The quote ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’ by Anton Chekhov (n.d.) is an essential piece of advice when tackling writing but is one exceptional quote enough to base all writing upon. I must say though, I find Chekhov’s quote to be one of the most valuable lessons I have encountered so far on my writing journey. When I see the moon shining – I don’t need to be told so. When shown the glint of light on broken glass though – I am enlightened. As a writer, I feel I must offer an interpretation or imagination that enables the reader to subjectively share my experience. As Anton lay, never to wake, the glint of light on broken glass eternally reflects his word.
When writing, I try to keep in mind and use the advice of what successful writers and critics allude to; in what I now consider essential components of writing. ‘If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out’ George Orwell (1946). Even if this is detrimental for a time constrained student writing an essay that has a protracted word count; just do it. You may even combine ‘it’ and ‘is’ with an apostrophe to form it’s and move the reader along a little smoother. Readers in no way want to be bogged down by an unnecessary obstacle.
Readers also want to be entertained. ‘When a good writer is having fun, the audience is almost always having fun too.’ Stephen King (2007). I can detect the mood subtleties when editing my own work and am sure readers would also if they were privileged to my manuscripts before the fun is added in. Fortunately in the technology age, when spilt coffee has filled all the spaces between your keyboard keys, no obscene language directly translates to the computer screen.
Motivation is another important aspect to attempt to understand when writing. So why do I write? Is it one of George Orwell’s (1946) four reasons?
• Sheer egoism
• Aesthetic Enthusiasm
• Historical impulse
• Political purpose
There is no doubt, all of the above four motivations influence my writing to certain degrees, but there are other motivations as well that can’t easily be defined. My predominant motivation is to be able to enter into a snowstorm during the middle of summer. With escapism I haven’t detected any nasty side effects as yet; time does flow very fast though when experiencing this type of dimension. Escapism also lets the characters you create deal with the problems you and others face in real life. One warning when involved with escapism is that dealing with problems in a literary sense does not immediately translate to solving problems in the real world. ‘Leave everything. Leave Dada. Leave your wife. Leave your mistress. Leave your hopes and fears. Leave your children in the woods. Leave the substance for the shadow. Leave your easy life, leave what you are given for…‘ Andre Breton (n.d.)
The hardest thing for me to accept when writing is that when you have written a piece of work it’s considered not complete. It may be complete in thought and originality, but it’s merely ready for the editing process. Wouldn’t it be nice to believe your writing was instantly polished and to be able to forget it, and move on with another piece of writing, say, after brunch? ‘This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.’ Oscar Wilde (n.d.). Now that’s what I call an ideal editing process for a writer to aim for.
Since beginning to write I have asked myself the question, ‘Should there be reason not to write?’ I don’t believe there are any reasons unless you are allergic to your own expression. Should there be a reason not to express yourself? Writing, as with any other art form, is freedom to release, express and share your own imagination. ‘You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’ Mark Twain (n.d.). Everyone has imagination, whether that be formed from the images from what people actually see, or from what people have perceived to have experienced, but not everyone has the ability to express their imagination in the way Anton Chekhov describes and encourages, ‘‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’. Anton Chekov (n.d.)
Andrew Mansell, November 2010.
Breton, A (n.d.), Andre Breton Escapism Quotes, IWise Inc., viewed 26 November 2010,
Chekhov, A n.d., goodreads.com, Goodreads Inc, viewed 25 November 2010, <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/16383>.
King, S 2007, Entertainment Weekly, Time Warner, USA.
Orwell, G 1946, Politics and the English Language, Horizon, London.
Orwell, G 1946, Why I Write, Gangrel, London.
Twain, M n.d., Michael Moncur’s (Cynical) Quotations, QuotationsPage.com,
viewed 26 November 2010, <http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/986.html >.
Wide, O n.d., Oscar Wilde Online, viewed 27 November 2010, <http://www.wilde-online.info/poetry.htm>.