3. Don’t start writing your novel until you know your characters very, very well. What they’d do if they saw somebody shoplifting. What they were like at school. What shoes they wear. Spend days – weeks, months – being them until they thicken up and start to breathe. VS Pritchett said, “There’s no such thing as plot, only characters.” Once you know them well they’ll lead you into their stories. If you start too soon you won’t have a clue what they’re going to do and all is chaos.
4. However hopeless and inadequate you feel, leave that self behind. Psych yourself up until you’re confident that the world will be interested in what happens to your characters. Confidence is key.
5. Don’t “write”. “Writing” is about showing off, or imitating other writers. “Writing” mistakes solemnity for seriousness. Just write. Have courage, be truthful, be true to your characters.
6. Don’t be daunted. Writing a novel is a huge adventure; when it’s going well it’s more fun than fun. When it stutters to a halt put it aside. Go for a swim, go for a walk, take a week off. Don’t panic or be afraid; you and your characters are in it together. Trust them to come to your rescue. Of course it’s a long haul, but you always knew that, didn’t you?
7. If a character stubbornly refuses to come alive, switch to the first person. Suddenly they’ll be speaking to you. Later you can change it back again if you need to.
8. I have to know the ending before I can begin. Map out as much as you need but don’t over-plot or you can constrict your characters. Let them change it as they go along.
9. You don’t have to know the ending.
10. In other words, you don’t have to listen to anyone’s advice. There are no rules to break. That’s the pleasure of it. Read The Paris Review interviews with writers – everyone has their own methods and if a novel is truly alive it will break all their rules too.
11. Discover the times when you’re most creative – mornings, nights, afternoons – and clear the time to work then. Many writers find the mornings are best, and the afternoons are only good for editorial corrections, or getting the washing done. Others can only work through the night, drunk.
12. Sort out your priorities. Don’t clean your home, other than as a displacement activity. There won’t be time. You’ll probably neglect your friends too, and even your personal hygiene. If you have children, however, try to keep them fed.
“When I was a little girl my dad used to read the paper every Sunday and my mom would read a book near by. And I would sit on the top of the stairs and just watch them, watch them be still together. When I think of being in love that’s what I picture, days like that and nights like this.”—Quin James (One Tree Hill)
If you’re interested in making sure kids learn a lot in school, yes, intervening in early childhood is the time to do it … But if you’re interested in how people become who they are, so much is going on in the adolescent years.
It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self. Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers). “During times when your identity is in transition,” says Steinberg, “it’s possible you store memories better than you do in times of stability.”
At the same time, the prefrontal cortex has not yet finished developing in adolescents. It’s still adding myelin, the fatty white substance that speeds up and improves neural connections, and until those connections are consolidated—which most researchers now believe is sometime in our mid-twenties—the more primitive, emotional parts of the brain (known collectively as the limbic system) have a more significant influence. This explains why adolescents are such notoriously poor models of self-regulation, and why they’re so much more dramatic—“more Kirk than Spock,” in the words of B. J. Casey, a neuroscientist at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense. “And you never get back to that intensity,” says Casey. (The British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has a slightly different way of saying this: “Puberty,” he writes, “is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.”)
“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”—Neil Gaiman (via thoughtsdetained)
“Buying books is immensely comforting. Maybe I won’t read them immediately, but they make me feel so much better whenever I’m sad and blue. Just their presence, it’s like having more to look forward to.”
“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson (via thegirlandherbooks)
“I think when it’s all over it just comes back in flashes, you know? It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories; it just all comes back.
But he never does.
I think part of me knew the second I saw him that this would happen. It’s not really anything he said, or anything he did; it was the feeling that came along with it. Crazy thing is, I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel that way again. But I don’t know if I should.
I knew his world moved too fast and burned to bright, but I just thought…
‘How can the devil be pulling you toward someone who looks so much like an angel when he smiles at you?’
Maybe he knew that when he saw me. I guess I just lost my balance.
I think that the worst part of it all wasn’t losing him. It was losing me.”—wow. Taylor Swift (via beremi)
That right off that bat, you instantly clicked with? You find them attractive in so many ways and love talking to them, you think about them all the time and wonder if they’re thinking the same about you. It’s not like you get attached, but you just really enjoy their company, in person and even just over the phone. You saw something different in them and you can see them as someone special in your life if the circumstances call for it. That is nice.
“Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve.”—Carol Shields (via thaliasbooks)