like a mystery. How do you…do the thing that makes a story?
I have been a little paralyzed by the realization that I have no idea how to write something. It sounds stupid but when you start thinking about settings, and description, and making your dialog interesting, and explaining things so that your reader sees what you see it all gets very overwhelming very quickly.
So I hadn’t written anything but a bunch of notes. Then I found this quote. The first part about giving yourself permission to write badly is very good advice, but the rest of the quote is even better. Write every day, and give yourself permission to tear up what you write if you don’t like it. If it’s bad you have lost nothing you wouldn’t have by not writing at all. More than likely, you will walk away with something you can use. Even if you don’t you will gain practice and continue to build a writing habit. You will also create a perfect environment for inspiration to find you and if you are lucky something truly genius will come through you.
So now I write a little every day. Not five pages but a few paragraphs, all of them absolute shit, but practice makes perfect. I read it the next day and if I hate it goes into the recycle bin. So far I have hated it but I haven’t deleted anything. Instead, I try to rework and rearrange what I did the day before and make it a little better. I am still hating it but I think it gets improves day by day.
I have no idea what I am doing but I have come to the conclusion that the only way to learn is to actually do it and it helps to know that I can always delete it and I’ll still be better off than if I had never written at all.
Original image: Rethink Everything by Reilly Butler