Q&A: Dinty W. Moore on Buddhism, creativity, kindness & taming the ego

May 20, 2012 | 9 Comments

Listen to where the writing wants to take you. Understand that the writing itself will often provide far richer material than your logical, predictable mind. Even more “intellect-driven” writing—for instance, a dissertation—can benefit from the cognitive leaps that occur when you stand back from the manuscript a moment and listen to your intuition.—Dinty W. Moore  The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore. Wisdom Publications, 152 pp.  A popular image of the writer is of someone with heavy baggage and a …

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Noted: ‘Steal Like an Artist’

April 14, 2012 | 14 Comments

Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.—Steal Like an Artist Austin Kleon is a writer and visual artist—collage and sketches and mashups—whose magical new little book is a smash hit, a New York Times bestseller. I’m eager to read it. Plus he’s from here in Ohio and attended an institution right down the road, Miami University of Ohio. His website and related pages, including …

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4 writers on their messy process

October 4, 2011 | 8 Comments

Bill Roorbach has instituted a new feature over at Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, an author interview. The first, with John J. Clayton, marking the appearance of his new novel, Mitzvah Man, is remarkable for being done all in scene—Bill interviewed him at his home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts—and for Clayton’s thoughts on just what God truly is. Or may be. On his laborious daily struggle to write:  I do what I can to avoid writing fiction, because writing fiction is …

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Bret Lott’s ‘Against Technique’

September 29, 2011 | 7 Comments

If a writer is any good, what he makes will have its source in a realm much larger than that which his conscious mind can encompass and will always be a greater surprise to him than it can ever be to his reader.—Bret Lott This blog has been mostly about craft, even though I know craft isn’t the most important thing about writing. Not by far. A paradox about writing—maybe any art—is that craft, or call it technique, is what …

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Igniting your need for words

July 3, 2011 | 7 Comments

From Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing: It doesn’t bother me that the word ‘stone’ appears more than thirty times in my third book, or that ‘wind’ and ‘gray’ appear over and over in my poems to the disdain of some reviewers. If I didn’t use them that often I’d be lying about my feelings, and I consider that unforgivable. In fact, most poets write the same poem over and over again. Wallace Stevens …

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“In Schooner Valley,” a pastel by David Owen

Art, craft, and the elusive self

April 12, 2011 | 9 Comments

I knew Dave Owen in another life—my Hoosier period—and since then he’s become an admired landscape painter in southern Indiana. In his thoughtful new blog post “With the Artist Added,” at David Owen Art Notes, Dave reflects on the nature of art and artists as he prepares for a show. I was struck by how much his insights apply to writers and writing.

In the first place, he isn’t wild about the three pieces he’s taking to the competition, including the landscape reproduced above. And yet: “. . . I have realized that my paintings become neither better nor worse when a judge gives them a thumbs down or a thumbs up. They have a life of their own and are whatever they are.”

To me, “In Schooner Valley” is lovely. But I can’t see what Dave sees—and certainly not what he’d hoped to see emerge from his brushstrokes. I too have finished pieces that I feel don’t quite work. Or at least fell short of what I’d imagined. Even successful and published stories, essays, and poems are handmade things and are lumpy or lopsided in spots. And what a mess we had to make to get halfway close to our intentions. Have you ever seen an artist’s studio, a potter’s bench, or a writer’s hard drive?

After fearsome effort, the creator sees flaws. “A poem is never finished, only abandoned,” said Paul Valery. I believe it. Artists labor until they’re frustrated with what they have made—the work’s no longer an ego extension, far from it—and their feelings can’t be hurt by a judge or an editor. They did the best they could, got what help they could, and at some point they moved on. Not because they gave up too easily, but because whatever that object still needs is beyond their powers.

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Dinty W. Moore: revise & discover

September 9, 2010 | 3 Comments

“Too often, in my opinion, beginning writers focus on what point they want to make, what the message will be in their writing, the ‘theme’ or ‘thesis,’ whereas the seasoned and successful writers that I know are always after what they can discover. Being too sure of what you want to say from the outset can be a bad thing in writing—you just end up re-stating the obvious.” “If you want to be a writer, you have to love to write, …

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