Writing is learned by imitation; we all need models. […] But our best models may be men and women writing in fields different from our own.

William Zinsser schrijft in Writing to learn dat het bij nonfictie niet zozeer gaat om het onderwerp, de inhoud (natuurlijk gaat het om het onderwerp, de inhoud), maar vooral om de relatie van de schrijver tot het onderwerp. Iemands interesse interesseert, en dan vooral iemands levende, levendige interesse.

‘I wouldn’t look for writing, for instance, by journalists, good though it might be. If the discipline was geology I wanted good writing by a geologist. If it was evolutinon I wanted Darwin, if it was relativity I wanted Einstein, if it was cell biology I wanted Lewis Thomas.’

Het schrijven?

Iedereen kan schrijven die kan denken en een vak beheerst, of beheerst wordt door een vak.

William Zinsser hield van 2010 t/m 2011 een log bij op The American Scholar, hij schreef 82 berichten. Een selectie is gepubliceerd als boek, The writer who stayed, ze staan ook op theamericanscholar.org, ‘and I invite you to revisit them, especially the many that deal with the hard and lonely task of writing. They will remind you not to write for the wrong reasons — marketplace reasons that crush your true identity. Give yourself permission to believe in the validity of your own narrative.’

Ik heb op de knop geduwd, verlang ook het boek. Papier is rebels, geduldig, zacht en hard, het stalkt niet, wil niet weten hoe lang ik lees, welke woorden ik onderstreep, waar ik lees (thuis, in de lentezon achter glas). Het leest, kortom, niet over mijn schouder mee, ligt loom op zijn rug in mijn schoot, als een ontspannen kat die zich over de buik laat aaien.

What I’ve learned writing this blog

The Overtone Years
Sympathetic vibrations at the age of 89

Looking for a Model
My true writing style emerged when I became a teacher

The Writer Who Stayed
Novelist Daniel Fuchs went west and wrote screenplays for 34 years

Thanksgiving Day Repainted
Norman Rockwell’s successor

The Perils of Pauline Kael
On not taking yourself seriously as a movie critic

Brother, Can You Spare a Job?
Songwriter Yip Harburg and Occupy Wall Street

Hats Off
And then where will we stow them?

Nowhere People
The downside of being well connected

Dancing With Scrolls
How I first learned about Simchat Torah

Hold the Emotion!
Don’t set out to write a heart-tugging memoir

“Who Would Care about My Story?”
Successful memoirs are built from details that ring true

No Place Like “Home”
Historian v New York Times hinges on the meaning of “home delivery”

Flunking Description
Why I tried to write like a Victorian novelist

Improving a Masterpiece
Messing around with ‘Porgy’

Peter McGuire’s Holiday
Summer’s final gift of unexamined time

No Degrees of Separation
Letting go when the kid leaves for college

Blue Moons and Buttermilk Skies
American songwriters knew that weather was a state of mind

No Proverbs, Please
Writing English as a second language

The ‘A’ Word
What’s expected of an orthodox WASP

Summer House Books
In praise of The Mask of Fu Manchu and other chestnuts

On the Trail of Sublime
Starting out at Niagara Falls

Unexpected Visitors
Why voodoo is preferable to adumbrate

How to Get to Our House
Bob & Linda provide simple directions

The Last of the Lone Wanderers
What elevates travel writing to literature

Me and My Relationships
Sandra is giving me up for Brad

Baseball Without Myths
Manager Jim Leyland’s “unbelievably rough summer”

Writing for the Wrong Reasons
Publishers don’t necessarily have the answers

In Memoriam
A visit to Omaha Beach

Central Park Lite
Experiential optimization in the app brigade

No Last Names
Fundraisers call me “William”

Trapped by the Past
Finding a different take on John Horne Burns’s story

Once Around the Sun
What I’ve learned in a year of blogging

Easter Light
“…was blind, but now I see.”

Content Management
In praise of long-form journalism

Tristes Tropiques
Remembering the screenwriter of North by Northwest

Prisoners of Britspeak
The elocution problem with English movies

A Cousin from Cologne
This Zinsser family story took me by surprise

In Bed by the Last Eight
Musings about songs upon the death of a fine singer

The 300-Word Challenge
On writing short essays

Working for Tina Brown
It’s about how to communicate

Looking Forward, Looking Back
What are memoirs about?

The Right to Write
Getting published isn’t the only reason to write your story

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Up from Disneyland, on to Appomattox

No Second Act
John Horne Burns and The Gallery

Stardust Memories
Immigrant lyricists embraced American language with fierce love

Goodbye and Don’t Come Back
My problems with postmodernism

It’s a life choice: I don’t have email

Blondie and Dilbert
How Chic Young made me look none too bright

Obama and the Lac Bug
Here’s hoping our president gets many more shellackings

A Christmas Dinner
The frozen winter of 1944, on a base in the heel of Italy

Stopping Steve Martin
When giving the public what it wants is a bad idea

Yes, But
I collect self-canceling headlines, but I’m tired of them

“Bring Back Boredom!”
Rewire multitask tendencies

Tales of ‘South Pacific’
Star turns and caricatures then; dramatic coherence today

On the Trail of the Chêng Ho
From Coral Gables, Florida, to a harbor in Tahiti

I don’t give them to writers

The Revenge of the Comic Novel
The Finkler Question joins the ranks of Man Booker Prize winners

Crash Through That Line of Blue!
In football songs, exact rhymes and strict meters are not required

An Interesting Life
Frank Boyden, Deerfield Academy headmaster

Fantasia for the Left Hand
Rehabilitation poetry for a wounded friend

Men of Letters
Book-of-the-Month Club mandarins

Out of Order
In writing, think first about process instead of product

Singing Along with Mitch
Miller revived an American tradition

One Man’s Library
Author James Norman Hall collected Joseph Conrad

Where Did the Summer Go?
Songs about a seaside community

The Grand Tour
Not just Renaissance Italy any more

Literate Revelry
Light verse gets no respect

Detour Ahead
Lost with Ian Frazier

Mark Twain’s Hannibal
Fictions and truths in the Mississippi River town

Sacred Objects
Hall of Famer Edd Roush’s last interview

Family Albums
Memoirs with wide appeal accentuate the particular

Stevenson’s Ghost
Where the Treasure Island author wrote his final chapter

Like a Mighty Stream
Maya Lin’s monument in Montgomery

What Does It Do?
What Dwike Mitchell taught me about broken pianos

Melville’s South Seas Myth
Re-enforced by Gauguin and Lamour

Life and Work
Why plumbers are good role models for writers

The Old Flotilla
Checking out Kipling’s Burma

Permission Givers
To teach is to allow and to encourage

At Ease in the Stone Age
Closing the gap between Finchingfield and Irian Jaya

Rescued by Humor
More thoughts on less seriousness

A Joyful Noise
Lighten up, even when your story is dark

Sharing the Issues
Let me tell you what I think about that

Simple Geometry
A Matisse quote, Beethoven’s “Ode,” and Hirschfeld’s lines