Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007) wrote the timeless A Wrinkle in Time book series, along with countless other novels, poems, plays, and short stories.
Here are four wonderful quotes she shared with us about the writing life!
1. With each book I write, I become more and more convinced that the books have a life of their own, quite apart from me.
There are a lot of signs that tell you if the writing is going well on your latest novel project. One is that you actually look forward to writing the book every day rather than dread it. When you’re excited to write that next scene, that next chapter, you’re probably producing some good words every day.
Another sign is that the drafting itself goes by pretty fast. You’re not sitting at your chair for five hours struggling to get out sentence after sentence. If you’re flying through your 2,000 words every day, then you’re doing something right.
Another way you know what you’re writing is good, potentially great? When the world of your book truly begins to have a life of its own quite apart from yourself. When the story and the characters begin to feel real to you. When you find yourself constantly thinking and dreaming about that new book you’re writing.
The more real it all feels, the better your work will be, and the more your eventual readers will fall in love with what you’ve created!
2. The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
People ask me all the time how I’m able to write young adult fiction when I have many years separated from when I was an actual teenager. I’m lucky in that I’m a teacher and I’m able to interact with kids around the same age as the kids I write about in my fiction, so listening to them speak and watching them interact with others certainly helps me find that authenticity.
But another reason I’m able to write teenagers well is that just because I’m in my thirties now doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what life was like at sixteen or seventeen. I still have clear memories from that time of things I saw, things I felt, friendships I made, dreams I couldn’t shake.
Sure, some of the specific details have faded, but so much is still there in my memory that I absolutely feel confident in writing characters of that age. The older you get, the more ages you’ve been, never forget that — and you shouldn’t hold any fear about writing characters of a different age ever.
3. Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.
I see this quote often from so many talented writers, and it’s expressed so much because it’s so damn true. The worst thing you can do as a writer is sit at your desk for an hour or longer just thinking, pondering, procrastinating. You might not be exactly sure how to start that next scene, so you tap your fingers against the desk trying to come up with that perfect opening sentence or line of dialogue or whatever.
This is all a waste of time, I’m telling you. Sure, when you’re not writing, you should be thinking about your latest project and where you hope to take it in the next scene or chapter, but when you actually sit down to write… write. Don’t think too hard. Don’t second guess yourself.
The inspiration doesn’t come if you’re just sitting there. The inspiration comes as you begin writing and exploring your story and characters. If you mess up, fine — you can fix it later. Just get started on the writing and the rest will take care of itself.
4. A book comes and says, ‘Write me.’ My job is to try to serve it to the best of my ability, which is never good enough, but all I can do is listen to it, do what it tells me and collaborate.
Here’s the truth when you’re a dedicated creative writer and novelist for life: some books simply demand to be written. Lots of ideals swirl around your head for weeks, months, maybe even years, but the ones you have to write are the ones that never go away.
I recently wrote a novel I had been thinking about doing for twelve years. Yep, more than a decade. For the longest time I thought about that idea, and I was scared by it, terrified actually, so year after year would pass and I would never attempt it.
Finally, when I was in my third year of my MFA in Creative Writing program, I needed to write a thesis novel, and I decided it was finally time to put that story on paper. I was still scared to do it — terrified, actually — but the required thesis project gave me the kick in the ass I needed to face my fear and write the book. If I didn’t do it then, I was never going to do it. So I wrote and finished the book, spent more than two years revising it with the help of many people — and I’m now I’m querying it to literary agents!
Sometimes it’s necessary for your mental health to finally put that idea to rest in book form. Once the story is written, that initial idea doesn’t bother you anymore, doesn’t keep you up late at night. Find those books that need to be written, and give them your all every time. Yes, they might never be good enough. Yes, you might struggle a bit along the way.
But if the idea is strong, and if you serve it to the best of your ability, there’s no telling how much success you might have in the future!
Want to improve your skills as a writer and earn some income in the process?
Check out my new book How to Find Success on Medium.com: 100 Tips & Strategies to Make a Profit with Your Writing, now available on Amazon!