Ferlinghetti: Great writing is anything that gives you a view of reality that you never had before. That's what great writers do

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And now—digital drumroll—it’s time for the No. 1 entry in the Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series, the quips that branded themselves in my mind when we were creating these magazines throughout the year. Our parting words come from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the legendary poet and City Lights founder I interviewed last year for our special 90th anniversary issue. A regular prompt follows. Stick around in the coming weeks, too, as we’ve got some great ways to end up in Writer’s Digest on deck, as well as some contest announcements.

a title='By HammondCast [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons'

Here’s to you and the pen, and another year. (And if you’re going to the Writer’s Digest Conference this weekend, be sure to stop by and say Hello to Jessica and me.)

No. 1: Being a Writer
“If you’re going to be a writer you should sit down and write in the morning, and keep it up all day, every day. Charles Bukowski, no matter how drunk he got the night before or no matter how hungover he was, the next morning he was at his typewriter. Every morning. Holidays, too. He’d have a bottle of whiskey with him to wake up with, and that’s what he believed. That’s the way you became a writer: by writing. When you weren’t writing, you weren’t a writer.

What do you think makes great writing?

“The word great is really overused these days because the English language seems to have a paucity of adjectives. I mean, great writing is anything that gives you a view of reality that you never had before. For instance, when I first read Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, I said, 'Gosh, I’ve never seen the world like this before.' And that’s what great writers do."

I didn’t know that painters and writers retired. They’re like soldiers—they just fade away."

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, The WD Interview, January 2010
(click here to read the full interview, and click here to check out the rest of our 90th anniversary issue, which also features an entire package on novel writing, and our 90-year retrospective)


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"When did your hair turn white?"
"A long time ago. When I was young."

Photo by HammondCast [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons