Writer’s Desk: We Do Language

Toni Morrison in 2008 (Angela Radulescu)

For this week’s installment, we’re providing not so much advice as a reminder of what we do when we write.

In 1993, Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In her acceptance speech, she said this:

Word-work is sublime … because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives…

We work in words. Sometimes, those words live on after us.

Do good work. Make Toni proud.

Writer’s Desk: Anthony Bourdain Said Stop Complaining

In honor of the (sadly) late great Anthony Bourdain, here’s a little reminder from him about just how great it is to be a writer:

Cooking professionally is hard work. Writing is a privilege and a luxury. Anybody who whines about writers block should be forced to clean squid all day.

As some of us can also testify, writing beats the hell out of washing dishes, too.

Writer’s Desk: Lie Truthfully

If writing isn’t truthful, readers can tell. That doesn’t mean it’s all pulled from real life. Writing is also about creating new realities. You have to make things up sometimes to get at the truth. It’s a contradiction that non-writers can have a hard time wrapping their heads around.

Here’s what Jamie Quatro told The Paris Review:

Fiction begins with small, lower-case truths, then translates them into a larger lie that ultimately reveals the largest truths. “None of it happened and all of it’s true,” said Ann Patchett’s mother.

And remember what Tim O’Brien wrote in “How to Tell a True War Story“:

Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.