Th Prompter Room

For Friday, July 6, 2018:


One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Don’t hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The very impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful; it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Annie Dillard – ‘A Writer in the World,’ THE ABUNDANCE: ESSAYS OLD AND NEW


The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 4, 2018:


Reading is meat and drink and vitamins for a writer.  Read more than you write!  Read widely and deeply.  The more you read, the more fluently and naturally you will write.

Found on an old, unattributed handout from a poetry workshop

The Prompter Room

For Friday, March 2, 2018:


… [W]henever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s someone who knows.  Writing is a lonely job.  Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.  They don’t have to make speeches.  Just believing is usually enough.


The Prompter Room

For Saturday, February 3, 2018 (with apologies, again, for being a day late):


The creative self [asks] the surrender of ordinary conceptions of identity and will for a broader kind of intimacy and allegiance. Ultimately, though, the threshold consciousness is not about ideas, whatever they may be. It is, like writing itself, about stepping past what we already think we know and into an entirely new relationship with the many possibilities of being, with the ultimately singular and limitless mystery of being. Above all, it is about freedom, and the affection for all existence that only genuine freedom brings.

Jane Hirshfield, ‘Writing and the Threshold Life,’ NINE GATES: ENTERING THE MIND OF POETRY

The Prompter Room


For Friday, June 23, 2017:


We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority. For even the most childish intoxication with progress will soon be forced to recognize that writing and books have a function that is eternal. It will become evident that formulation in words and the handing on of these formulations through writing are not only important aids but actually the only means by which humanity can have a history and a continuing consciousness of itself.

Hermann Hesse, ‘On Little Joys’ in MY BELIEF: ESSAYS ON LIFE AND ART


Hermann Hesse

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 20, 2017:


The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other.  It takes me to another place … where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time.  In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper.  Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.

Oliver Sacks

The Prompter Room

For Friday, March 3, 2017:

Maria Popova, who compiles the literary Brain Pickings (, shared this from Rainer Maria Rilke’s classic Letters to a Young Poet, which she calls ‘nothing short of secular scripture for the creative life.’

… Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.  There is only one single way.  Go into yourself.  Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.



The Prompter Room

For Friday, November 18, 2016:


… [A] writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.  Just as I believe that a painter cannot sit down to his morning coffee without noticing what color it is, so a writer cannot see an odd little gesture without putting a verbal description to it, and ought never to let a moment go by undescribed.

Shirley Jackson – ‘Memory and Delusion’ in LET ME TELL YOU, 2015

The Prompter Room

For Friday, October 21, 2016:


You know, they ask me if I were on a desert island and I knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing.  My answer is most emphatically yes.  I would go on writing for company.  Because I’m creating an imaginary – it’s always imaginary – world in which I would like to live.

William S. Burroughs – interview, THE PARIS REVIEW

The Prompter Room

A little change of pace today, generated by one of the books I’m currently reading …

I’m only 130 pages in to the novel set in Victorian England and already the co-authors have used the word ‘fulsome’ several times.  In all those instances, they have used it semi-correctly only once.

One of the characters, Cardwell, for instance, ‘tugged at his fulsome muttonchops, fiddled with his speckled bow tie, cleared his throat, and tried to keep his growing temper in check.’

Another character, Captain Miles, ‘ … sparkled in his uniform and wore very well his other emblems of authority, including side whiskers so fulsome that they would have made Edward Cardwell weep with envy.’

As Chapter Thirteen starts, one of the main characters, Douglas, reflects on the scene before him.  The ‘great ship’ Sultana is ‘as fit as any vessel put to sea.  Then again … [i]f she sank beneath those fulsome waves, succumbing to a watery grave, the only thing left afloat would be the lard.’

Perhaps you can tell from these passages which is the more correct way to use ‘fulsome.’  I’ve addressed this more fully in the Page above called ‘Those Fulsome Wordplay Blues,’ but in short, ‘fulsome’ is not a word that means something good.  In his book Fine Print James J. Kilpatrick declares it is not the ‘friendly’ word he [and I will add, most people] thought it was.  ‘Its primary meaning is insincere, phony, offensively effusive …’

The Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus defines ‘fulsome’ as ‘disgusting by excess of flattery, servility, or expressions of flattery, cloying … In fulsome praise, fulsome means “excessive,” not “generous.”‘

Using these definitions, even the third passage above, about the ‘fulsome waves,’ is not entirely correct, but it is closer to the intended meaning than ‘fulsome’ side whiskers.  Given the authors’ use of ‘fulsome waves,’ though, I wonder why neither they nor their editors noticed the difference.

I wonder, too, how many more times they’ll use the word.  And if they’ll find the right meaning eventually.