Writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut…

I must begin with a confession: I have never read a single book by Kurt Vonnegut. (I’m going to try to rectify this problem within the year!) 

I’m not sure why his books managed to slip under my radar so completely. I have certainly read many of his thoughts about writing (and agreed with them!) and I’ve also watched several videos in which he speaks eloquently and convincingly.

A post on the LitHub website by Emily Temple, rounds up many of Vonnegut’s pithy comments about writing and this post is well worth reviewing if you’re a writer or even just an aspiring one. Here are three of my favourites from this post:

  1. “The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. (From A Man Without a Country)
  2. “I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours. (From an interview with Robert Taylor in Boston Globe Magazine, 1969)
  3. “Have guts to cut: It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”
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