June 2018


by Ryan O’Neill

Advice for writing

The great authors offer words of wisdom

The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going.
Ray Bradbury

If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first.
Katherine Anne Porter


Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project.
Geoff Dyer

No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
Samuel Johnson


Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
Kurt Vonnegut

With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say that I have a great respect for the semicolon; it’s a very useful little chap.
Abraham Lincoln


In writing as in sex, the best advice is to relax and let nature take her course.
Stephen King

Writing is the flip side of sex – it’s only good when it’s over.
Hunter S. Thompson


You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.
Susan Orlean

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.
George Orwell


What you don’t know would make a great book.
Sydney Smith

I write to discover what I know.
Flannery O’Connor


Popular magazines inculcate a careless and deplorable style which is hard to unlearn, and which impedes the acquisition of a purer style. If such things must be read, let them be skimmed over as lightly as possible. An excellent habit to cultivate is the analytical study of the King James Bible.
H.P. Lovecraft

Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!
William Faulkner


My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time.
Cormac McCarthy

You must not come lightly to the blank page.
Stephen King


Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where I think it should in most cases remain.
Christopher Hitchens

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Maya Angelou


Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
Zadie Smith

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.
Henry Miller


Don’t save anything.
James Salter

I had learnt already never to empty the well of my writing.
Ernest Hemingway


One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.
Émile Zola

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Douglas Adams


You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.
Saul Bellow

I don’t believe in writing at night because it comes too easily.
Günter Grass


The public wants work which flatters its illusions.
Gustave Flaubert

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronising.
E.B. White


Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly.
Colm Tóibín

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the backyard and shot it.
Truman Capote

Ryan O’Neill

Ryan O’Neill is the author of The Weight of a Human Heart and Their Brilliant Careers.

June 2018

From the front page

Pub Test: Bad News for Turnbull

Media moguls did not knife the PM, his party did

Paul Feig’s sophisticated ‘A Simple Favour’

This camp study of sociopathy is far from simple

Image of Ancestral Spirit Beings Collecting Honey, 1985-87

‘John Mawurndjul: I Am the Old and the New’ at the MCA, Sydney

The celebrated bark painter’s ethos guides this retrospective exhibition

In The Big House

The quintessential American cultural experience is still college football

In This Issue


A pack of bankers

The financial services royal commission has revealed more than anyone banked on

The elevated horror of Ari Aster’s ‘Hereditary’

This debut feature will test the mettle of even the most hardened genre fans


When planetary catastrophe is your day job

Climate scientists are working hard to keep the apocalypse relevant

Cover of Axiomatic

‘Axiomatic’ by Maria Tumarkin

This collection of bracing essays interrogates how we view the past

Read on

Paul Feig’s sophisticated ‘A Simple Favour’

This camp study of sociopathy is far from simple

Image of Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Joseph Roulin’

‘MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art’

An eye candy-laden, educational treasure hunt of an exhibition

Image of Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton

Turnbull fires back

Unlike Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull never promised ‘no wrecking’

Image from ‘In Fabric’

Toronto International Film Festival 2018 (part one)

A British outlier and a British newcomer are among the stand-outs in the first part of the festival