Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quote for the day: why writers write

This is kind of a quote within a quote within a quote.  It's from a review of Katherine Paterson's book Gates of Excellence, in which she quotes from both Edith Hamilton (who is quoting from Hesiod) and Charles Schultz.  Gates of Excellence is where I first heard (years ago) of Children of the Fox, which I tracked down and read, and which I then had to "sweat" to get through ILL so that we could use it in school this year.
At the beginning of the book, when Paterson is asked when she wanted to be a writer, she explains that it was her love of reading that made her want to “get inside the process (Paterson, p. 2)” not that she ever wanted to be a writer at all. In this opening essay, she shares two items in her office that apparently protect her from her “terror of mediocrity.” One is a Greek quote borrowed from Edith Hamilton which also provides the title for this collection:

Before the gates of excellence
The high gods have placed sweat (Ibid, p. 3).

The other is a mounted Charles Schultz cartoon of Snoopy typing, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Snoopy then remarks, “Good writing is hard work.” I’m not sure the Greeks actually said “sweat” but the point is both remind her that she is a worker, not a part of some gifted group bestowing their words on “less fortunate mortals (Ibid p.3).”

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