Don’t say that the old lady screams. Bring her on and let her scream.
All the fun’s in how you say a thing.
I know a buggy maker named Cartwright, a poet named Wordsworth, a painter named Art, and a forester named Raintree. I don’t know writers named Font or Keyboard, but no matter, some with more famous names have said wise and memorable things about writing. Here’s a sampling, some old, some new. No explanations needed. Enjoy.
'The Scream', the world famous painting by Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where should I begin, please, your majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland)
A bad beginning makes a bad ending. (Euripides, ancient Greek playwright)
Writing is an exploration. You start form nothing and learn as you go. (E.L. Doctorow, American novelist)
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne. (Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th century English author)
The artist, having chosen his theme, picks out only those details that are characteristic and of value for his subject... and he rejects all the remainder and puts it to one side. (Guy de Maupassant, French novelist)
If the reader is lost, it is usually because the writer has not been careful enough to keep him on the path. (William Zinsser, American journalist)
See a thing clearly and describe it simply. (Arthur Brisbane, American newspaper editor)
You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club. (Jack London, American writer)
To produce something of real merit, the author must inject enthusiasm proper to the occasion. (Zane Grey, American author of cowboy Westerns)
Seize the subject, and the words will follow. (Cato the Elder, ancient Roman statesman and writer)
The obligation of the writer is to maintain the vigor of the language and the vigor of the imagination. (Carlos Fuentes, Mexican novelist)
There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers. (H.L. Mencken, American writer)
An ounce of example is worth a pound of generalities. (Henry James, American writer)
The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause. (Mark Twain, American novelist)
The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. (August Wilson, American playwright)
If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams – the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. (Robert Southey, English poet)
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. (Robert Frost, American poet)
I can’t write five words but that I change seven. (Dorothy Parker, American writer and poet)
Good prose is like a window pane. (George Orwell, English novelist)
Fine thoughts, but so far all are from the pens of European and American writers. Where is some Nepali wisdom on writing? Hard to find. Apparently, Nepali writers are busy writing, and saying little about the art and craft of it.
I have, however, found some retrospective critiques of outstanding Nepali prose. For example, Madhav Ghimire writes that while reading Lain Singh Bangdel’s popular novel, Maitighar (Maternal Home), he could “hear the sound of vegetables frying in Hari’s kitchen” and could “see the fog lifting up in thick plumes outside my window”. He called Bangdel, who was also a painter, “a descriptor of nature”. High praise for the impact of an author’s style and tone. Abhi Subedi has said much the same about Bangdel: “You can see the painter in his novels, not the abstract, but the lexical.”
I’m still searching. I need more. If you know some good lines of wisdom by Nepali writers on the art of writing, let me know. Meanwhile –
Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet)
Don Messerschmidt is a contributing editor to ECS Nepal magazine. Contact Don at email@example.com.