In Memoriam – Ursula K. Le Guin: 1929 – 2018

“The way to make something good is to make it well.  If the ingredients are extra good (truffles, vivid prose, fascinating characters) that’s a help. But it’s what you do with them that counts. With the most ordinary ingredients (potatoes, everyday language, commonplace characters) – and care and skill in using them – you can make something extremely good.”

“If your manuscript doesn’t follow the rules of what’s currently trendy, the rules of what’s supposed to be salable, the rule some great authority laid down, you’re supposed to make it do so. Most such rules are hogwash, and even sound ones may not apply to your story. What’s the use of a great recipe for soufflé if you’re making blintzes? The important thing is to know what it is you’re making, where your story is going, so that you use only the advice that genuinely helps you get there. The hell with soufflé, stick to your blintzes.”

“Distrust anybody — fellow writer, agent, editor — who tells you that fiction must use only limited third person.  It’s trendy at the moment, sure. But the surest way to go out of vogue is to be in it.”

“All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people.” – The Wave in the Mind, 2004.

“I think the word success confuses people. They get recognition mixed up with achievement, and celebrity mixed up with excellence. I rarely use the word – it confuses me. I didn’t want to be a success, I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t set out to write successful books. I tried to write good ones.”

“There is no reason a married woman with children can’t also be a committed artist. This seems self-evident now but wasn’t immediately clear to me.”

“You can regret a decision you made in an earlier book and correct it in a later work. This is a hard one in our unforgiving times, when your previous missteps are eternal and only a google away. But there is nothing shameful in becoming a better person, a wiser person. Done right, it’s pretty heroic.”

“Other writers are not your competition. They are your sustenance. Writing is joyous, but never as joyous as reading.”

“Speak up for the books, poems, shows, music, and paintings you love even though you sound smarter and more discerning when you can’t be pleased.”

“[I]mmortality has never worked out well for anyone. Avoid it at all costs.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

4 Comments

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4 responses to “In Memoriam – Ursula K. Le Guin: 1929 – 2018

  1. Wow, I’ve never read any of her work, but based on these pearls, she sounds like she was a remarkable and wise woman. Thanks for sharing these. My favorite?: “The hell with soufflé, stick to your blintzes.” 😄

    • When she said blintz, I thought of blini, which is almost the same thing: a small pancake traditional in Russia and generally used for such things as sour cream and caviar. And here I’ve been using Wheat Thins for my caviar spreads all these years!

      I feel her best advice is that established “rules” for what’s proper and improper in writing are “hogwash.” That’s how I’ve always felt, as other people’s rules don’t necessarily apply to me.

  2. It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Ursula K. Le Guin

    Sad to hear that her wonderful journey has reached its end.

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