15 EB White Quotes on Writing

Author E.B. White would turn 119 today. To honor the prolific, versatile and adroit writer — Charlotte’s Web, Here is New York, The Elements of Style and countless New Yorker essays are among his many varied works — here are 15 excellent E.B. White quotes on writing.

  1. “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”
  2. “Writing is hard work and bad for the health.”
  3. “Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along.”
  4. “I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that doesn’t have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many men are born upright.”
  5. “Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.”
  6. “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.”
  7. “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
  8. “A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. … A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy: true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down.”
  9. “The best writing is re-writing.”
  10. “Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about man; write about a man.”
  11. “Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject.”
  12. “The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.”
  13. “A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.”
  14. “Although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.”
  15. “Use the smallest word that does the job.

Fin.

American Bigotry: 1832, 2018

Just a note, in case you’re interested: On this date in 1832, virulently racist President Andrew Jackson named Elbert Herring the first commissioner of the recently reorganized Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Freshly incorporated into the War Department, this newly emboldened agency soon enacted, at Jackson’s specific request, the forced removal of thousands of Native Americans from their rightful land, leading to the Trail of Tears. This wasn’t the first time Indians would be kicked off their land, nor would it be the last, but it was the largest such event of its kind, and the most brutal: an estimated 2,500-6,000 died as they were shoved west and involuntarily settled on reservations.

On a related note: Donald Trump cites Jackson as an inspiration. Could Jackson’s anti-Indian attitudes be inspiring the current president’s use of ICE to round up and detain Mexican immigrants, even those who are already naturalized citizens?

“Join, or Die:” America’s First Meme

Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 version of the iconic reptile.

The “Join, or Die” snake is one of America’s most recognizable, beloved and replicated icons. Emblazoned on flags and t-shirts, pillow cases and iPhone cases, and even on tv show title cards and in comic books, the image is upheld today as a both specifically as an emblem of American independence, and generally as bid for unity against a common oppression. But the world’s most adored reptile didn’t start this way.

Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, the “Join, or Die” snake originally signified loyalty to the English empire. It wasn’t a call to action, but an order to fall into line. It was only later that “Join, or Die” evolved into a revolutionary rallying cry — and when it did, it became America’s first meme, too.

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All the LGBT Books Around My House

Pride month ends today, and I still haven’t penned anything LGBTQ-related. Considering so much of my career has been in gay media, that seems wrong. But what to write? I’m pretty out of touch with queer politics and culture at the moment, so I guess I’ll just keep it simple: a cruise through lavender-tinged titles around my house.

Starting in my office, where I spend most of my time, the top row of a tall brown Ikea Billy bookshelf holds many homo-related hardbacks: Leo Lerman’s diaries, The Grand Surprise, abut Between Me and Life, Meryle Secrest’s biography of lesbian painter Romaine Brooks, which are next to the equally Sapphic Selected Letters of Willa Cather, which is pressed against The Days of Anna Madrigal. Theoretically the rest of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series should be up here, but those paperback copies are elsewhere.

On that same row you’ll find Tim Murphy’s Christadora, about the lives, loves and losses of people in the East Village apartment building of the same name, and Cathers’ collection of short stories, Obscure Destinies, which I’ve never read but hope to soon. Speaking of, I’m not sure where my copy of O Pioneers! moseyed off to; I do know My Antonia was abandoned on a Brooklyn stoop — I didn’t care for her. Meanwhile, a few titles over from Destinies, are three EM Forster tomes: his realist and oh-too-relevant political collection, Two Cheers for Democracy; the heart-breaking Maurice; and a collection of the English author’s short tales. (Howard’s End is elsewhere.)

Finally, off to the right, a recently acquired paperback of John Rechy’s raunchy Rushes lays on its side, appropriately removed and aptly aloof.

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Found in the LOC: 5 Alcoholism PSAs, 1972-1976

I recently celebrated six years since my last alcoholic beverage. Awesome, right?! I think so, especially since I started drinking at age 12 or 13 and by the end of my journey, at age 31, I was waking at 6am just to take a slug of whiskey, of which I drank at least a liter daily before passing out in a puddle of sweat and filth on my frame-less mattress, as I had done the day before, and the one before that, and before that, too. You get the idea.

By the time I hit bottom I was unemployed, kicked out of my apartment and penniless.  Luckily, I had friends and family willing to help me down the road to recovery. And now here I am: I have a roof over my head, steady work, a boyfriend and a cat, and, most importantly, an incredible sense of accomplishment for having freed myself from a cycle of shame and regret.

With that in mind, and with discussion that alcohol perhaps played a role in Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, here are five vintage PSAs about alcoholism, all government-issued between 1972 and 1976. Why don’t such things exist today? I haven’t done too much research, but my educated guess is that it has something to do with liquor lobbyists and political persuasion and some agreement that a small “please drink responsibly” print fulfilled the companies’ legal obligations, even though The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found in 2105 that 15.1 million adults suffer from alcoholism in the United States, while 26.9% of adults reported binge drinking that same year.

Meanwhile, alcohol contributes to 88,000 deaths annually, and that’s not counting drunk driving deaths (almost 10,500 in 2017), nor does it consider the contributing role alcohol plays in non-fatal domestic and sexual violence (an estimated 100,000 cases each year). In other words, alcohol has vast destructive potential too often ignored.

If you are struggling with your alcohol usage, please check out Alcoholics Anonymous or another dedicated group. I’m proof that even the most desperate of cases can free themselves from alcohol dependency. It takes hard work and a lot of honesty and you may lose some drinking buddies, but it’s far less than what could be taken from you in the long run: your life.

Anyway, check out these dope alcoholism PSAs, AFTER THE JUMP….

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Video: Helen Keller Tells It

In addition to being a die-hard advocate for women’s rights, a champion for people with disabilities and totally anti-war, Helen Keller, whose 138th birthday is today, was also fiercely socialist. Economic inequality was anathema to America’s promises of equality and opportunity, she said.

The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands—the ownership and control of their livelihoods—are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.

And this same sentiment informed her anti-war stance, too:

The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. … It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery… You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.

Today, as our nation hurtles further and further into a right-wing nightmare, let’s celebrate Keller not just for overcoming being deaf and blind to become an international inspiration, but for her staunch defense of human rights, democracy and American justice, something which, if recent news is any indication, is increasingly blind. (And will likely become even more so…)

AFTER THE JUMP, Keller discusses her greatest regret – not being able to speak like the rest of us, which is too bad, because she left a far larger impression than most people who can speak “normal.”

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