Agitate, Educate, and Organize ~OO~
Mostly William Faulkner: about Life, Writing and Creative Arts
“the wilderness closed behind his entrance as it had opened momentarily to accept him, opening before his advancement as it closed behind his progress”
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
“I decline to accept the end of man… I refuse to accept this.
I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among the creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
― William Faulkner
“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash: your picture in the paper nor money in the back either. Just refuse to bear them.”
Faulkner on Writing:
1. Take what you need from other writers.
Faulkner had no qualms about borrowing from other writers when he saw a device or technique that was useful.
“I think the writer, as I’ve said before, is completely amoral. He takes whatever he needs, wherever he needs, and he does that openly and honestly because he himself hopes that what he does will be good enough so that after him people will take from him, and they are welcome to take from him, as he feels that he would be welcome by the best of his predecessors to take what they had done.”
2: Don’t worry about style.
A genuine writer–one “driven by demons,” to use Faulkner’s phrase–is too busy writing to worry about style:
“I think the story compels its own style to a great extent, that the writer don’t need to bother too much about style. If he’s bothering about style, then he’s going to write precious emptiness–not necessarily nonsense…it’ll be quite beautiful and quite pleasing to the ear, but there won’t be much content in it.”
3: Write from experience–but keep a very broad definition of “experience.”
Faulkner agreed with the old adage about writing from your own experience, but only because he thought it was impossible to do otherwise. He had a remarkably inclusive concept of “experience.”
“To me, experience is anything you have perceived. It can come from books, a book that–a story that–is true enough and alive enough to move you. That, in my opinion, is one of your experiences. You need not do the actions that the people in that book do, but if they strike you as being true, that they are things that people would do, that you can understand the feeling behind them that made them do that, then that’s an experience to me. And so, in my definition of experience, it’s impossible to write anything that is not an experience, because everything you have read, have heard, have sensed, have imagined is part of experience.”
4: Know your characters well and the story will write itself.
When you have a clear conception of a character, said Faulkner, events in a story should flow naturally according to the character’s inner necessity. “With me,” he said, “the character does the work.” In the same February 21, 1958 American fiction class as above, a student asked Faulkner whether it was more difficult to get a character in his mind, or to get the character down on paper once he had him in his mind. Faulkner replies:
“I would say to get the character in your mind. Once he is in your mind, and he is right, and he’s true, then he does the work himself. All you need to do then is to trot along behind him and put down what he does and what he says. It’s the ingestion and then the gestation. You’ve got to know the character. You’ve got to believe in him. You’ve got to feel that he is alive, and then, of course, you will have to do a certain amount of picking and choosing among the possibilities of his action, so that his actions fit the character which you believe in. After that, the business of putting him down on paper is mechanical.”
5: Use dialect sparingly.
In a pair of local radio programs included in the University of Virginia audio archive, Faulkner has some interesting things to say about the nuances of the various dialects spoken by the various ethnic and social groups in Mississippi. But in the May 6, 1958 broadcast of “What’s the Good Word?” Faulkner cautions that it’s important for a writer not to get carried away:
“I think it best to use as little dialect as possible because it confuses people who are not familiar with it. That nobody should let the character speak completely in his own vernacular. It’s best indicated by a few simple, sparse but recognizable touches.”
6: Don’t exhaust your imagination.
“Never write yourself to the end of a chapter or the end of a thought,” said Faulkner. The advice, given more than once during his Virginia talks, is virtually identical to something Ernest Hemingway often said.
(See tip number two in “Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction.”)
“The only rule I have is to quit while it’s still hot. Never write yourself out. Always quit when it’s going good. Then it’s easier to take it up again. If you exhaust yourself, then you’ll get into a dead spell and you’ll have trouble with it.”
7: Don’t make excuses.
In the same February 25, 1957 writing class, Faulkner has some blunt words for the frustrated writer who blames his circumstances:
“I have no patience, I don’t hold with the mute inglorious Miltons. I think if he’s demon-driven with something to be said, then he’s going to write it. He can blame the fact that he’s not turning out work on lots of things. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if I were not married and had children, I would be a writer.” I’ve heard people say, “If I could just stop doing this, I would be a writer.” I don’t believe that. I think if you’re going to write you’re going to write, and nothing will stop you.”
for the rest from this source:
Mr. Faulkner, you were saying a while ago that you don’t like interviews.
The reason I don’t like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions. If the questions are about the work, I try to answer them. When they are about me, I may answer or I may not, but even if I do, if the same question is asked tomorrow, the answer may be different.
How about yourself as a writer?
If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.
The Wordsmith Collection: Writing & Creative Arts
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