From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How do they write like that?

There are some writers that make me ask that question a lot. Here are some examples of what I mean.

"Serve God, love me, and mend."
-William Shakespeare, "Much Ado About Nothing"

"Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense."
"Night and light, silence and difficulty, it seemed to me always rigorous and good."
-Marianne Robinson, "Gilead"

"I was not good at drawing faces. I was just joking most of the time. I was not decisive in changing rooms or anywhere. I was so late because I was looking for flowers. I was just going through a tunnel whenever my mother called. I was not able to make toast without the radio. I was not able to tell if compliments were backhanded. I was not as tired as I said."
-Jonathan Safran Foer, "Here We Aren't, So Quickly"

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."
-George Eliot, "Middlemarch"

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs."
-Norman Maclean, "A River Runs Through It"

"Think of the force of life, yes, but think of the component of darkness in it. One of the things that's in whale's milk is the promise of pain and death...I shall be richer all my life for this sorrow."
Wallace Stegner, "All the Little Live Things"

How brilliant are these people. Seriously. I mean, what does it take to be the kind of person who can write things like that? Inherent genius? Years and years of practice? An MFA?

It's not like I'm trying to write like someone else. I can only write like me, and that's that. And it's not like there's one guaranteed way to get to that level of poetic genius, or that there's even one set definition of what "genius" is. But still, these peoples writing blows me away, and I want to blow people away too. Or at least get as close as I can. Maybe just a little breeze, but something...

I guess its a combination of things: studying, practice, honesty, observation. And we just have to pray for the rest.

What do you think?

Sarah Allen


  1. I feel that way too. Sometimes I read a particular line, stop and think, HOW ON EARTH CAN SOMEONE WRITE SOMETHING SO PERFECT? My hope is that one day someone will maybe read a line I've written, stop, and think the same thing. A girl can dream!

  2. I knoow! Sometimes I get overwhelmed and think "I'll never be able to write like these [insert amazing authors' names]" but you're right that you can only write like yourself. I totes agree with the more practice, studying, honesty and maybe a little hope! (I think the hope is what makes me continue).

  3. I hope to be a good writer. When I read things like that, I know I'll never be a great one.

  4. I would say talent and practice is where it comes from. Anyone with practice can learn to throw a 3 pointer.

    I look back to my first novel and it makes me shudder sometimes compared to the second. Yet no one has complained, and I have been told by more than one person that there are some "really good passages,".

    I just need practice to make them all like this.

  5. Hi Sarah!

    Great post!

    Congratulations! You won the Talli Roland giveaway at my blog!

  6. It has to do with your environment, your education, your personality, and your upbringing. All of these things contribute to the way you write. OH and lets not forget other books that you read.

  7. Neat quotes! Thanks for them. That one about the, that is good. And the toast. I liked the toast. But mostly the river, with the droplets. A refreshing and edifying web moment!

  8. I think your conclusions are correct. The more you write, the more chance you're going to start coming up with brilliant passages of writing. It's kind of like the million monkeys with a million typewriters--actually that's a pretty bad comparison. It's nothing like that at all, but I just like the concept of a million monkeys with a million typewriters.

    Tossing It Out

  9. I think you will blow people away in your own way. All of these passages are so different from one another. I have faith that someday, your work will be quoted and admired, too...

  10. Enjoyed the quotes. Inspiring. I believe the more we write the better the odds one day something profound will make an appearance.

  11. Prayer is very underrated, more people should utilize it.

  12. In my minds, it's a perfect blend of passion (for writing), desire (to produce great works), practice, persistence and luck.

    Weird that luck plays a role, but really it does. To put a finer point on it, it's our interpretive stance at any given point that allows writing to be great. These passages stand the test of time because over and over again, people interpret the writing as great. But as true as an author can be in any construction of words, there's a certain element of luck that goes into how that writing is received.

    For every great passage, there are millions littered upon the ground.


  13. Thanks for the thoughts you guys. I think you're all right...prayer, luck, practice, it all plays a part.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)


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