“The Magic”

On a quick hop up to Vermont, my son Alex and I each wandered through The Vermont Book Shop, a cozy and inviting indie with plenty of fuel to feed bookaholic fires on cold winter nights. In his browse-around amble, Alex turned up a treasure: The World of Raymond Chandler. A Chandler fan myself (see the post, Blue-clock Socks), I took a peek — and found a cache of timely thoughts on writing:

“A writer who hates the actual writing, who gets no joy out of the creation of magic by words, to me, is simply not a writer at all… How can you hate the magic which makes a paragraph or sentence or line of dialogue or a description something in the nature of a new creation?”

“[Literature is] any sort of writing that glows with its own heat.”

“I have no theories on writing; I just write. If it doesn’t seem to me to be good, I throw it away.”

“If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words out instead of being pulled be them.”

“Most writers sacrifice too much humanity for too little art.”

“The business of a fiction writer is to recreate the illusion of life.”

“Me, I wait for inspiration, though I don’t necessarily call it by that name. I believe that all writing that has any life in it is done with the solar plexus. It is hard work in the sense that it may leave you tired, even exhausted. In the sense of conscious effort it is not work…”

“There should be the space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing.”

And here’s an “analyze and imitate” exercise that sounds incredibly useful:

“[In preparing “Blackmailers”] I did something I have never been able to persuade any other writer to do…I made a detailed synopsis of a story, say by Erle Stanley Gardner, then tried to write the story. Then I compared it with the professional work and saw where I failed to make an effect or had the pace wrong or some other mistake. Then I wrote it over and over.”

Musings to ponder and apply from a master craftsman as we all write on.

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About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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6 Responses to “The Magic”

  1. Nancy Burke says:

    A good one again Karin…thanks.

  2. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks so much for your note! Alex is a huge Chandler fan and he was
    so excited when he came across the book which I purloined and lifted
    the quotes from! We were saying that only in an indie bookstore would
    you be able to browse around and find just the perfect book that you
    never even knew existed. Long live indies!

    Write on,
    Karin

  3. Pat Carrigan says:

    Karin, what an inspiring blog and today’s quotes from Raymond Chandler, superb! Thank you!

    • Pat,

      Thanks so much for your note — you made my day! Yes, I was so excited
      when I briefly purloined my son Alex’s book and came across all those
      fantastic quotes about writing — truly a goldmine! That’s the great
      thing about indie bookstores — sometimes you are just browsing and
      you see something made to order for you that you had never even heard
      of. This book has period photos of LA, too, which is great since setting
      is such a huge aspect of Chandler’s mastery.

      Write on,
      Karin

  4. Patricia Carrigan says:

    Hi Karin
    I haven’t read too much Raymond Chandler but have him on my list due to you!. He wrote wonderfully about Southern California and while not knowing too much about him I do know something of the Santa Ana winds and his very famous opening to “Red Wind”, has always been inspirational. Not only for me of course as it’s probably one of the all time best opening paragraphs…EVER! . After many years and many Santa Ana’s in California, I had to quote this one more time. Of course you know it well I’m sure. Thank you for bringing RC to the fore.

    “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge”
    MAGNIFICENT! Not so?
    Best….Pat

    • Hi Pat,

      Wow, thanks so much for reminding me of the fabulous opening of “Red Wind” —
      my son Alex just mentioned recently how that is his favorite Chandler
      short story! And for terrific openings, let’s not forget the first
      paragraph of “The Big Sleep” — fantastic!

      Write on,
      Karin

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