“The Best Writing, the Writing That Really Matters. . .Arises From a Kind of Innocence”

—From a Tom Robbins essay that appears in the book, How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors, published by Rizzoli International Publications.

For years, a homemade poster has hung above my writing desk. I suppose I made it to serve both as a reminder of certain important truths and as a kind of greeting, like the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, welcoming the nervous exile into a strange new land (in my case, the land of fictive prose that I’ve entered each morning as if for the first time).

The poster, if it can  be called that, contains two quotations from writers. . .

As for the two quotations, well, the words of Stanley Elkin are sort of a literary application of Einstein’s advice to all creative thinkers: “Go out as far as you can go and start from there.” It’s hard advice to follow, difficult as hell, but it encourages you to be adventurous and take risks, to chew on something larger and stronger than the old sociological meatball.

Nelson Algren, quite probably the greatest North American writer of the 20th century, was wise enough to recognize that the best writing, the writing that really matters, arises not from an academic, analytical approach, but rather from a kind of innocence. Armed with all the imagination, wit, and heart you can muster, you follow the Charmer’s pipes into the dark forest, naively confident that sooner or later should you survive, you’ll be led to those places where treasure is buried. To do it differently, to begin with a carefully calculated outline, for example, is to become little more than a manufacturer.

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