Did you ever think about the difference between wisdom and cleverness? To me, wisdom, unlike cleverness, is universal and holistic; it’s a basic principle that lies underneath every big and little thing, and makes them work. Wisdom is simple, and this is why our complicated minds rarely accept it.
Today I’d like to present some of the quotes belonging to Bruce Lee—perhaps, the most influential martial artist of the 20th century. I’ve been reading interviews of him for a while, and I noticed that many of his thoughts are perfectly applicable to what I do: writing. Below are some of the quotes that impressed me the most; I commented on them, just to show you how and why they impressed me, and how I connected them to writing.
1. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
This is obvious, but man, sometimes I spend so much time doubting before starting to write something! It’s much easier to write when you don’t torture yourself with questions like “What’s the point of all this?” or “Whose gonna read it anyway?” and so on.
2. “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
Do not strive to write everything perfectly—especially when it is your first novel/story/poem/screenplay. Great writers also make mistakes—you don’t notice them because they are on a different level.
Also, be humble, and learn from your mistakes. Great writers accept criticism and try to make their writing better every day.
3. “The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”
To me, it means that it’s important to enjoy the process of writing without desiring to become famous or earn a lot of money by writing, or achieve any other goal other than finishing your story.
4. “Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.”
It is important to find and develop your writing style. But, if you repeat yourself novel after novel, story after story, will it cause you any good? Probably not.
5. “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
Create a story you would like to read; don’t try to guess what your potential readers would expect from you. If your motive is, “to write a cool story about vampires because it’s trendy and readers will like it,” reconsider writing as your vocation. If your motive is, “I have something to say, and it is important to me,” then it’s fine.
6. “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
I think this is about methods. Do learn from great authors, borrow and adapt writing techniques that you like; avoid decorating your writing with various literary trinkets; also, bring in something fresh, something that appeared during the process of synthesizing and adapting the experiences of other writers.
7. “In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”
I don’t even know what to say—this phrase is self-sufficient.
8. “Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.”
I believe this quote deals with seeing our mistakes and our path as writers. If we do not seek to correct ourselves or to better ourselves as writers, then we are simply crawling in the dark when it comes to improvement and writing well.
9. “Practice makes perfect. After a long time of practicing, our work will become natural, skillful, swift, and steady.”
Enough said. Now go and write.
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