Another Example Of Great Writing

The world is full of great writing. So I have decided I will highlight some examples whenever I stumble on them.

Here’s one I came across from Adam Grant & Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity, and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”

The book features many things that Sandberg learned after the sudden death of her husband. She learned how to find strength in the face of adversity, how to rebound from life-shattering experiences and how to help others in crisis.

One of my key takeaways from reading this book is her line about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. Sandberg doesn’t mean we actually need to up our back exercises if we want to be able to bounce back from devastation. No amount of pull-ups would help us from crumpling to the floor if we found out our spouse had died.

But the image she uses is one we can understand and remember. We have all heard about the importance of having a backbone. We need to stand up for ourselves and not let others walk all over us. We associate it with being strong.

One way to be strong in the face of hardship is to start building our resilience now. The book uses studies done by Grant to show that our level of resilience isn’t fixed. It is something we can grow.

What a great way to show this by using something we all associate with being strong (a backbone) and painting a picture of how we can add to that backbone (building up the muscles around it).

A great line in an awesome book. I highly recommend you check it out.

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

Today I came across this quote from author Tim Ferriss…

To which author Seth Davis agreed…

I am not going to make it a practice of arguing with authors who are way more successful than I am, but upon reading this, my first thought was that I disagree.

Surely, writer’s block exists, doesn’t it?

If Ferriss’ and Davis’ point is that it shouldn’t exist then I agree 100%. If they are saying that we shouldn’t let it stop us, then I am on their side for sure.

But saying it doesn’t exist? Just because we want something to go way or we want to power through it, doesn’t mean it is not real.

Obesity should not exist. We should not let obesity stop us.

But obesity is real. That being said, more than anything obesity can be seen as an excuse.

Maybe what Ferriss and Davis are saying is that writer’s block is merely an excuse. I know I have used it an excuse far too many time.

But it does exist. Right? Saying it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Or does it? I honestly have no clue. I could argue either way.

What do you think? Does writer’s block exist?

If you think it does, maybe you can try this…or this…or this. If you think it does not exist, please help me to understand why. I would love to make it not exist in my writing world.

Top 10 Lines From Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life

The last two months, I have highlighted the top 10 lines from two great books about writing (here & here). With so many wonderful writing books to read, I figure I will keep these top 10 lists coming.

This month’s top 10 comes from Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life, a roundup of 30 famous writers and entertainers responding in short essays to their favorite Snoopy “at the typewriter” strip.

Here are what I found to be the book’s top 10 lines:

#10 –

Snoopy, try this when you sit down to the typewriter: Just say to yourself, ‘What if?’ It all begins with ‘What if?'” – Clive Cussler

#9 –

The rules for writing a best-seller are simple: Take an idea you really, really like. Develop it until it is brilliant. Rewrite it for a year or two, until every word shines. The bite your nails, hold your breath, and pray like mad.” – Sidney Sheldon

#8 –

Search your heart and soul for what you have to contribute. Remember, your book must help someone with something.” – Cherie Carter-Scott

#7 –

If the characters and narrative are strong enough, they will hold our interest without any background.” – John Leggett

#6 –

Humor, as Charles Schulz, proved every day, doesn’t have to be of the slapstick variety; his humor came from the small funny things of life.” – Frances Weaver

#5 –

Most of us learn to write well by writing badly for a long, long time.” – Sue Grafton

#4 –

You need not be famous to write something worth remembering, worth preserving, worth publishing.” – Charles Champlin

#3 –

The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts readers skip.” – Elmore Leonard

#2 –

An editor can always correct your spelling and fix your grammar, but only you can tell your story.” – Fannie Flagg

#1 –

Some know fame and others anonymity, but my father believed there were no shortcuts to be had in the life of the dedicated artist.” – Monte Schulz

This Is The Best Thing I’ve Read All Day

The bestselling book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero is filled with great thoughts about, like the subtitle says, how we can live an awesome life. I am a big fan of these type of books. I have read chasing your dreams described many different ways. 

But Sincero managed to describe it is a way I had never thought about before. And it is fantastic. It is by far the best thing I’ve read all day. Probably all month.

Birthing your dreams is like… giving birth.  Conceiving the idea is the fun part (hopefully), then you go through insane amounts of fear and excitement and dreaming and planning and vomiting and growing and thinking you’re crazy and thinking you’re awesome and stretching and shape shifting until you’re practically unrecognizable to everyone, even your own self.

Along the way you clean up your puke and massage your aching back and apologize to all the people whose heads you ripped of in a hormonal killing spree, but you stay the course because you know this baby of yours is going to be the bomb.

Then, finally, just when you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, labor starts.  your innards twist and strangle and force you to stumble around hunched over in the shape of the letter ‘C’ while you breathe and pray and curse and just when you think it can’t get any more out-of-your-mind painful, a giant baby head squeezes out of a tiny hole in your body.  Then.  A full-blown miracle appears.

In order to change your life and start living a new one that you’ve never lived before, your faith in miracles, and yourself, must be greater than your fear.”

Like that description? Check out the book here.

To A Writer, There Are Only A Few Things As Rewarding As This

The last month, I have gotten lazy with my writing. This happens around the same time every year. With March Madness in full swing, there is so much basketball to follow that I find my writing gets shifted to the back burner.

My free time gets consumed with basketball — watching basketball, reading about basketball, and anticipating the next game to watch/read about. This doesn’t leave much time/energy for writing.

Sure, I could watch one less game, during which time I could knock out a blog post or two. But I don’t. I convince myself that the writing will pick back up in April. And it usually does.

But all that being said…

To a writer, there are just a few things as rewarding as writing something you are proud of.

No matter how little, or how much I am writing, I still get that hard-to-describe feeling each time I work on a post I am happy with. And I am starting to learn that I need to take advantage of that feeling and use it to my advantage during the times when writing is not the focus of my free time.

If you are a writer, you know the feeling of writing something you are proud of. And you also know that is not always easy to get to that feeling. But once you have that feeling, don’t let it go away easily. Keep writing as long as time will allow. Because sooner or later there will be another basketball game to steal your attention.

Top 10 Lines From Bird By Bird

Last month I wrote about the top 10 lines from Stephen King’s On Writing. I mentioned that it is a great resource for those of us who are trying to write books. Guess what? There are plenty of other great books on writing.

Today I would like to feature one that has been called “A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write… sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind — a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we  still can.” (Seattle  Times). I am talking about Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

Here are what I found to be the book’s top 10 lines:

#10 –

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

#9 –

Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artists true friend.”

#8 –

Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t–and, in fact, you’re not supposed do–know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished. First you just point at what has your attention and take the picture.”

#7 –

I mean, you can’t just sit there at your desk drooling. You have to move your hand across the paper or the keyboard. You may do it badly for a while, but you keep on doing it.”

#6 –

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

#5 –

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.”

#4 –

E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only 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.”

#3 –

I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

#2 –

If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days–listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)”

#1 –

My students assume that when well-respected writers sit down to write their books, they know pretty much what is going to happen because they’ve outlined most of the plot, and this is why their books turn out so beautifully and why their lives are so easy and joyful, their self-esteem so great, their childlike senses of trust and wonder so intact. Well, I do not know anyone fitting that description at all. Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.”

23 Ways To Fail As A Writer

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

How To Fail As A Writer by Dawn Field.

In a hilarious post for the Book Baby blog, Field provides 23 tips that will “help you stave off success and fail as a writer!” #12 and #20 are my favorites. Among many other things, she discusses:

  • what to do with an opening line
  • why we don’t need hobbies
  • and how sleep is overrated

After you read this list, you will feel much better about your chances to avoid failure as a write…I hope. Check it out…

How To Fail As A Writer

Top 10 Lines From Stephen King’s On Writing

If Stephen King readers started their own country, it would have the 3rd largest population in the world. One of the most successful authors of all time, his books have sold more than 350 million copies.

If you have ever wondered how King became such a great writer, you are in luck. His book, On Writing, details his experiences with the written word and he offers advice for aspiring writers. The memoir is full of great nuggets that can help writers at any experience level.

Here are what I found to be the top 10 lines from Stephen King’s On Writing.

#10 –

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

#9 –

Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”

#8 –

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little ashamed of your short ones.”

#7 –

Fear is at the root of most bad writing – the more intense the fear the worse our writing can become.”

#6 –

While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

#5 –

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

#4 –

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s position, come back, tell us all you know.”

#3 –

Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking to others — particularly listening, picking up accents, rhythms, dialects, and slang of various groups.”

#2 –

Shit, write upside down if you want to, or do it in Crayola pictographs. But no matter how you do it, there comes a point when you must judge what you’ve written and how well you wrote it. I don’t believe a story or a novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”

#1 –

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Another Example of Great Writing

The world is full of great writing. So I have decided I will highlight some examples whenever I stumble on them.

Here’s one I came across from Norm MacDonald’s book Based on a True Story: A Memoir

Death is a funny thing. Not funny-haha, like a Woody Allen movie, but funny-strange, like a Woody Allen marriage.”

Norm is telling a story about the time he granted a dying child’s wish. The above sentence comes when Norm enters the child’s hospital room. The book is very lighthearted and you wonder if Norm is going to be able to keep that humor while talking about a sensitive subject (full disclosure, the kid’s wish ends up being that he wants to kill a baby seal, so I don’t think the story is 100% truthful).

An average writer would have said something like, “death is like a buzzing alarm clock — you just want to smack it off the nightstand once it starts.” A good writer would have said something along the lines of, “death is nothing to laugh at, much like the rest of my material.”

Norm topped both of those by making a death joke that is both funny and not insensitive.

That is some great writing!

How To Overcome Publishing Fears

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

But What If They Hate My Book?  by AMarketingExpert.com

This two part article discusses a very important topic for writers — how to get over the fear of writing and publishing a book. I can admit first hand that this fear never goes away.

I am working on my forth children’s book and I have just as many fears (maybe even more) than when I first started. If this fear is something we all experience, how do we deal with it?

AMarketingExpert.com has some answers, but first it asks some important questions:

  • Why should we go for it?
  • What to do when you get a negative review?
  • How is publishing a book like sending your kid to college?

They answer all those questions and more in their great two part article. Check it out…

What If They Hate My Book – Part 1

What If They Hate My Book – Part 2