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Quote Tips - Navi's Writing Discoveries 2010

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Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:39 am
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Navita says...

Below are mostly rewrites (from memory) of things I have said to other people on YWS - by chat / review / PM - or, more rarely, something particularly memorable someone else has said to me. Some may be memory-failure rehashes of commonly known quotes also.

Oh, and, it goes without saying that all of Gal's reviews are full of fantastic one-liners.


Good art appears effortless.

Learn the art of silence in poetry.

A perfect writer is one on whose writing you dare not embellish, write further about; a masterpiece speaks for itself.

We do not write masterpieces everyday. We write everyday, and hope that a masterpiece stands a greater chance of appearing.

Timing is everything. So, work on enjambment and flow.

I speak in generalities because – where bad work is concerned – they are so often true.

A masterpiece reveals its heart on the first draft.

I love good one-liners, killer endings and snappy beginnings.

Tell me more. I am terribly aesthetically needy like that. (rehash of a HELPFUL MCHELPFULPANTS' comment)

You must appeal to my heart, my aesthetic, before you can dare think of appealing to my mind and intellect.

We circle around to the same themes, the same stories, time and time again. Everything is recyclable, rewritable. There are countless ways of telling the same story. Seven years ago, the best poem I had written was about death and war. Now, this year’s masterpiece was also about death and war – just at the microscopic level of the individual.

Sometimes, I think writers write for writers.

It takes a poet to appreciate the art of another poet.

Analysis is like sex: we must deconstruct, but also reconstruct the text.

Intelligence and imagination walk hand in hand.

Don’t dive in expecting to uncover the meaning of life. You’ll hit a brick wall. Instead, talk about little things, petty things, the trivial, and perhaps you will say something important about life.

Make it matter to me.

There is no new theme. There is no story, no plot, no character that hasn’t already been told somewhere, sometime, by someone. Where originality comes in, is in execution. Style.

I don’t give a damn what you say as long as you say it right.

I don’t know if I prefer intensity and depth to subtlety and softness. I guess I remember the former more, but the latter is just as sweet.

Sophistication and the mainstream do not go well together.

Right now, all you’ve got is a skeleton. Give it some flesh, a heart, and see what you end up with. It’s bloody hard to love a skeleton.

Overwriting is a disease. Only writers so pathetically weak that they do not trust their readers, or that they do not trust themselves, overwrite.

I either like description done well, or not at all. Don’t half-ass it.

If you can’t avoid talking about love, then don’t.

Don’t aim to write everyday. Instead, live everyday, and hope something worth writing about will occur.

I talk in paradoxes because everything is a paradox.

A perfect poem shimmers in front of you. Not wholly down-to-earth and tangible, but not wholly up-in-the-clouds and intangible, either. I need a healthy dose of reality and abstraction.

Leave something for the audience to simmer in.

There are two reactions a great work will generate: incoherencey and inspiration. Only the unwise get jealous.

KYLAN: I can judge the quality of a work by how much it inspires me.

Jeez, it’s just one work. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

We’re crazy about poetry, right? On the one hand, we refine it till we’re blue in the face. On the other, it’s all just a game, an extraordinary puzzle.

Never trust anyone who lavishes just praise.

I’m not going to do a line-by-line, because there’s no point. The problems are all general.

I want passion from you.

Untitled works drive me crazy. I agree that art and life should be equally incomplete, so give it a title that is an extension of the work rather than a summary.

EVI: Galerius should really start acting like a 12 year old girl. ME: Also, his reviews are my only source of entertainment on YWS.

YWS is not a destination. YWS is a brief stop-off to replenish your caffeine supply.

Writing and facebook are not so different. Both have an element of shouting into the dark to assure yourself you exist.

Look, I still love you despite that review.

I think it’s happened. I know you too well. I am so unobjective now that I am useless.

There’s a difference between ‘me’ and ‘I’, goddammit! I am not the narrator!

I hesitate to preface works. They should speak for themselves.

ME: I don’t understand. If art is about entertainment and enhancement, then why the paradox: why escape reality and need it? KYLAN: Because we need a reality to escape from.

Nostalgia is the best feeling. It’s equivalent to pretending the past was rosy so that the present might look worse. You can only find a story in suffering.

Humour is so underrated. I’m only human; I love a good laugh.

What’s in a word? I’ll tell you what: if you use the wrong one, I will throttle you.

Don’t write to put words on paper. Write to put life on paper.

But – but – but – why are so many YWSers scientists?

I don’t like grocery-shopping lists in poetry. Give me depth over breadth any day.

Don’t put too much of yourself into your writing. Leave some of yourself for yourself.

If you think you can’t write, then just writewritewrite. You need to get those damned clichés out of your system somehow.

Only experience gives an acute awareness of the cliché.

Surprise me. Freshness is why we crave art.

If you’ve never done a chat crit-edit, you don’t know the wonder of impromptu revision. It does wonders for Editor’s Block.

Make the ordinary seem extraordinary.

Don’t be such a pompous ass. Say it like it is.

I get too much fun out of writing to pursue it as a career.

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Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:07 pm
seeminglymeaningless says...

Fantastic idea, Navi :)

Sophistication and the mainstream do not go well together.

Not sure if I agree with this one. It depends on your personal definition of sophistication, I guess. But when I think of sophistication, I think of "better then", "knowledge of". When I look it up, I get "quality or character of being intellectually sophisticated and worldly through cultivation or experience or disillusionment". So a writer who knows what she is doing can write mainstream, and often does.

Right now, all you’ve got is a skeleton. Give it some flesh, a heart, and see what you end up with. It’s bloody hard to love a skeleton.

Ever heard of Skullduggery Pleasant? Or Death, a fictional character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series? Sometimes a skeleton is exactly what a story calls for. And I know you didn't mean literally don't write about skeletons, but I can't help but think that a sketchy description of something can be much better than a piece of prose that has been written and worked so much that the original idea is completely lost within the metaphors and similes and descriptions that choke it.

- Jai
I have an approximate knowledge of many things.

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Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:05 am
Navita says...

The interesting thing about these quotes is that some of them seem to contradict each other. But different contexts call for different advice, and since writing is all about mastery of control, anyway, it makes sense that we wouldn't want to veer too far into the abyss either way.

So, of course, sometimes skeleton-writing works, sometimes it doesn't, and more imagery is needed. The piece of writing in question was actually mine, and someone else mentioned that it was skeleton-like and needed fleshing, so (that's not actually my quote!). I agree that overwriting is not good, either -- there are quotes on that, too.

Ha - and as for sophistication and the mainstream: that one came from a discussion on whether it takes a poet/artist to truly appreciate the work of another poet/artist. Poets, for example, when imitating other poets will deconstruct the style and then reconstruct it around their own mix of images and experiences, and so will come to understand every nook and cranny and infinitesimal detail behind it, since they've had to build it. In that sense, the only one who'll truly appreciate a highly sophisticated work of art is someone who actually has to go through the process of building it themselves, not someone who merely occupies the building of the text for a while. And anyway, terrifically intricate castles with many symbolic machinations and handiwork are tiresome to clean (continuing the analogy) -- modern tastes are simpler, more sense-oriented, in which case the thematic subtleties are often lost. That's why the person to whom I was speaking came to the rather obvious conclusion that the mainstream was unable to truly appreciate sophistication -- both because their tastes are geared more emotionally than intellectually, and because they do not write (/build).

So a writer who knows what she is doing can write mainstream, and often does.

Agreed. The best authors are those who can not only build castles out of themes, but can also tether them to the ground and cater for a more emotionally-oriented modern mainstream audience simultaneously. But these authors are so rare...which is why I should have probably better phrased that quote rehash to: 'Sophistication and the mainstream generally do not go well together.' Is that better, and more in accordance with what I said above?

Anyway! Thanks for your thoughts, and to everyone who liked this. :D

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Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:51 pm
MeanMrMustard says...

As fascinating as these one liners are, they're dumplings with the meat cut out, the filling un-caringly dropped on its newborn fleshy sac of pulp and stepped on by an unfeeling cold outside world with no appreciation for something it cannot grasp arising from a different context; arising contradictions are otherwise completely expected if not purposely created through intent or not, and in this respect completely devoid of any real meaning.

This is the problem of one liners, of lives out of context, of not truly understanding anyone; but then that's expected, we learn to trust our eyes, and then not trust our eyes and see anew; we learn to see blind and walk in traffic as dust flutters in turbulence of a world of cleaning solution seeking to rub it out in a lemony balm.

We do not go to a concert to hear one measure of a masterpiece, we do not hear Perlman play the beginning of Schindler's list and then raucously applaud as if the drama and beauty has been delivered and then skirt through Tartini, the Canon, and catch just the middle of the Surprise Symphony; nor do we go see MUSE and then get up and leave when Matt is gasping for breath (admittedly almost every five seconds); and one does not walk through hell simply to get licked by a flame and then leave post haste as if proclaiming an enlightening experience has been had.

There is one splendid bit of advice here, allow me to show you and everyone else this time:

But different contexts call for different advice, and since writing is all about mastery of control, anyway, it makes sense that we wouldn't want to veer too far into the abyss either way.

Stick with that next time Navita, otherwise scrap this idea. It's hard enough for anyone trying to make "art", but framing conversations on this forum as if they lend advice is disavowing the natural growth needed. I would hope after a half-year of this sitting, it can be bothered to finally be jostled.

According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground.
— The Bee Movie