Truman Capote “Work is the only device I know of. Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. Even Joyce, our most extreme disregarder, was a superb craftsman; he could write Ulysses because he could write Dubliners. Too many writers seem to consider the writing of short stories as a kind of finger exercise. Well, in such cases, it is certainly only their fingers they are exercising.”
[in an interview with The Paris Review, 1957]
Other truisms from Capote include:
“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.”
“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”
Ernest Hemingway, another former journalist, has some of the best quotes about ‘getting on with it’:-
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
“Do you suffer when you write? I don’t at all. Suffer like a bastard when don’t write, or just before, and feel empty and fucked out afterwards. But never feel as good as while writing.”
“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
“It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”
“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
My favourite quotes?
Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit”.
Capote: “You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.”
To read The Paris Review article in full from the Spring-Summer 1957 edition No. 16, click here.
If you agree with Truman Capote, perhaps you will agree with:-
Frederick Forsyth – all authors are only half in the room
Janice Galloway – write about the credible now and the implied past
Joël Dicker – on killing secondary characters
‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote [UK: Penguin Modern Classics]
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
I agree with Truman Capote: “work is the only device I know of” #writingtip http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1dg via @SandraDanby