“Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.” -J.B. Priestley
When I came across the above quote, I couldn’t resist including it in a Birth of a Novel post. I discovered Priestley a number of years ago when I read The Image Men, the story of a couple of down-on-their-luck British professors who create a Foundation of Social Image and are astounded by its success. As I said, I read the book a long time ago, so I don’t remember much detail, but the story and the ideas it conveyed have stuck with me – ideas that seem to be more and more true each day in the age of social media. I think it’s safe to say Mr. Priestley was well ahead of his time. Though I loved The Image Men, I haven’t read any of his other fiction. I do have a copy of his Literature and Western Man that I picked up at a book sale. It’s a little intimidating to read straight through, but I keep it on my writing desk and browse through it from time to time. I always find something interesting. I like the way his mind works.
Here are a few of examples of his advice to writers:
“Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write.”
“Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.”
“If there is one thing left that I would like to do, it’s to write something really beautiful. And I could do it, you know. I could still do it.”
“Depending upon shock tactics is easy, whereas writing a good play is difficult. Pubic hair is no substitute for wit.” Had to laugh at this one – reminded me of a Maggie Smith line in Downton Abbey.
All these quotes contain sound advice, but my favorite is:
“If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not – and the odds are against it – go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper – write.”
That’s the one I turn to when I doubt my own ability and wonder if I should bother.
Happy reading (and writing), my friends.