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Happy Birthday, Robert Olen Butler, born 20 January 1945
“The danger of wanting to be a writer is that it generally means “I want to get published, I want to win an award, I want to have a book.” And if that’s what’s driving you as a writer, you’ll never create anything worthwhile—even if you’re capable of it.
By the way, after I wrote those 12 god-awful plays, I wrote 44 dreadful short stories, and 5 awful novels. I wrote a million words of dreck before I started writing really well. And none of that stuff got published. One of the problems I had was wanting to be a writer.
The work is the thing. The work’s the thing. The work is everything. I want to be a writer is different from I want to write. If you’re going to be an artist, the motive must be I want to write. Even if you never get published, you’d still write those books.”
Robert Olen Butler, from Talking Writing
- There are two of you, one who wants to write and one who doesn’t. The one who wants to write has to keep fooling the one who doesn’t.
- Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle.
- All plot comes from the character’s trying to get something, to achieve something, wanting, desiring, longing.
- Fiction writers are the writer-directors of the cinema of inner consciousness.
- The great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa said that to be an artist means never to avert your eyes. And that’s the hardest thing, because we want to flinch. The artist must go into the white hot centre of himself, and our impulse when we get there is to look away and avert our eyes.
Robert Olen Butler is an American fiction writer. His short-story collection, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1993. He has published sixteen novels and a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction.
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