Solzhenitsyn’s Pens

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote longhand with a large collection of pens scattered liberally across his writing desk. He said ‘Each of my pens is an individual with a personality of its own. I don’t write with just one. When I’m using one of them, others are involved too. So I use different types of pens for different tasks and to emphasise different thoughts and nuances – thin or thick ones, this colour or that. And I know what each one is for. That’s why my table’s so cluttered. In fact, each pen is at work.’

Get the words down

Write as if in a trance. Always say ‘yes’ and write without censoring. Don’t block anything. Hold the door open for your self to surprise you.

Only the next sentence matters, not the last. You can always go back and edit, but in this moment, all you need to do is to move forward.

Mix handwriting with typewriting. Go backwards and forwards. Write the first draft on the computer, then write it out by hand. I find that in the gap between the two sometimes magic happens and new ideas are born.

Risk all

It is your business to write what other people think but don’t say. Go for the throat.

Start with anything that bothers you – be honest, be angry.

Remember how people react to a car accident. Highways choke up as drivers slow down to gawk. It comes as no surprise that news programmes concentrate on bad news first.  That’s what interests readers.

Good stories question the status quo.  In Romeo and Juliet, two teenagers question the status quo of their two families at war.

Winning is over-emphasised. It’s only important in surgery and war

If nothing is perfect so why should you be?  Have fun – there is nothing wrong in painting a mediocre picture or writing a poor story. Forget the mistakes and enjoy the process.  You can always make it better on the rewrite.

So strive for excellence, not perfection. Excellence is obtainable, healthy and rewarding.  Conquer procrastination by maintaining your enthusiasm and by taking one step at a time.