Instructions for Living a Life

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Advice from writers and poets

 

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

Mary Oliver (b. 1935)

 

Feel freer, bolder. Let her go! Be careless, reckless! Be a lion. Be a pirate!”

Brenda Ueland (1891-1985)

 

The best training is to read and write, no matter what.

Don’t live with a lover or roommate who doesn’t respect your work.

Don’t lie; buy time, borrow to buy time.

Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.

Grace Paley (1922-2007)

 
Be strong & friendly
tell it all, as it is.
Keep everything moving.
Don’t settle in, get on with it.
Give away as much as you gather.

James Koller (1936-2014)

It’s helpful to have money. I don’t think writers have to suffer, to starve to death. One of the first things I tell my classes is, If you want to write, keep a low overhead. If you want to live expansively, you’re going to be in trouble because then you have to start thinking very hard about whom you’re writing to, who your audience is, who the editor thinks your audience is, who he wants your audience to be.

Grace Paley (1922-2007)

 
Just get the word out.
Get it all out — don’t hold back.
Tell it just the way you see it.
James Koller (1936-2014)
 

 Despite all the cynical things writers have said about writing for money, the truth is we write for love. That is why it is so easy to exploit us. That is also why we pretend to be hard-boiled, saying things like “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money” (Samuel Johnson). Not true. No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for love. . . . You must do it for love. If you do it for money, no money will ever be enough, and eventually you will start imitating your first successes, straining hot water through the same old teabag. It doesn’t work with tea, and it doesn’t work with writing.

Erica Jong (b. 1942)

 

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.

J.K. Rowling (b. 1965)

 

The only way to become a better writer is to become a better person.

Brenda Ueland (1891-1985)

 

 

 

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