four notes to myself

It seems to me that when you write a short story, you have to cut off both the beginning and the end. We writers do most of our lying in those spaces. You must write shorter, to make it as short as possible.

—Anton Chekhov

[from Memories of Chekhov, Peter Sekirin]


The revolution that Chekhov set in train – and which reverberates still today – was not to abandon plot, but to make the plot of his stories like the plot of our lives: random, mysterious, run-of-the-mill, abrupt, chaotic, fiercely cruel, meaningless.

—William Boyd, The Guardian


If a man passes a door which has no curtain and is not shut and looks in, he has committed no sin.

—Mishkat al-Masabih

[from the epigraph to Deborah Baker’s The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism]


I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments.

It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.

—Jennifer Egan, The Wall Street Journal

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