Friday, May 4, 2018

Turning to the Wisdom of Other Writers During Difficult Times

by Linda Rodriguez

I am dealing with a shattered right shoulder at the moment. It needs surgery, but because of my illnesses and the medicines I'm on, I am not a good candidate for surgery, so we're going to see if this shattered shoulder can knit itself together. This makes it very difficult for me to type on the laptop and thus to write a blog post. It also has created, as you might expect, a number of other problems for me. I am still, however, trying continue to meet deadlines that I have already made a commitment to fulfill. So as I try to write, using voice recognition software that is, unfortunately, glitchy, I find myself turning to my collection of quotations from other writers for encouragement, inspiration, and consolation.

I began writing down quotations from famous writers that spoke to various needs or concerns I had with my writing when I was in my teens. I have kept a journal for most of my life. These journals contain many quotations, sometimes one on the middle of the page, sometimes pages of quotations alone from various writers. So, to make my life easier right now and for your inspiration and encouragement, here are some of the quotations by famous writers that I'm paying a lot of attention to at this moment.

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser

Work is the only answer.” –Ray Bradbury

People who want to write either do it or they don’t... my most important talent – or habit – was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It’s amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up.” ― Octavia E. Butler

“Successful professional writers are not withholding mysterious secrets from eager beginners. The only way anybody ever learns to write well is by trying to write well. This usually begins by reading good writing by other people, and writing very badly by yourself, for a long time. … You find out how to make the thing work by working at it — coming back to it, testing it, seeing where it sticks or wobbles or cheats, and figuring out how to make it go where it has to go.” – Ursula K. LeGuin

“Don't try to impress or show off. Just tell the story. Tell what happened as you would to a friend.” – Maeve Binchy

“Just tell the fucking story.” – Daniel Jose Older

“Never lose faith in your gift. Never listen to those who attempt to demean it, either. Their motivation is envy, always.” – James Lee Burke

“Fiction writing is a kind of magic, and I don’t care to talk about a novel I’m doing because if I communicate the magic spell, even in an abbreviated form, it loses its force for me. And so many people have talked out to me books they would otherwise have written. Once you have talked, the act of communication has been made.” –- Angus Wilson

"Write all the time. Rework what you write. Hack it to pieces, cut and change. Writing is a self-conducted apprenticeship." – Martha Gellhorn

"The work is greater than my fear." –Audre Lord

“Write about that which you want to know. Better still, write towards that which you don’t know. The best work comes from outside yourself. Only then will it reach within.” —Colum McCann

"The question is, What’s in you that you can free up? How to say everything you know?" – Jonathan Lethem

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
—Ray Bradbury

"Write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night." – Khaled Houssani

"Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram." – Nathan Englander

“The boss is happy when the words are written. Sure, she gives out hearty handshakes when other things get done, but she only gives raises when the words get done, when the edits are made and sent back to the press, when the publicist’s emails have been answered. She doesn’t care as much when the Facebook status is updated or the Twitter account is humming. All of it is business, but some of it is in the mission statement, and some of it isn’t.” — Lori Rader-Day

“Publishing is an interruption between books.” – Jonny Geller

I hope you will find at least some of these quotations as helpful as I'm finding them right now. Do you collect quotations from famous writers and turn back to them when you go through a difficult time?

Linda Rodriguez's Dark Sister: Poems has just been released. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published to high praise in 2017. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at


  1. Thank you for sharing all this inspiration, Linda. I marvel at your persistence and drive! Keep going! I hope the Universe gives you a reprieve soon.

  2. Not from a famous writer, but from a favorite teller, and through him, from "the folk," my mantra for dealing with difficult people, "The Dervish in the Road" -- "May the deepest desires of his/her soul be satisfied." Now wondering if an assistant or intern could help clean up the dictation software's whimsey, in exchange for advice from you.

  3. Shari, thanks for your good wishes. Yes, a reprieve would be truly welcome.

  4. Mary, the voice recognition software has some real eccentricities. It turns "the students" into "these dudes" every time and dozens of other bizarre quirks, but it's a lifesaver for me because my left shoulder was already damaged from lupus (as was the right one before the fall) so too much use is a painful problem.

  5. Take care, heal quickly, carpe diem!

  6. As always you amaze me with your work ethic. I love these quites and collect mine in a journal fir encouragement. You are always in my thoughts and i wish you health and speedy recovery. Rick on sista friend. Sending healing .

  7. I, too, find much inspiration in quotations, and share a writing or creativity quote on my blog every Saturday. Some of these are new to me, and spot-on. Wishing you light and health.

  8. Leslie, I'll have to visit your blog on Saturdays from now on. Thanks for the god wishes!