“Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”
—Octavia E. Butler
Back around the beginning of the year, I shared a quote from Butler that’s quite similar to this one, but instead of talent, that previous quote focused on inspiration. The reason they sound so similar is that they’re both are taken from the same essay on writing advice: Furor Scribendi.
The essay was initially published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume IX but luckily you can find a reprinting of in her collection Bloodchild: And Other Stories which I’d recommend for the titular story alone.
“[Writing is] hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.”
This is taken from a 1978 interview for The Paris Review. The whole conversation is worth reading, but this quote really jumped out at me.
“I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit.”
—J. R. R. Tolkien
And what a map it was…
The map above is one of Tolkien’s original sketches and is a part of the Bodleian Libraries collection at the University of Oxford. Tolkien was a prolific sketcher, and many more of his drawings can be seen in Ethan Gilsdorf’s 2015 Wired article aptly named: See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-earth. It’s worth checking out.
“All her life she had made her own mistakes and her own successes, both usually by trying what others said she could not do.”
—Vonda N. McIntyre, Aztecs, 1977
Requiescat in pace, Vonda. Thank you for all of the incredible worlds. (For me personally, I discovered her work through 1981’s The Entropy Effect, one of the first Star Trek novels I’d ever read—though, I wouldn’t find it until the early 90s.)