Quote It! Barbara Kingsolver

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

Barbara Kingsolver, an American novelist, essayist, and poet. Author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna, among others.

This strikes me as truth, for writers. Akin to the advice to not “chase the market” because by the time you figure out what’s hot, it won’t be.

But there’s more to Kingsolver’s advice than that, isn’t there? For me, she’s also suggesting that we each have a passion. We each have a handle that turns the crank on our personal ice cream maker.

My passion is shining the light of God into the dark places of love, marriage, and life together. I want to illuminate the things many married people are afraid of because when the Light shines, darkness flees and the Boogeyman is unmasked.

What about you? What’s your passion? Why do you write what you write?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Philip Pullman

“After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Philip Pullman, an English writer. Author of the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy.

Pullman doesn’t share the same worldview as I do—he calls himself an “agnostic atheist”—but I do agree with him in his sentiment regarding the importance of stories.

Stories, true ones and fictional ones, have saved me many times. Stories are the seeds that sprout in the garden of my mind, providing both beauty and food.

Do you see story this way? Do you have a different interpretation?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Lloyd Alexander

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

― Lloyd Alexander (January 30, 1924 – May 17, 2007), an American author of more than 40 books, mostly fantasy novels, including The Chronicles of Prydain series. He won the Newbery Medal in 1969.

I’ve never understood this idea some have that novels, particularly Christian ones, are bad because all they provide is an escape from daily life—as if that escape, that retreat from reality, is a bad thing.

It is during the time I spend reading (and writing) that I best come to understand life and my place in it. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned have come from reading novels, Christian or otherwise. This time is not bad, it’s essential.

What value has reading or writing fiction provided you? What lessons have you learned?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Meg Cabot

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

–Meg Cabot, American author of romantic and paranormal fiction for teens and adults. Best known for The Princess Diaries.

This is an interesting variation on the standard writing advice to “write what you know.” It made me think about what I write. Am I writing what I’d like to read? I think I am.

I write stories about people on the cusp of some sort of emotional disaster—people who are walking a fine line between who they are and who God wants them to be.

What are your stories about? Are they written for you or for someone—or something—else?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! J.D. Salinger

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

― J.D. Salinger, (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010) an American author best known for his novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951),

Have you ever felt like Salinger? My favorite books—even when I re-read them—have me wishing I could call up Stephen King (The Stand) or J.R.R. Tolkein (The Lord of the Rings) and just chat. About the book, certainly, but also about nothing, as you do with only the best friends.

What makes me want to do that? I think it’s that the authors have put so much of themselves into their work. After spending that much time with them, I feel I know them—even though I don’t. That’s what we should aim for, though, as authors—to leave our readers with that emotion.

What do you think? What author and book has given you this feeling?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Anton Chekhov

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

– Anton Chekhov, a Russian physician, dramatist, and author

Ah, the old “show, don’t tell” advice. Good advice never gets old, however. (Though some continue to rail against it.)

As is often the case, Grammar Girl makes the distinctions clear–including when writers should tell and not show.

What tips do you keep nearby to help you remember to show in your writing?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Kelly Long’s Mom

Never kick a sleeping skunk.

— Kelly Long’s Mom

Mom’s have a lot of great advice. I’m sure we’ve all heard:

  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident.
  • Be careful or you’ll put your eye out.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

We could go on–obviously.

But, I was intrigued by this bit of advice when Kelly shared it with me a couple weeks ago. Is there a writing application? What do you think?

Enter your writing related advice about kicking sleeping skunks below.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line