John Gardner | Quotations of a Novelist | #7

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“What the young writer needs to develop, to achieve his goal of becoming a great artist, is not a set of aesthetic laws but artistic mastery. He cannot hope to develop mastery all at once; it involves too much. But if he pursues his goal in the proper way, he can approach it much more rapidly than he would if he went at it hit-or-miss, and the more successful he is at each stage along the way, the swifter his progress is likely to be. Invariably when the beginning writer hands in a short story to his writing teacher, the story has many things about it that mark it as amateur. But almost as invariably, when the beginning writer deals with some particular, small problem, such as description of a setting, description of a character, or brief dialogue that has some definite purpose, the quality of the work approaches the professional. Having written some small thing very well, he begins to learn confidence.” ― John Gardnerjohn-gardner-1933-1982
John Gardner (1933–1982) was born in Batavia, New York. His critically acclaimed books include the novels Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues, and October Light, for which he received the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as several works of nonfiction and criticism. including. On Becoming a Novelist. He was also a professor of medieval literature and a pioneering creative writing teacher whose students included Raymond Carver and Charles Johnson. When I worked at Bennington College in Southern VT I would often see him walking across the campus during the Summer Writing Workshops. Or when his white hair was flowing as he rode his beloved motorcycle on campus or away. – j.kiley