HANGING BY OUR COMPUTER IS a sheet of paper I look to for inspiration. Sometimes it inspires me, sometimes it depresses me, but always it gets me back on the horse. It’s called “Why (and How) We Write.” If you too find it useful, please hang it by your computer.
1. Do it for the buzz.
– Stephen King
2. Finish what you start. Keep submitting until it sells.
— Robert Heinlein
3. a) Fanaticize yourself
b) Fanaticize something greater than yourself
c) “Sheer delight in what you are doing.”
– Robert Anton Wilson
4. a) Arrange events in linear order
b) Now arrange them in narrative order.
c) Write the story.
d) Revise the story.
– H. P. Lovecraft
5. “Most of the characteristics which make for success in writing are precisely those which we are all taught to repress … the firm belief that you are an important person, that you are a lot smarter than most people, and that your ideas are so damned important that everybody should listen to you.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, reprise
THE MAN WITH YESTERDAY’S EYES put down his glass.
“Well, it’s 3 a.m.,” he sighed. “I guess those poor bastards aren’t going to terrify themselves.”
(See Also: Robert Anton Wilson / HP Lovecraft / Writing / 5 Thoughts / Text As Life)
THIS TITLE DOESN’T REFER TO either German nobility, soft ice cream or the British Isles, but the first paragraph (“graf” in news-speak) of one of my favorite novellae, H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Though mostly famous for his don’t-read-at-3-a.m. Cthulhu Mythos tales, the Old Gentleman’s most lyric imagery is to be found in his stories of The Dreamlands: a sort of “collective unconscious” vaguely surrounding Earth and accessible to it at certain points. Lovecraft is often accused of unreadably purple prose; I like to think he writes more for effect than for accuracy (like a Brian Eno composition, Lovecraft’s words are best enjoyed by letting them wash over you like a salty, warm, faintly ichorous sea). Thus, and in the hopes of spreading the Old Gentleman’s visions as far and wide as possible:
THREE TIMES Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it. All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows; while on steep northward slopes climbed tiers of red roofs and old peaked gables harbouring little lanes of grassy cobbles. It was a fever of the gods, a fanfare of supernal trumpets and the clash of immortal cymbals. Mystery hung about it as clouds about a fabulous unvisited mountains; and as Carter stood breathless and expectant on that balustraded parapet there swept up to him the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things and the maddening need to place again what once had been an awesome and momentous place.
(Eh? EH? THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about.)
THE FIRST TIME, YOU SEE/READ/HEAR IT for the story; the second time for nuance; third (and thereafter) is sheer love of craft.