The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett fit the primary criteria for the kind of book I was looking for: very short & filled with writing advice. I downloaded the Kindle book at the airport between flights. This mini-memoir, which is a dainty 45 pages, was the perfect book to finish out the tail end of my airport travel. I already knew I liked Patchett from reading Bel Canto, and I was delighted to find there was an easy source for her compiled writing advice.
Goodreads does this cool thing where it links to your Kindle and gives you the option to upload and share your highlights, so here are mine:
- The story is in us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down. But it’s right about there, the part where we sit, that things fall apart… If a person has never given writing a try, he or she assumes that a brilliant idea is hard to come by… Writing the ideas down, it turns out, is the real trick.
- Living a life is not the same as writing a book… Maybe everyone does have a novel in them, perhaps even a great one. I don’t believe it, but for the purposes of this argument, let’s say it’s so. Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.
- What begins as something like a dream will in fact stay a dream forever unless you have the tools and the discipline to bring it out.
- Art stands on the shoulders of craft.
- Playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound—not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself.
- Writing must not be compartmentalized. You don’t step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life.
- I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can’t teach you how to have something to say. I would not begin to know how to teach another person how to have character, which was what Grace Paley did.
- What influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open.
- An essential element of being a writer is learning whom to listen to and whom to ignore where your work is concerned.
- I had thought I was a writer when I was a student, but would I still be a writer now that I was also a waitress? It was a test of love: How long would I stick around once things were no longer going my way?
- I made a decision on the trip up: I was going to put writing first. I should have done this earlier, but there were always too many other things going on.
- I didn’t know exactly where writing fell in this inventory. I was sure it wasn’t at the bottom of the list, but I also knew it was never safely at the top.
- The part of my brain that makes art and the part that judges that art had to be separated. While I was writing, I was not allowed to judge. That was the law.
- (If you want to study the master of the well-constructed chapter—and plot and flat-out gorgeous writing—read Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye is my favorite.)
- Even if I don’t believe in writer’s block, I certainly believe in procrastination. Writing can be frustrating and demoralizing, and so it’s only natural that we try to put it off. But don’t give “putting it off” a magic label. Writer’s block is something out of our control, like a blocked kidney—we are not responsible. We are, however, entirely responsible for procrastination, and in the best of all possible worlds, we should also be responsible for being honest with ourselves about what is really going on.
- The more we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing will get on the page.
- Pick an amount of time to sit at your desk every day. Start with twenty minutes, say, and work up as quickly as possible to as much time as you can spare. Do you really want to write? Sit for two hours a day. During that time, you don’t have to write, but you must stay at your desk without distraction: no phone, no Internet, no books. Sit. Still. Quietly. Do this for a week, for two weeks. Do not nap or check your e-mail. Keep on sitting for as long as you remain interested in writing. Sooner or later you will write because you will no longer be able to stand not writing.
- It might not have been a realistic life, but dear God, it was a beautiful one.
- Dorothy Allison once told me that she was worried she had only one story to tell, and at that moment I realized that I had only one story as well (see: The Magic Mountain—a group of strangers are thrown together…) and that really just about any decent writer you can think of can be boiled down to one story. The trick, then, is to learn not to fight it, and to thrive within that thing you know deeply and care about most of all.
- Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it.
Here we go for reading challenge updates:
- PopSugar 2017 reading challenge No. 40 a book you bought on a trip. Perfect!
- Book Dragon’s Lair Audiobook challenge Nope.
- Book Dragon’s Lair Pages Read challenge This 45 pgs brings me to 12,591 pgs.
- Read It Again, Sam Nope.
- My Reader’s Block Mount To Be Read (TBR) and Rock My TBR challenge Nope! Had never even heard of it. Came up on a suggestion list when I finished my previous book.
- Diverse Reads challenge (here and here). No, but stay tuned.
- The Book Date Full House challenge Nope.
- The Book Date Read the Books You Buy challenge Yes! 13 of 43.
- The Worm Hole’s What’s In A Name challenge Nope.
- Anne Read Along Nope.
Hashtags for the challenges that had them:
Starting to get a handle on things, better late than never!