How and What to Write, Part 3 to blupete's Essay
"A popular author is one who writes what the people think. Genius invites them to think otherwise." (Ambrose Bierce.)One of the fundamental rules in writing, is this -- "be interesting." A piece of writing is always more interesting to the reader, if the reader can connect with it, it is more interesting if the writing has a direct bearing on what the reader is up to. Of course, if the piece is about the reader, himself; why then the writing will become, to the reader, immensely interesting: I am reminded of what Samuel Butler (1835-1902) wrote:
"I met a lady one year in Switzerland who had some parrots that always travelled with her and were the idols of her life. These parrots would not let anyone read aloud in their presence, unless they heard their own names introduced from time to time. If these were freely interpolated into the text they would remain as still as stones, for they thought the reading was about themselves. If it was not about them it could not be allowed. The leaders of literature are like these parrots; they do not look at what a man writes, nor if they did would they understand it much better then the parrots do; but they like the sound of their own names, and if these are freely interpolated in a tone they take as friendly, they may even give ear to an outsider. Otherwise they will scream him off if they can."3In a more serious vein, Nicoll observes how the writings of an author are reflections of the author, himself; if he is an interesting character, then likely his writings will be interesting.
"To have a style that is not derived, that is noble and new, you must have a powerful and lonely personality; you must have an individuality that is distinct, presentable, and impressive. Style is the expression of a temperament, and no matter how the artist may strive, in the end he will reveal himself.The great American jurist, Benjamin Cardozo (1870-1938) expressed the thought, in his book Law and Literature (1931), that there was six types or methods of writing: magisterial, (lofty, or high style), laconic (short and pithy), conversational, refined (meticulous, smelling of the lamp), demonstrative or persuasive, and tonsorial (extensive use of the shears and the pastepot, overly worked).
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"There are great days coming for the true leader writer, the man who can make people read him and believe in him, the man who speaks out of influence and knowledge.
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"Write what you do not have to search your memory or your cupboards for; write the things that are vivid and burning in your heart; the things you think about when you are alone or awake at night."4
"There are two sorts of writing. The first is compilation; and consists in collecting and stating all that is already known of any question in the best possible manner, for the benefit of the uninformed reader. An author of this class is a very learned amanuensis of other peoples thoughts. The second sort proceeds on an entirely different principle. Instead of bringing down the account of knowledge to the point at which it has already arrived, it professes to start from that point on the strength of the writer's individual reflections; and supposing the reader in possession of what is already known, supplies deficiencies, fills up certain blanks, and quits the beaten road in search of new tracts of observation or sources of feeling. It is in vain to object to this last style that it is disjointed, disproportioned, and irregular. It is merely a set of additions and corrections to other men's works, or to the common stock of human knowledge, printed separately. You might as well expect a continued chain of reasoning in the notes to a book. It skips all the tripe, intermediate, level common-places of the subject, and only stops at the difficult passages of the human mind, or touches on some striking point that has been overlooked in previous editions." ("On Genius and Common Sense.")
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