As promised last week – a post about my favourite thoughts (so far!) from On Writing Well.

I first came upon William Zinsser during university.

I studied Professional Writing, and took classes about copywriting, news writing, and writing feature articles, as well as classes on memoir writing, speech writing and writing plays.

One of my professors assigned some reading from On Writing Well. I enjoyed it, but didn’t think a lot of it.

When I finished my degree, moved home, and started working, I realized I wanted to write more than just a few newsletter tidbits and tweets. So to inspire myself, I started reading On Writing Well from the beginning.

Very, very quickly I realized I couldn’t just read that book.

I had to mark it up as I went.

Just like when I was a student, I read with pencil in hand. I underlined. I circled. I starred. I even wrote some notes in the margins and in my notebook that I try to always carry with me.

I don’t know about you, but sitting in a coffee shop with a cup of tea, an engaging book, and a pencil is one of my favourite places to be. (*insert date night suggestion to my husband here*)

I carried On Writing Well around for months.

I still haven’t finished it.

I had to mull things over, and then I had to take a break and read some fiction, and then I was a little afraid to go back to it.

It’s a challenging book.

Inspiring, yes.

But also gut-twisting.

I feel like Zinsser is calling me out on things. Telling me I need to do better. I need to procrastinate less. I need to motivate myself to do more. I am capable of more than I am currently doing.

I will finish On Writing Well one day.

Here are some passages from On Writing Well that I quite like (prepare yourself…I got a little carried away…):

 “The essence of writing is rewriting.”

“Clutter is the disease of American writing…. Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important…. But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”

“A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

“Clutter is the enemy…”

“Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess or murkiness has crept into their style and how it obstructs what they are trying to say.”

“Be yourself…”

“Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”

“Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.”

“Every writing project must be reduced before you start to write.”

“Don’t become the prisoner of a preconceived plan.”

“Who am I writing for?…. You are writing for yourself.”

“You learn to write by writing…. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.”

“Good writing is lean and confident…”

“Scissors and paste–or their equivalent on a computer–are honourable writers’ tools.”

“Make the reader smile and you’ve got him for at least one more paragraph.”

“Narrative is the oldest and most compelling method of holding someone’s attention…”

“Every writer is starting from a different point and bound for a different destination.”

“Tell them in words that come naturally…”

“Every writer is starting from a different point and bound for a different destination.”

“I write entirely by ear and read everything aloud before letting it go out into the world.”

“Writing is visual…”

What are your favourite writing quotes?

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