Fyodor Dostoyevsky promised his publisher the year before that he’d deliver a novel by November 1866 or lose the rights to his works for nine years. He didn’t begin writing until October 4 and handed in The Gambler with hours to spare.
“He shall be greatest who can be the loneliest, the most concealed, the most deviant, the master of their virtues, beyond good and evil, and over-rich in will. Is greatness possible today?”
—F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §212 (edited excerpt).
musing on a sodden brain
like a bloated lackey on a greasy couch,
I’ll taunt with a bloody morsel of heart
and satiate my insolent, caustic contempt.
No gray hairs streak my soul,
no grandfatherly fondness there!
I shake the world with the might of my voice,
You play your love on a fiddle,
and the crude club their love on a drum.
But you cannot turn yourselves inside out,
like me, and be just bare lips!
Come and be lessoned—
prim officiates of the angelic league,
lisping in drawing-room cambric.
You, too, who leaf your lips like a cook
turns the pages of a cookery book.
If you wish,
I shall rage on raw meat;
or, as the sky changes its hue,
if you wish,
I shall grow irreproachably tender:
not a man, but a cloud in trousers!
“Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.” — Maya Angelou
Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules for Short Stories
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."
“Behind a remarkable scholar one finds a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist quite often a very remarkable man.”
—F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §137 (edited excerpt).
“I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book — sometimes as many as a hundred. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.” — Ernest Hemingway
“The title comes afterwards, usually with considerable difficulty. … A working title often changes.” — Heinrich Böll
“I have never been a title man. I don’t give a damn what it is called. I would call it [East of Eden] Valley to the Sea, which is a quotation from absolutely nothing but has two great words and a direction.” — John Steinbeck
“Titles as a rule do not matter much. Very good authors break down when it comes to the effort of choosing a title.” — D.H. Lawrence
“When I need a title I’ll usually reread the poetry of Hart Crane. I take a copy of Crane’s work with me when I travel. A phrase will catch my eye and seem right for what I’m writing. But there’s no system to it.” — Tennessee Williams
“I have a peculiar idea about titles. They should never be obviously provocative, nor say anything about murder. They should be rather indirect and neutral, but the form of words should be a little unusual. … As to publishers, I wonder if they know anything about titles.” — Raymond Chandler
Because you and me
cannot for too much longer be
I will go to the sea
where they will see
a man without swimming trunks.