Saturday, October 03, 2009

Advice to Writers: Donald Hall

T.S. Eliot's Advice to a Young Writer

Then it was four o'clock, or nearly; it was time for Eliot to conclude our interview, and take tea with his colleagues. He stood up, slowly enough to give me time to stand upright before he did, granting me the face of knowing when to leave. When this tall, pale, dark-suited figure struggled successfully to its feet, and I had leapt to mine, we lingered a moment in the doorway, while I sputtered ponderous thanks, and he nodded smiling to acknowledge them. Then Eliot appeared to search for the right phrase with which to send me off. He looked at me in the eyes, and set off into a slow, meandering sentence. "Let me see, said T. S. Eliot, "forty years ago I went from Harvard to Oxford. Now you are going from Harvard to Oxford. What advice can I give you?" He paused delicately, shrewdly, while I waited with greed for the words which I would repeat for the rest of my life, the advice from elder to younger, setting me on the road of emulation. When he had ticked off the comedian's exact milli­seconds of pause, he said, "Have you any long underwear?"
-DONALD HALL


This is mostly saying "Don't settle for anything less." If you are querying an agent, don't settle for just any agent. I do have some writer friends who just wanted to have an agent, but their agent wasn't really good. So now they are having to find a new agent. This goes to the point of querying agents who you don't want to work with, and don't just settle. If you are a young writer, keep writing.

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