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In Remembrance of a Writer Past…

Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want.
…Doris Lessing

Scribe smallThere come times when events beyond our control interfere with life and cause us to change plans. It is such a time here at the Editor’s Corner, where the stuff of life must take precedence over the stuff of blogs.

Rather than leave the space empty, though, I give you the words of one far wiser than I, an extraordinary author who died this past weekend: Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing said once, “I’m just a story teller.” ‘Just’ implies a meager endeavor, and yet what higher calling is there? We should all aspire to be ‘just story tellers’ like she. She’s a difficult writer and, by many accounts, was a sometime-difficult woman, but her prose is clear and provocative, and her advice on reading, writing, and living are nuggets as golden as her Notebook.



“A public library is the most democratic thing in the world. What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants: demagogues can persecute writers and tell them what to write as much as they like, but they cannot vanish what has been written in the past, though they try often enough…People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination. If you read, you can learn to think for yourself.” 


“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.”

“A writer falls in love with an idea and gets carried away.”


“You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can’t be a way of life – the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.”

“A story is how we construct our experiences.”

“You can only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”

“In the writing process, the more the story cooks, the better. The brain works for you even when you are at rest. I find dreams particularly useful. I myself think a great deal before I go to sleep and the details sometimes unfold in the dream.”

“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”


“What’s terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better.”