I just finished reading this book, and I just loved it! It's a very quick read, and the humor throughout the book will keep you reading. It is a practical book for writers with many great tips and pointers and some fantastic quotes. This is a book about how to write books. Every hopeful writer should read this book.
Here are a few of the notable quotes I really appreciated. I've limited it to ones from Benson. I would love to share many of the quotes he used from other writers. They were so inspirational. But you'll have to read the book and find those for yourself.
"Write for those you love; if you make them happy, they will tell someone how challenged or refreshed or empowered or reflective your words make them feel.
"They will be gentle with you when you show them the work, of course, because they love you. They will also be the ones who let you know if your words are honest and true, and when they are not.
"They may not be the most critical readers, but they will be the most important, because they will be the ones who keep you writing." (p. 485 in kindle edition)
He refers to this group of people as your jury. I love the idea that we need to have a jury that will encourage us in our writing, and who will also keep us honest and authentic.
Later in the book he says, "Good writing needs time for the texture of the words to develop, for the momentum to build, word upon word, sentence upon sentence, scene upon scene, story upon story. A little air between sessions at the writing desk allows for each day's work to be greeted with a fresh eye and a full tank. Allowing the words to live there on the page for a while without being rushed off to the next stage too soon can help the writer when he comes to the pages again.
"Time is the actual currency of the speed-worshiping age in which we live and write and have our being. And time is the currency with which we write our sentences and stories. Hurry is not a proper posture for a writer." (p. 546 in Kindle Edition).
Benson writes in an entertaining and humorous way while sharing practical pointers throughout the book. He shares his personal experiences and what he has learned from many mentors.
One other point Benson makes is, "A direct relationship exists between the caliber of the writing you read and the caliber of the writing you make." (P. 708 in Kindle Edition).
"Write, don't talk.
"Books are meant to be written and then discussed. The other way round can be deadly." (p. 1038 in Kindle Edition).
The point is that we can talk ourselves out of writing about an idea we discuss to much. We must focus on writing first and talking about it later. Such great advice and a good warning for a newer writer!
At the end of the book Benson lists all the books he has found meaningful and helpful in his career. It's like opening a treasure chest having all those recommendations in one place.
I love that this book is short. Benson gives his idea and anecdotes and moves on to the next topic. It would make a great gift for someone starting their writing career. Benson is practical, creative, inspirational, and wise. It's like getting to sit and learn from someone who knows the ropes of the writer's life.
The book is available here.
From The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, 1941, p. 24
(The Screwtape Letters, if you've never read them, are a collection of teaching letters from a senior demon to his nephew, helping him to learn the ways of tempting and leading a person away from God. In this excerpt, Screwtape is telling Wormwood how to help his subject grow weary in well-doing and never even realize he's drifting away from God).
As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,
Another favorite passage from this book is found in Chapter 15, p. 29-30:
had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European war — what they naïvely call “The War”! — and am not surprised that there is a corresponding lull in the patient’s anxieties. Do we want to encourage this, or to keep him worried? Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions. The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present — either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure. Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do not think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in as Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward. To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too — just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.
"The humans live in time but our
Enemy destines them to eternity. He
therefore, I believe, wants them to
attend chiefly to two things, to eternity
itself, and to that point of time which
they call the Present. For the Present
is the point at which time touches
Relish the Thought
Relishing something means to take your time to enjoy and savor the flavors of something. That's what I am doing here.