Monday, April 2, 2012

4 On Writing: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays

Since we have a break this week from our First Five Pages Workshops (next one begins this coming Saturday at noon), I thought I would share a great quote.

On Writing: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays

by James Richardson

1. A beginning ends what an end begins.

2. The despair of the blank page: it is so full.

3. In the head Art’s not democratic. I wait a long time to be a writer good enough even for myself.

4. The best time is stolen time.

5. All work is the avoidance of harder work.

6. When I am trying to write I turn on music so I can hear what is keeping me from hearing.

7. I envy music for being beyond words. But then, every word is beyond music.

8. Why would we write if we’d already heard what we wanted to hear?

9. The poem in the quarterly is sure to fail within two lines: flaccid, rhythmless, hopelessly dutiful. But I read poets from strange languages with freedom and pleasure because I can believe in all that has been lost in translation. Though all works, all acts, all languages are already translation.

10. Writer: how books read each other.

11. Idolaters of the great need to believe that what they love cannot fail them, adorers of camp, kitsch, trash that they cannot fail what they love.

12. If I didn’t spend so much time writing, I’d know a lot more. But I wouldn’t know anything.

13. If you’re Larkin or Bishop, one book a decade is enough. If you’re not? More than enough.

14. Writing is like washing windows in the sun. With every attempt to perfect clarity you make a new smear.

15. There are silences harder to take back than words.

16. Opacity gives way. Transparency is the mystery.

17. I need a much greater vocabulary to talk to you than to talk to myself.

18. Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean.

19. Believe stupid praise, deserve stupid criticism.

20. Writing a book is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, unendurably slow at first, almost self-propelled at the end. Actually, it’s more like doing a puzzle from a box in which several puzzles have been mixed. Starting out, you can’t tell whether a piece belongs to the puzzle at hand, or one you’ve already done, or will do in ten years, or will never do.

21. Minds go from intuition to articulation to self-defense, which is what they die of.

22. The dead are still writing. Every morning, somewhere, is a line, a passage, a whole book you are sure wasn’t there yesterday.

23. To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn’t realized was open).

24. There, all along, was what you wanted to say. But this is not what you wanted, is it, to have said it?”   

Happy writing and have a great week,



  1. Wow! What a list. There's a lot of truth in these. :D

  2. Isn't there? : ) This one is my favorite: 14. Writing is like washing windows in the sun. With every attempt to perfect clarity you make a new smear.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. I love these! Great for a Monday morning and a day of writing I've yet to begin. #7 & 8 really speak to me. Thanks!

    1. I adore the music one, too, and number 8 is what I need to stick on my computer screen at revision time. Only maybe turn it around a little. Why would a reader want to read what they've already read before? :D


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