Up a tree

The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.

Vladimir Nabokov

Brian Eno: Everything good proceeds from enthusiasm

Everything good proceeds from enthusiasm. The sense of “I really want to know how this turns out” will drive you on through many, many long nights of no results, whereas the feeling of “I think I ought to do this” dries up very quickly.

The big mistake is to wait for inspiration. It won’t come looking for you. It’s not so much creating something, I think, it’s noticing when something is starting to happen — noticing it and then building on it and saying, “Okay, that’s new, that hasn’t happened before. What does it mean? Where can I go with it?”

George R.R. Martin’s “secret weapon”

I love this: George R.R. Martin writes his novels on a DOS-based computer using a vintage 1980’s word-processing program called WordStar. In this clip, he tells Conan that he actually has two computers, a modern one with an internet connection for ordinary tasks and an old DOS-based, web-free computer for writing. I do something similar, though my work computer is not quite as ancient as Martin’s. I have an old ThinkPad T23, one of the last ThinkPads made without built-in WiFi. It dates from 2001 or so. It has no internet access, and better yet it is heavy and battery life is awful, so it’s effectively immobile — it chains me to my writing desk. I write my novels on WordPerfect, a zombie word processor that I’ve been using since 1984, when my college roommate introduced me to it on his state-of-the-art Kaypro II computer. I have been a WordPerfect devotee ever since. Writers go to all kinds of extremes to seal themselves off from the insidious distractions of the web. I am surprised more don’t just use an old computer from the pre-WiFi era. In this case, less is more.

Emerson: Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and be faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

David Lynch on Where Ideas Come From

We don’t do anything without an idea. So they’re beautiful gifts. And I always say, you desiring an idea is like a bait on a hook — you can pull them in. And if you catch an idea that you love, that’s a beautiful, beautiful day. And you write that idea down so you won’t forget it. And that idea that you caught might just be a fragment of the whole — whatever it is you’re working on — but now you have even more bait. Thinking about that small fragment — that little fish — will bring in more, and they’ll come in and they’ll hook on. And more and more come in, and pretty soon you might have a script — or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting.

Via Brain Pickings

Updike on his early stories

How you comin’ on that novel?

Craft

Toshiaki Omori, master shoemaker. Compare.

Winter

Holdsworth-yosemite

“Yosemite, Plan View, 2012″ by Dan Holdsworth. More of Holdsworth’s amazing photos here.

“The extension of our sympathies”

The greatest benefit we owe the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies… Art is the nearest thing to life, it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.

George Eliot

Book lust (a continuing series)

fahrenheit451bookcover-980x730

Concept design by Elizabeth Perez for Fahrenheit 451. “The book’s spine is screen-printed with a matchbook striking paper surface, so the book itself can be burned.” Very cool.

Angela Lee Duckworth on Grit

I suspect that grit, not talent, is the single best predictor of success for novelists, too.

Annie Lennox on Creativity

The Value of Uncertainty

“You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.”

— Pablo Picasso

Coming to Brookline

I will be appearing in Brookline, MA, on March 12 to celebrate the town’s community-wide read of Defending Jacob. I am really looking forward to this event, not just because the organizers have been so gracious, but because it is the town where I grew up and where my family lived for a long time. In fact, my parents met at Brookline High, where I will be speaking. Come join us if you can.

Landay Brookline poster

Hemingway: “Make it alive”

“You see I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across — not just depict life — or criticize it — but to actually make it alive. So that when you read something by me you actually experience the thing.”

Hemingway, age 25, letter to his father, March 1925

Quote of the Day

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”

— William G.T. Shedd

Jeffrey Eugenides: Write Posthumously

To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember?

Jeffrey Eugenides’ speech to the winners of the 2012 Whiting Award — wonderful advice to young writers (and not-so-young writers) on the hazards of success. Well worth your time.

Louis C.K. on cell phones

Trade paperback pub day

DJ trade paperback

Defending Jacob hits the shelves in trade paperback today. This is the larger paperback format that many readers and book clubs prefer.

It has been an eventful summer for the book. It was nominated for prizes as best crime novel, best legal novel, best thriller, and best mystery of 2012. These are, respectively, the Hammett, Harper LeeITW Thriller and (for best mystery) the Barry and Strand Critics awards — the last of which it won. (The Barry and Hammett Prizes will be awarded in the next few weeks.) It was also named a Massachusetts Must Read Book and nominated for the Massachusetts Book Award.

The book is also this month’s selection for the Target Book Club, for which I (happily) signed ten thousand books. Yes, you read that right: ten thousand. So we have high hopes there, as well.

If you’d like to buy the book in its handsome new edition, you’ll find links to all the online stores here. But, as always, I encourage you to buy from your local independent bookstore if you’re lucky enough to have one.