In one of my books on writing, I read that many people go through quotes from famous authors, and read interview after interview with successful writers in the hope that the success will somehow rub off on them, that they will somehow unearth a secret that will ensure them instant fame and instant success.
Throughout my entire life, beginning from my early days in school I have been collecting quotes and reading interviews and biographies about people I like most, especially authors. Over the years I’ve filled tons of notebooks with quotes and excerpts that I have liked from the many books, magazines and newspapers that I have read. Recently I have this feeling that time is running out, so instead of copying the quotes in my notebook, I use post-its to mark the pages of the books I find interesting. The main and only reason I do this is to please myself, contrary to what the above mentioned author implied in his book. To have spent all those years reading about other writers only to discover the tricks and secrets of success and fame is absolutely ridiculous. What secrets have they when some if not most of them have been dead for almost a century now?
Then the author continues to say that while most genuine authors are far too busy struggling with their own writing to spare the time to teach others, people who like to teach find it much more agreeable than writing, perhaps realizing in the long run that they do not measure up. He thus refers to the saying “those who can do, and those who can’t, teach”.
This is totally absurd. How many successful writers do we know who teach or give lectures? How many of us are not hungry for news of the writers we idolize or consider to be among our favorites? How many of us bloggers like to post articles about writing? I personally love what I do and I find it as much fun as my real writing. What’s more, sifting through quotes and reading about other writers keeps me going. Because every writer works differently. What’s more, somewhere among the comments and observations made by those writers, I come across something that gets my mind working and my imagination racing. I read whatever material I can lay my hands on for the main and only reason; to gain courage to keep on doing what I love to do most. Are you a fan of interviews too?
Walter Blair, author of Davy Crockett told the following story:
“The story, “The Dandy Frightening the Squatter,” appeared in the May 1, 1852, issue of Carpet-Bag. It made no anthologies. The language was trite and commonplace, the narrative awkward.
Surely there was somewhere an honest critic to tell the author, who signed himself S.L.C., to go and sin no more. If so, the young writer paid him no mind. He continued to write for anyone and everyone who would publish his yarns.
Years later- and some of them long dry years- he published a novel that changed the direction of American literature. He called it “Huckleberry Finn”.”
Balzac’s story of perseverance and hard work is fascinating too. Rumor has it that his teacher called him a blockhead. His family tried to starve him into giving up his literary pretensions. When he proudly brought them his work- the climax of two years of hard work, they yawned when he read it. A friend, the only critic he knew, advised him to try anything in the world but writing. Before he won modest recognition, Balzac wrote for eight more years, publishing thirty-one volumes of fiction under various pseudonyms. The big books were yet to come.
Can there be anything worse than an unsympathetic family? Fred Shaw tells the story:
“A few years ago, a student of mine sold a story to McCall’s. Overnight his wife and parents decided they had been overlooking a sure thing. Now every afternoon they shushed the children, cleared out the living room, and left him alone with his typewriter. For two, three hours they tiptoed around the house; but when he finally dragged himself out the door, they came up smiling, jumping at him as if released from springs. “Well now, how’d it go?” Not so good. After a few days the strain was awful. The poor fellow hasn’t written anything since.”