this is water.


because i love writing & tips & mostly, rebecca solnit

1) write. there is no substitute. write what you most passionately want to write, not blogs, posts, tweets or all the disposable bubblewrap in which modern life is cushioned. but start small: write a good sentence, then a good paragraph, and don’t be dreaming about writing the great american novel or what you’ll wear at the awards ceremony because that’s not what writing’s about or how you get there from here. the road is made entirely out of words. write a lot. maybe at the outset you’ll be like a toddler—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it, but it’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.

and always think of other people

correspondence between hemingway and a young writer (“mice”)

mice: how can a writer train himself?

hemingway: watch what happens today. if we get into a fish see exactly what it is that everyone does. if you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you the emotion. whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped. remember what the noises were and what was said. find what gave you the emotion; what action was that gave you the excitement. then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling that you had. that’s a five finger exercise.

mice: all right.

hemingway: then get in somebody else’s head for a change. if i bawl you out try to figure what i’m thinking about as well as how you feel about it. if carlos cures juan think what both their sides of it are. don’t just think who is right. as a man things are as they should or shouldn’t be. as a man you know who is right and who is wrong. you have to make decisions and enforce them. as a writer you should not judge. you should understand. and always think of other people

don’t just write words. write music.

this sentence has five words. here are five more words. five-word sentences are fine. but several together become monotonous. listen to what is happening. the writing is getting boring. the sound of it drones. it’s like a stuck record. the ear demands some variety.

now listen. i vary the sentence length, and i create music. music. the writing sings. it has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. i use short sentences. and i use sentences of medium length. and sometimes when i am certain the reader is rested, i will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

× gary provost ×