On Writing, Motivation, Purity, and Other Stuff


“A writing life is at the very least a double life. It is a life in which not only memory but also forgetfulness has value.”

This wonderful resource takes the author’s personal experiences, literary references, and environmental variances to address common hindrances for the dawning of and hopeful success in writing. There is so much to learn and contemplate while reading this book, even if you have no intention of putting pen to paper in a professional manner. The author guides you through various processes, shows you both sides of the argument and highlights the silver lining in a seemingly sky full of black clouds. This is a hard book for me to review because of its subjective content so I will just share with you my thoughts that I had while reading it. There is no cohesion, links, or connections between these thoughts despite the fact of being found while reading Swallowing the Sea by Lee Upton.

One of the basic fundamental truths, which seem rather elementary to talk about, is that the writer must be interested in the novel that they are writing. The purpose besides selfishness and enjoyment is to minimize the potential impact found when you are bored with the material. With the omniscient “everywhere you turn” dynamic of social media, boredom has become less of a presence than it was even ten years ago. With that factor nullified, the inspiration once relied on by writers known as daydreaming has also taken a backseat.

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Fear of failure, potential oblivion, and metaphysical decay is what propels writers to spend time on their four hundredth attempt in the revision process. Wanton ambition can bring out the best and worst in us all from a brazen superiority complex to a retiring inferiority complex, the better judgment is in the aim of your ambition. For the most part writing is a precarious beast in and of itself. As much as one strives for extrinsic rewards, which for the majority of participants is as elusive as air, you must go into it relishing in the intrinsic rewards that you receive, because the only certainty is the depreciation of your resources, so you might as well get something out of it.

At one time purity was regarded with a positive outlook, today it is seen predominantly with a negative connotation. With respect to writing, purity can be achieved by simplifying your work for concentrated and profound effect. Shakespearian insults/burns in one section were very funny and provided me a good fifteen minutes of free entertainment. The relationships between the author’s life on the farm and boredom, boredom as the underlying theme in The Wizard of Oz, and The Wizard of Oz as it relates to writing were a very interesting section. The section on Erasing All Over Again was very reflective of my feelings. When I have completed my processes of writing something in the past, I truly never want to look at it again. That is unless I am inebriated and at that instance it feels like I am reading someone else’s work, then it is a tad more palatable.


“The self that Yeats talked about remaking in every line gets remade so utterly that with each book a different person emerges, or at least the flickering perception of a rebirth. Or another less sanguine possibility exists. What occurs is rejection of the previous self, flawed and searching, the self cast off in favor of the next writing self, a new and more sterling phantom.”

Art will always be the preferred method for either directly revealing buried secrets through memoirs or indirectly through fiction. With very few secrets in this new age, readers relish in the ability of discerning the in plain view, hiding, or buried secrets that stories bring. As gratifying as the writer/reader relationship can be, it is also tempestuous as the reader can often pigeonhole the writer, accepting nothing else than what is expected of them. Writers are often unfairly branded by their impassioned readers with respect to their method of literary delivery. Changing Genres = Changing Minds.


This book falls in the category of one that I generally don’t find myself gravitating towards because of the attention it demands, the ponderous nature of the material, and the corresponding burden placed on me as a reader. It took me out of my comfort zone but I am glad I was granted the opportunity to read it. Some people may read it anticipating a story with twists and turns and excitement. Well… there are those feelings; they just come in the form of, who or what the author is going to introduce us to next, or where she is going to take us. Some people will read it and not agree with everything the author has to say, but I can safely guarantee that everyone that reads it will be able to take something away from it. One problem I did have was that I would have liked to have heard more from the author and have less reliance on the voice of key literary figures. This book has plenty of suggestions for writers and will secondarily increase a reader’s awareness and increase the respect that should be shown to writers as they try to master their craft. Thank you to the author for a great tool and adding a few books to my shopping list 😉

“Failure the shock of irreversible disease, exile, a city destroyed, an ill mind untreatable, death. Success isn’t the opposite of failure. The miracle is.
But miracles tend to stun us or incite disbelief. Failure is where we are forced to confront ourselves.”


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