September 24

Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself, leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fortunately for other writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald was not left so thin and meager by his writing that he had nothing left to say about its processes. Perhaps his most poignant observations about writing had to do with its sources, where the deepest motivations for writing lie. He once wrote:

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves - that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives - experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

Fitzgerald could also be tongue-in-cheek about writing. About one's "audience," he once said, "An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards." (Ironically, these became precisely his own audiences.) He could also be very specific (and pointed) about craft techniques. For example: "Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."