Monday, May 4, 2009

Worth quoting

If you read my blog long enough — or get emails from me — you'll notice that I like great quotations that have something to do with writing, editing or journalism in general.

Isaac Asimov, the late sci-fi genius, had a great love for writing, and he provided motivation with this quote: "If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."

"I hate writing; I love having written," by Dorothy Parker, seems appropriate for journalists. Same with "The best part about writing is stopping," by Colin Walters. I've known too many of us who don't enjoy writing. Me? I love it.

I always look to Anton Chekhov — "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." — for inspiration.

"How can you write if you can't cry?", by great sportswriter Ring Lardner, sometimes seems inappropriate, because journalists are supposed to be dispassionate. But the best writing always has the most passion. Always will.

Oddly enough, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious," by Albert Einstein, seems appropriate for a journalist. So does "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers," by Voltaire. I've often had a lot more questions than answers, and they often made more sense.

It's strange, but some of the best quotations don't, at least on the surface, have anything to do about editing. Take this one by Edward Blishen: "The work was like peeling an onion. The outer skin came off with difficulty ... but in no time you'd be down to its innards, tears streaming from your eyes as more and more beautiful reductions became possible."

Emily Dickinson said "Will you tell me my fault, frankly as to yourself, for I had rather wince, than die. Men do not call the surgeon to commend the bone, but to set it, Sir." Makes me feel like a MASH surgeon.

The best editing advice, though, comes from an anonymous source: "When in doubt, cut it out."

Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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