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Writers have a secret

Arthur C. Clarke, famous SF-author, was speaking to an aspirant writers group. The demands and request poured like confetti at Carnival, until to the end the master yielded. He will reveal them his great writer's secret.

The fingers of the listeners trembled, tightening pens and pencils, at a few micron from the immaculate sheet on which to immortalize the instructions that finally would transform them into famous authors.

Finally Clarke spoke. Like a oracle. And as oracle the students remained with mouths wide opened.

He only said: "Which is my greater secret to become a writer? Here's: end what you began!".

All that simple? That's all?, will sure exploded someone of the listeners, throwing the pen angrily on the table.

Too much simple, indeed? Nevertheless, are just the truths simpler, apparently banal, that are less comprised and appreciated. Arthur Clarke knew well.

Same as you…


Open the drawers of your writing desk. Leaf through the files in your writing angle. Take a glimpse to your computer files.

How many projects sketched and leaved? How many promising ideas, who enticed you, but you soon losed the enthusiasm, seduced by the unexpected passion for a new project?

There's perhaps a deep wisdom in the Clarke's words, isn't it?

"End what you began". You can't become a writer, if you don't end projects. I don't mean a famous writer, but not even one penniless.

The only way is to go on with writing, to finish the begun work. Whether you use a system, some trick or not.

That applies to all. To a simple article or a novel; to a curriculum vitæ or a story.

"End what you began". Words of pure gold. Sure, someone objects: why persist on a not promising project when there's another better? Only a stupid would behave like this.

Only a stupid, indeed?

To finish a begun project is a splendid, hard, strict self-discipline for a writer. It's easy to let go, actually. The difficult thing is to tighten the teeth (and pen) and continue. Difficult, but much more satisfying.

The world doesn't hear the echo of the word "discipline". Well, a writer must learn to be disciplined. Organized. He doesn't have time to throw away in half-accomplished projects.

I know it well. When I read the interview with the Clarke's anecdote, was just falling in that trap. My story of Karil and his sister facing a hard and pityless world had begun promising. The enthusiasm helped to write chapter after chapter. Then, abruptly, something came to jam the mechanism. A grain of sand. A touch of perplexity… In that moment a new idea appeared. Luminous. Brilliant. Its dazzling light faded the Karil project and required immediate attention…

Ok, we leave Karil. In any case, the story had attained a dead spot. And ahead with the new project…

The Clarke's words was providential. I resumed the abandoned manuscript. Some page continued to be flat. An entire chapter, perhaps. But then the story breathed through new life. New vigor, new lymph flowed from the fingers to the keys. Now the Karil manuscript waits in the drawer, with other friends. But it's finished. Needy of review, sure. A drastic review, really. But it's complete. The story is concluded.

"End what you began". To write is not an ability that is learned once for all. It is an never ending way. A continuous training. Every project completed marks a step ahead. Even if it will never be published, thanks to it the next project will turn out better. And more and more…

End what you began, my friend. Listen to me.

Because, remember:
you end it… or are ended by it!

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The following comments are for "Writers have a secret"
by Gianfranco

Writers have a secret
Gianfranco, how very right you are! I have a file of "small snippets". But when I review them, I find that one or two characters, or situations, will link up, and suddenly it's clear that I have a story that's worth something. So I will write those words up very large and post them on my picture wall where I keep the photos that have inspired me. Thanks for this post.

( Posted by: Gabion [Member] On: February 1, 2004 )

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