This seems especially appropriate since much of our discussion revolved about the difficulty of simply making one's self write!
As I was doing a bit of research on Trollope, I found an article titled, "How to Write 2,500 Words Before Breakfast Every Day." (Click on the portrait of Trollope to go to the article in another window. And perhaps take a moment to admire the man's hair style!)
I also found this interesting list of tips:
10 Timeless Writing Tips
- Have something to say.
The first rule, then, for a good style is that the author should have something to say; nay, this is in itself almost all that is necessary.
(Arthur Schopenhauer, "On Style." Parerga und Paralipomena, 1851)
- Say it.
Think it out quite clearly in your own mind, and then put it down in the simplest words that offer, just as if you were telling it to a friend, but dropping the tags of the day with which your spoken discourse would naturally be garnished.
(Frederic Harrison, "On Style in English Prose." Nineteenth Century, June 1898)
- Don't wait for inspiration.
Had I mentioned to someone around 1795 that I planned to write, anyone with any sense would have told me to write for two hours every day, with or without inspiration. Their advice would have enabled me to benefit from the ten years of my life I totally wasted waiting for inspiration.
(Stendhal [Marie-Henri Beyle], Souvenirs d'Égotisme [Memoirs of an Egotist], 1892)
- Keep it simple.
Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English--it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.
(Mark Twain, letter to D. W. Bowser, March 1880)
- Mix it up.
There are occasions when the simplest and fewest words surpass in effect all the wealth of rhetorical amplification. An example may be seen in the passage which has been a favourite illustration from the days of Longinus to our own. "God said: Let there be light! and there was light." This is a conception of power so calm and simple that it needs only to be presented in the fewest and the plainest words, and would be confused or weakened by any suggestion of accessories. . . .
Although this sentence from Genesis is sublime in its simplicity, we are not to conclude that simple sentences are uniformly the best . . .. The reader's pleasure must not be forgotten; and he cannot be pleased by a style which always leaps and never flows. A harsh, abrupt, and dislocated manner irritates and perplexes him by its sudden jerks. It is easier to write short sentences than to read them. . . . [T]he sharp short sentences which are intolerable when abundant, when used sparingly act like a trumpet-call to the drooping attention.
(George Henry Lewes, "The Principles of Success in Literature." The Fortnightly Review, 1865)
- Chop wood.
Learn to split wood, at least. . . . [S]teady labor with the hands, which engrosses the attention also, is unquestionably the best method of removing palaver and sentimentality out of one's style, both of speaking and writing. . . . We are often struck by the force and precision of style to which hard-working men, unpracticed in writing, easily attain when required to make the effort. As if plainness, and vigor, and sincerity, the ornaments of style, were better learned on the farm and in the workshop, than in the schools.
(Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)
- Read aloud.
He who wants to know whether he has written what he wishes to say, and as he ought to say it, let him read it aloud to himself. Even his own voice will seem as apart from him as that of an auditor. Or let him do as the shrewd Moliere did, read his composition to his cook, if no one else is at hand--read it to any one who will listen--and the reader will at once become sensible of redundancies, omissions, irrelevancies, and incongruities, of which his own wit will never make him sensible. Even stupidity as an auditor will improve style.
(George Jacob Holyoake, Public Speaking and Debate: A Manual for Advocates and Agitators, 2nd. ed., 1896)
I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing with my ear the sound of the words and phrases. I would strongly recommend this practice to all tyros in writing. . . . [B]y reading what he has last written, just before he recommences his task, the writer will catch the tone and spirit of what he is then saying, and will avoid the fault of seeming to be unlike himself.
(Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, 1883)
- Slow down--and rewrite.
The swiftly done work of the journalist, and the cheap finish and ready-made methods to which it leads, you must try to counteract in private by writing with the most considerate slowness and on the most ambitious models. And when I say "writing"--O believe me, it is rewriting that I have chiefly in mind.
(Robert Louis Stevenson, letter to Richard Harding Davis, 1889)
In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.
(Sydney Smith, quoted by Saba Holland in A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith, 1855)
I also realized when I looked at a list of Trollope's novels, that I have read very little of his work. So, I downloaded Barchester Towers to take on my vacation next week. (Note that many of Trollope's books are free, or extremely cheap, in digital form through Amazon. You may click on the book title to go to the Amazon page.)
I think that most of us would agree that writers absolutely have to be readers. And as Trollope says, "The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade."
So, I hope everyone has a productive week. I am still in art making mode today, but I feel the switch to reader/writer/traveler is about to happen as I clean up my studio and put everything back in its place. I will close this section of my blog today with a few final words from Trollope, which I choose to interpret as a reminder that ultimately we must be realistic, we must be kind to ourselves and do the best we can:
Not the End
Sharing is Caring
Come to me.
or has never left.
within the formless,
beckoning to shadow.
Within this serene and silver shade is a space for your truth.
These arms, this unseen heart will hold a place for speaking the unspoken.
Fill the shadow-embrace with your truth.
Tell me your story.
Still Not the End...
1. Write the poem or song first. It will be much easier to write the title once you already know what you said and what you want to communicate. Read through it again or skim it before working on the title.
2. What is the tone of the poem or song? If this is a serious or sad poem or song, don't be too silly or off-the-wall with your title. If it is joking song or poem , meant to be funny or a little strange, it's ok to title it in a different manner. But the title should match the tone of the song or poem.
3. Pull out a few keywords that sum up your poem or song. After you have your keywords, brainstorm some ideas around them. Do the words fit together? Are they jarringly different? Do they remind you of another word that sums up the whole idea? Spend a few minutes brainstorming. Maybe one or more of the words can be a title.
4. Avoid cliches. Your poem or song may be about love or hate, anger or sandess as a lot of creative works are, but art is about expressing those ideas in a new way that calls out to the reader. If you want to express one of those ideas in your title, then try to think of synonyms.
5. Find a phrase from your poem or song that can represent the whole word, or that is particularly poignant or thought provoking.
6. Use a startling, interesting, beautiful or surprising image that can represent the work. It doesn't have to directly reflect the work but it should be related.
7. Think of images that are the opposite of your work and think if they can be made negative to show an interesting contrast for your poem or song's title.
8. Try some clever word play for your title such as a double entendre or word or words with a double meaning that could apply to your paper.
9. Ask someone else for help if you are still having trouble. Have them read over your song or poem and ask what strikes them.
10. If there is a repeating verse,that is always another option for a title.
I also came across this helpful article: "Expanding Your Poem with a Great Title." (Click on the title to read.)
Other places to look for discussion regarding titles:
Ted Kooser's Poetry Repair Manual, which is a terrific book. Unfortunately I could not put my hands on it today. It is probably under my bed, or in the closet, or who knows where writing books hide...
The Portable Poetry Workshop by Jack Myers. (Another book I am packing for my trip.) Here is a list of the many types of titles Myers identifies: (There is so much to look at here. I have provided very brief explanations of each type, but we will want to discuss these further in the near future.)
The self-evident title-what the poem is obviously about.
The literal title-calls attention to some aspect of the subject matter.
Titles taken from lines in the poem.
The formal title-names the form or genre.
The naming title-states the theme of the work.
Titles that capture a character or quality-focuses on a particular trait.
The symbolic title-raises a literal image to the connotative level.
The apostrophe-addresses someone or something.
The associative title-adds another dimension to the poem, sort of "off the page" thinking.
The layered title-contains more than one meaning which unfolds as the poem is read.
The plot title-completes the poem and supplies closure.