“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
“The hardest thing in the world is to put feeling, deep feeling, into words.”
“The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.”
Today, January 12, is Jack London’s birthday. He was born in 1876, light years ago, but his short stories and novels remain classics and are still widely admired for their energy and elegance. Jack was offered $5.00 for his first story, but he persevered and went on to become a worldwide celebrity and one of the first writers to achieve wealth solely through his fiction writing. When I came across an article featuring his advice for writers, it seemed tailormade for us:
From “Getting into Print” by Jack London, 1903:
“Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a “stint” and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.
[London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life].
“Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don’t wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.
“See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all. And don’t fling Carlyle in my teeth, please.
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.
“And work. Spell it in capital letters, WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to the Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.
“The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth — SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.”
What a goldmine of helpful advice — let’s apply as we all write on!
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