EppsNet Archive: Writing

Denis Johnson, 1949-2017

28 May 2017 /

Three rules to write by:

Write naked. That means to write what you would never say.
Write in blood. As if ink is so precious you can’t waste it.
Write in exile, as if you are never going to get home again, and you have to call back every detail.

RIP Denis Johnson

At some point, even if you don’t need the money, you have to teach what you were taught. — Ken Kesey

Put the Pen on the Paper

4 Jan 2015 /

9 Links

1 Mar 2014 /
  1. Data Structure Visualizations
  2. Good Tech Lead, Bad Tech Lead
  3. Google Java Style
  4. Guide to 12 Disruptive Technologies
  5. How to Write a Cover Letter
  6. The Landing Page Optimization Guide You Wish You Always Had
  7. Selendroid: Selenium for Android
  8. UX Axioms by Eric Dahl
  9. Yelp’s got style (and the guide to back it up)

Aerogramme Writers’ Studio: Emily Dickinson Attends a Writing Workshop

Posted by on 25 Jul 2013

The Lightning-Bug and the Lightning

20 Apr 2013 /
Mark Twain

This picture was taken just after I said to Mark Twain, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

And Twain said, “That’s a good one! I’ve got to write that down!”

Actually, the Twain statue is just inside the main entrance of Doe Library at UC Berkeley. I asked the nerdy-looking Asian girl at the front desk, “Who’s the guy on the bench?” She stared at me for a second. “Kidding,” I said.

“At first, I thought it was Albert Einstein,” she said, “so it doesn’t surprise me when people don’t know.”

Bernadette Mayer’s Writing Experiments

Posted by on 10 Nov 2012

Fame and Fortune Are Within Your Grasp

11 Sep 2012 /

Select a topic about which you have little information but many prejudices, such as “Whither Modern Youth?” “The Menace of Federal Encroachments on American Freedom,” “The National Association of Manufacturers: A Threat to Democracy,” “Big Unions: A Threat to Free Enterprise,” “What’s Wrong with Modern Women,” “Let’s Cut the Fads and Frills from Education,” or “The South: Yesterday and Today,” and write a one-thousand-word essay consisting solely of sweeping generalizations, broad judgments, and unfounded inferences. Use plenty of “loaded” words. Knock off five points (out of a possible 100) for each verifiable fact used. If you can consistently score 95 or better on all these and other such topics, and your grammar and spelling are plausible, leave your present job. Or quit school. Fame and fortune are within your grasp.

The Elements of Style Rap

3 Jun 2012 /

Better Than Everybody Else

17 Sep 2011 /

If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to write better than everybody else. You must take an obsessive pride in the smallest details of your craft.

— William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Replace “write” with whatever it is you want to do better than everybody else.

Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. — Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

Selling Typewriters

16 Apr 2011 /


“My son just finished college last year. He wants to write but he’s selling typewriters until he gets started,” his mother said . . . the woman across the aisle said in a loud voice, “Well that’s nice. Selling typewriters is close to writing. He can go right from one to the other.”

— Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

Bird by Bird

14 Feb 2011 /
Bird by Bird

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. He was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

If Stieg Larsson Wrote Don Quixote

27 Dec 2010 /
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso

The last two novels I’ve read are Don Quixote and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Don Quixote has no plot. Event follows event but it all grows naturally out of character and conditions. The characters are immortal, independent of time and place.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nothing but plot. It’s a good plot but none of the characters are interesting outside the confines of the story. They certainly have no sense of humor.

Cervantes takes 900 pages to allow his two principal characters to reveal themselves through their words and actions. Larsson just blurts everything out:

Erika was an organizer who could handle employees with warmth and trust but who at the same time wasn’t afraid of confrontation and could be very tough when necessary. She and Mikael often had differing views and could have healthy arguments, but they also had unwavering confidence in each other, and together they made an unbeatable team.

That’s the difference between a masterpiece and a potboiler. One difference, anyway.

It occurred to me that with his explanatory style, Larsson could have written Don Quixote in one short paragraph:

Don Quixote, in his dignity and generosity, his unselfish ideals, and his fearless devotion to them, was always heroic and beautiful. Sancho Panza was a fat little man who saw very clearly the advantages of staying alive with a whole skin. They often had differing views and could have healthy arguments, but they also had unwavering confidence in each other, and together they made an unbeatable team. THE END.

Lester Bangs, 1948-1982

4 Sep 2010 /
Lester Bangs

My responsibility as I see it as a critic is not to help a lot of new bands sell their records. It’s to help people who are buying the records to keep from making a purchase that they’re going to get home and hate my guts and the band’s too because it’s a piece of shit. And these critics, most of them, it’s much easier to help the bands, because you get more work that way and every magazine wants to print reviews that say, “This is wonderful, this is great, go out and buy it.” A lot of magazines won’t even print negative reviews. A friend of mine does a record review column in Esquire, and it’s like five positive reviews every time. They don’t want you to say anything that’s bad because they don’t get advertising bucks that way. So it becomes like a facet of your groovy modern lifestyle. Well fuck that shit.


When I look back on it, it was obvious that I was gonna end up doing this because my two big obsessions were always music and writing. It’s an outgrowth of being a fanatical record collector and a fanatical listener. You have fanatical opinions that you want to inflict on people.


I don’t know where I can go really from having as bad an attitude as I do, but it’s the only attitude I think that you can have.

This Year’s Worst Sentence

29 Jun 2010 /

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.


Happy Birthday, Virginia Woolf

25 Jan 2010 /

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters.

— Virginia Woolf (Jan 25, 1882 – Mar 28, 1941)

Twitter: 2009-12-02

2 Dec 2009 /

Twitter: 2009-11-13

13 Nov 2009 /

Twitter: 2009-08-11

11 Aug 2009 /

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