Essays About

Stammering Toward Eloquence

I write by trial and error. I move words around until I happen to like their arrangement. In the labor and details of bringing a thought into being, I lose my way and half-forget what I wanted to say. I do not find my way but keep trying sentences until, in the words before me, I recognize and remember my original thought.

The secret of writing is not so much vision or inspiration but the mundane ability to stop tinkering when we realize we've written something worth keeping. By an unmysterious formula, one accumulates good sentences by discarding bad ones. Creativity is the source of writing, but selectivity is the source of good writing. A writer is a prospector panning for gold in the stream of his own thoughts. He picks out the gems and nuggets and presents only them to the world, so that the world thinks his mind produces gold, though it mainly produces mud.

Supposedly, a monkey on a typewriter, through sheer luck, could eventually type out Hamlet. But a monkey would keep typing, ignorant of his achievement, while a writer who stumbles on truth or beauty seizes his luck and sends his manuscript to the publisher.