James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”

James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing

In 1989, Paris Review founding editor and trailblazing interviewer George Plimpton edited a wonderful collection titled The Writer’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the 20th Century’s Preeminent Writers (public library). Among them was novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987), whom Plimpton had interviewed on two separate occasions in early 1984, half a century after Baldwin read his way out of Harlem and into the pantheon of literary greatness.

In a fantastic addition to the collected wisdom of celebrated writers, Baldwin looks back on his formidable career and shares what he has learned about the creative process, the psychological drivers of writing, and the habits of mind one must cultivate in order to excel at the craft.

James Baldwin with Shakespeare, 1969 (Photograph: Allan Warren)

Reflecting on what motivates great writers to write — an enduring question also addressed beautifully by George Orwell, David Foster Wallace, Italo Calvino, andWilliam Faulkner — Baldwin sides with Bukowski and argues that the supreme animating force of the writer is the irrepressible impossibility of not-writing:

Something that irritates you and won’t let you go. That’s the anguish of it. Do this book, or die. You have to go through that. Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.

Endurance, indeed, is perhaps the sole common denominator among successful authors. Any aspiring writer, he admonishes, should have no illusion about the endurance required but should want to write anyway. A generation after Jack Kerouac considered the vital difference between talent and genius, Baldwin notes:

If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.

In a sentiment reminiscent of Joan Didion’s observation that she writes in order to gain better access to her own mind, Baldwin speaks to the consciousness-clarifying function of the creative impulse:

When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.

Much of that self-revelation, Baldwin points out, happens not during the first outpour of writing but during the grueling process of rewriting. Echoing Hemingway’s abiding wisdom on the crucial art of revision, he adds:

Rewriting [is] very painful. You know it’s finished when you can’t do anything more to it, though it’s never exactly the way you want it… The hardest thing in the world is simplicity. And the most fearful thing, too. You have to strip yourself of all your disguises, some of which you didn’t know you had. You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.

But as essential as that sense of incompleteness may be in guiding the revision process, it must be mediated by the awareness that completeness is a perennial mirage. (Decades later, Zadie Smith would observe in her ten rules of writing: “Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”) Baldwin offers:

When you’ve finished a novel, it means, “The train stops here, you have to get off here.” You never get the book you wanted, you settle for the book you get. I’ve always felt that when a book ended there was something I didn’t see, and usually when I remark the discovery it’s too late to do anything about it.

Adding to the endlessly fascinating daily rhythms of great writers, which reflect the wide range of differences in the cognitive conditions of the ideal writing routine, Baldwin shares his work habits:

I start working when everyone has gone to bed. I’ve had to do that ever since I was young — I had to wait until the kids were asleep. And then I was working at various jobs during the day. I’ve always had to write at night. But now that I’m established I do it because I’m alone at night.

Complement The Writer’s Chapbook — a treasure so wisdom-packed that it is a tragedy to see it fall out of print — with Joseph Conrad on what makes a great writer, Willa Cather on the life-changing advice that made her a writer, and Jane Kenyon on what remains the finest ethos to write and live by, then revisit Baldwin on the artist’s role in society and his terrifically timely conversation with Margaret Mead about race and identity.

http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Chapbook-Compendium-Centurys-Preeminent/dp/B000NPS9KU

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Africa: Destroyed By The Gods

Ako 3My motivations for writing this book came from the pain I feel when I see the havoc foreign religions have wrought on Africa, especially in the last three decades. Traditionally, Africans are a deeply spiritual people. It is sad and painful to see how our deep spirituality was used to turn us into unthinking zombies.

It appears like the African elite, by which we mean the political as well as the spiritual elite, are in cahoots to keep the people in perpetual ignorance. Some ideals the European Missionaries preached, like “Love thy neighbour,” are not ideals they were prepared to abide by. They served to transform our conquerors into saviours to worship. Sadly, these are the same ideals our pastors today use to render us into unthinking masses of simpletons, so that they and the political elite can continue to loot our national resources.

By successfully turning themselves into ‘men-of-god,’ the priests transformed themselves into venerable agents of the creator, so it’d be sacrilegious to question or attack them. An important question we need to ask ourselves as Africans is what single benefit we have achieved with all the prayers, holy retreats and the burning of candles we have engaged in over the years. We also need to ask the pastors and the archbishops why they are not prepared to wait for their own paradise in afterlife.

Although we did not set out to write a comprehensive critique of the Christian religion, we show enough evidence to demonstrate that it was a religion deliberately founded on fraud. There are abundant historical records to show that the central figure of Christianity, Jeshua or Jesus, was a Roman invention; he never exist as a historical person. There is abundant evidence to show that the book the Christians called the Holy Bible were collections of ancient fables gathered by wandering habirus (Hebrews), and that they are not accurate historical narratives. Many of them were consciously forged stories.

The records are in the public domain to show that the books that made up the Bible were selected at the First Council of Nicaea, convened by one of the most murderous of Popes, Constantine, in AD 325. Also in the public records is how the King James Version of the Bible was put together at the urgings of one of the worst killers to grace the English throne, King James. My sadness at the havoc the Christian religion wrought compelled me to start writing about it.

I hope that my struggle will propel other honest Africans to begin to challenge the false preaching of the Christians and, hopefully, regain some of our African patrimony before they are totally destroyed by the lies the Christians peddle. We Africans need only to sit and do some thinking. If, as almost every scientist today knows, we are the first people on earth, how do we end up worshipping a Semite god? Another question we ought to ask ourselves is why is it that we are the only people that do not worship a god in our own image and in our own language? Apart from Africans, every society creates its own god in its own image.

This is not a complete evaluation of the Christian religion, but we provide enough materials for the honest investigator to search for and find the truth. We provide enough proof and suggestions to make the honest Africa do his own study, and discover that, contrary to what his pastor says, the Bible is not a correct historical document. On these pages, I set forth my views on the Christian religion. I urge that they be read in the same honest spirit they were written.

The Author

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Femi Akomolafe is a Nigerian writer, author and a television producer.  A passionate Pan-Africanist, he writes as a columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper. The globetrotter Femi lives in both Europe and Africa.

His extensive work reflects on Africa-related issues in his books and for various newspapers and magazines. He was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specializes in Audio and Video Production. Despite his busy activities, Femi always has time for his family.

http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Femi-Akomolafe/e/B00MCZ00G0/

Keep On Writing Until The Bones Are Rotten

Bones 2Photo credit: Pixgood.com

It’s unfortunate that many have already given up or quit writing, because the book which they thought could make them bestselling author, has totally disappointed them, terminating the desire to be a good author.

In a world of which thousands of books are published yearly and affected by the rapid decline of reading, many are struggling in the field of writing with shattered dreams.

What is making the situation worse, is the sick habit of some famous writers, that often used Social Media platforms to discredit other writers’ work, as a way to draw readers’ attention to their works or gain more recognition and fame.

Again some unknown and new writers that want their voice heard or recognition, resort to undermining other writer’s work on social platforms as well. I have read such distasteful comments about other writers over and over wondering: Why some people live with greed and selfishness, aiming to achieve whatever they are looking for?

As a matter of fact, if one is intelligent to write a book, that intelligence is enough to teach the person that “Success comes to people that wish others success. They should make research and find out: “Whoever digs a hole against someone will surely fall into that hole himself.”

As an aspiring writer, what pushed you into writing? What are the motives that triggered your desire into book publishing, money or fame? I’m interested in these questions, because if you’re an aspiring or new writer, entering into the field of publishing, with the desire of becoming a millionaire over night, then I’m sorry, you will end up disappointed and depressed.

This is the situation many aspiring writers are facing today. What many writers have failed to realise is that: Stepping into the field of book publishing as a new writer, is like a stranger making proposal to a woman he finds attractive. She doesn’t know you, she therefore needs more time to know your background and where you come from.

This investigation or proposal may last a month or years, depending on what kind the lady is. After her investigations, if she is satisfied, she will accept the man’s proposal and marry him. The same way it takes a short or very long time for readers to accept or reject your book as an author.

If you have this in mind, as a new writer, before entering the field of book publishing, you will always be happy, easy and relaxed, no matter how poor or fast your books are moving. There shouldn’t be a competition in book publishing. If your book doesn’t suit this generation, another generation will accept it. The reason many writers become famous years after death.

There is a time for everything. A time to sow and to harvest, sickness and healthiness. Thus; there will be a time the underestimated shall be estimated. Let this article encourage you, if you have already given up or decided to do so. Even though, writing is considered to be one of the most dangerous professions, let the writing continue unabated until the bones are rotten.

THE LIEBSTER AWARD

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I have been nominated for the LIEBSTER AWARD! I give thanks to Tammy at https://tammymezera.wordpress.com/    for this prestigious nomination. The significance of the Liebster Award is to discover or recognize new bloggers around the blog-sphere. It’s a great way to welcome and promote their niche in the blogging community.

My nominees are : Erospea at  https://erospea.wordpress.com

2. Skipah’s Realm at http://skipahsrealm.com/the-door-county-experience/

3. Pinuccia at https://elvira513.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/nicchia-da-giardino/

4. Edwina at http://edwinasepisodes.com/

5. Allison Maruska at http://allisonmaruska.com/2015/10/17/does-your-story-need-more-tension-add-a-dash-of-dramatic-irony/

6. Orange Pond Connect at https://orangepondconnects.wordpress.com/

7. Tess M Garfield at https://tessmgarfield.wordpress.com/

8. Kate M Colby at http://katemcolby.com/

9. Leftover Recipes at https://leftoverrecipes.wordpress.com/

10. Tribalmysticstories at http://tribalmystic.me/2015/10/14/story-telling-at-its-best/

Tammy’s Questions

What is your most difficult subject to write about? -Science.

  1. Conversely, what is your favorite subject to write about? –Drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.
  2. Snacks – sweet or savory? -Delicious.
  3. How do you get out of bed in the morning when you don’t feel like doing so? –Force to lift myself up.
  4. How have your life challenges changed you-are you stronger, bitter, a cynic, disillusioned, happier, etc? –Life challenges are lessons which have shaped my life positively.
  5. Weather – 4 seasons or mild all year round? –Some seasons are mild and sometimes severe.
  6. Reading – fiction or non-fiction, e-books or actual books (or “Who has time to read?”)? –I love reading non-fiction books, especially when adventurous or exciting. 
  7. Social Media – fun or necessary evil? –Both have advantage and disadvantage.

My questions to nominees:

  1. If you are to play a significant role to save our decaying society, what would you write about?
  2. If your partner comes home from work very hungry, which easiest and quick food can you make for him/her?
  3. If you are to interview a famous writer, what would you ask him/her?
  4. What do you fear most in your life?
  5. Will you be nervous if invited to speak to an audience for the first time?
  6. What do you hate most in your life?
  7. What inspired you to follow your passion as a writer?
  8. Will you give up writing when you are trying very hard but your book is not selling well?
  9. What do you want to achieve in the next ten years as a writer?
  10. What is the best book you have ever read?

The rules are as stated:

1) Thank the person who nominated you.

2) Display the award.

3) Nominate 10 more bloggers with 10 new questions.

4) Answer the questions that the nominator made.

5) Notify the nominees.

The Heart Has No Colour, No Country, No Religion, No Sex

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Andrea: Her wise comment inspired me to write this article.

I do write a lot, but I have to admit that some of my writings were created from comments of readers or my followers. As writers or bloggers, when we read comments on articles: How seriously do we take them, ponder over them to see their usefulness, significance and effect?

Many argue that it’s not good to make comment, but I say that It’s good to comment on articles, but if you don’t have anything significant to say, please shut your mouth, because your comment can give you the respect you deserve and the same comment can put you into a very big trouble, because of the bad things you said.

Believe me some comments worth more than silver and gold. It can change one’s life and the way you think, especially if you don’t have any love in your heart for someone. There are many problems and almost all these problems were caused by man. Pride, superiority and racism are some of the problems tearing our society apart today, yet no one wants to be called a racist.

Recently I posted an article captioned “Who Says There Is No Happiness Or Love In Africa?” The fact that Africa is a continent which has suffered a great deal of wars, ethnic conflicts, slavery and man-made diseases, many think they don’t have love for each other. Frankly speaking, a poor African can easily share his food with a friend, than a rich man in a developed country.

This particular article I wrote, didn’t generate much comment, but the only comment I had was awesome and inspiring. It touched my soul to read it over and over, allowing it to geminate in me, to add it to the little I have and share  with others.

According blogger Andrea, who runs this Italian blog: ‘Libera mente & Critica mente’:

Each person has a heart, and in each heart there is Love.

So everyone of us has Love in his/her heart.

The heart has no colour, no Country, no religion, no sex.

So Love has no colour, no Country, no religion, no sex.

Too many times, unfortunately, people forget to be human, and that have a heart…

https://liberamentecriticamente.wordpress.com/

I hope everyone agrees with me that this quotation or comment is awesome and carries wisdom? Thank you Andrea.

The Essence Of Blog Recognition And Nomination

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(Nominated for both Blogger Recognition and Sunshine Blogger Awards.)

There are thousands of writers and authors but not everyone blogs. In our present society, where by the desire of reading is rapidly declining, you should count yourself a lucky one, when you have followers, readers interested in your blog and others that recognize your blog as good.

Every year, different blog recognition and nomination take place under committee of bloggers to determine the best blog. This gives every blogger the opportunity to compete with other bloggers. If your blog is evaluated and you win, you are honoured or awarded. It’s therefore rewarding and satisfying when you are nominated, even though vote leads to your success of winning.

I have been writing without ceasing, since it’s my passion. At the latter part of this year, I have been nominated twice. I received a mail confirming my nomination for ‘The Blogger Recognition Award’ from the well known author William Chasterson and my second nomination for ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’ by Purpleslobinrecovery, both active bloggers.

I give my sincere thanks to the two great bloggers, for their kindness and recognition for my blog. Nomination doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve won the ‘Trophy,’ since you are competing with other bloggers, but it satisfying to know that there are some followers and people out there who are interested in what you write.

Despite my passion as a writer, I dwell on the support of my followers and readers, because their likes and comments inspire me in certain ways. I learn from each comment and usually creates articles from what they say. I therefore give thanks to my followers and readers that despite how busy engaged to other activities, they still find time to visit my blog.

Should Writers Respond to Comments on Their Articles?

 

 

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Original article by Yael Grauer, published by The Freelancer

When I first started writing, everyone always warned me to stay far, far away from the comments. Perhaps I’m narcissistic—or a glutton for punishment—but I found it nearly impossible to stop myself from checking in. When writing for MMA sites, I’d read through insult after insult written by teenagers living in their parents’ basement (our core audience), which was never a pleasant experience.

The free weekly paper that paid me pennies to blog about food after it fired its full-time food writer clearly didn’t have the staff to moderate comments. Whenever I’d give a restaurant a good review, I’d get to sift through weird conspiracy theories about how I was secretly coerced into saying nice things because of some kind of advertising deal that didn’t actually exist. I always felt slightly betrayed that these sites hung us writers out to dry by not moderating at all. I rarely responded, though I was tempted to create fake accounts to argue with readers about how I was right. I always wondered if the wrath of commenters would taint how editors viewed my work.

I was a ghostwriter for a couple of large health websites, always surprised at how the people I ghosted for reacted to the comments. They’d expect rewrites and revisions over minor nitpicks, even if the commenter was wrong.

Sites have wildly different opinions on whether journalists should engage with readers. Some sites don’t seem to pay attention, while others—such as MindHut and SparkLife—even go so far as rewarding writers who get a certain amount of upvotes when responding to comments.

Continuation link: http://contently.net/2015/07/30/stories/writers-respond-comments-articles/