June 2018


Advice for writing

By Ryan O’Neill
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.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

Grace Tame running in the 2023 Bruny Island Ultra Marathon

Running out of trouble

How long-distance running changed the life of the former Australian of the Year (and earnt her a record win in an ultramarathon)

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Might as well face it

Lively discussions take place around the country every week on ethical non-monogamy, love addiction and how much sex is too much

In This Issue

Image of Helen Garner

Hotel Golf

Helen Garner on life, anger and judgement

Image of Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

An unnatural disaster for the Rohingya

Myanmar’s systematic attack on its own people has been ignored for too long


A song cycle in 5 parts

A very early retirement

One man’s pursuit of a life without work

Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality