Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff! Say No to Pen Name Obsessions!

Wise words from our friend Noble Prize Winner Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Literature is the Memory of Humanity

As a way to reconnect with my muse, I dug out one of my old college books. Rifling through its pages, one of the essays struck me and I began to read…..

It’s often true that a modern writer sits down with the idea that every sentence has to be written down in an original way. He’s terribly afraid that people will say that what he’s doing has already been done. But by trying hard to say something as no one has ever said it, he creates a sentence which makes no sense, and it’s not precise.

Hi Isaac,

If you’re reading this in the afterlife, I guess you know I’m struggling with my short story. You rock, you know that? You’ve captured all my insecurities in 3 sentences. I’ve been struggling because I want the first paragraph to be great. I want it to shout hallelujah! at the top of the mountain and shake temples in Tibet. I got so caught up with crafting the syntax, formulating the right words and cadence that I forgot the BIG picture: to tell a compelling story.

I really believe that in literature you cannot write about things which are common to us. We have to look for the things which are more or less rare. Writing is like examining fingerprints: The expert in fingerprints looks for the special individuality which is there in every human being.

I’d really love to invite you out for coffee these days, Isaac. We’d just so clicked. Too bad you had to die of a stroke. I don’t want to write about things that’s already been rehashed so many times that people have to give it a facelift or a different packing to fool others into reading them again (Eragon. *cough*). I love to write oddities. Things that pop out of the background. Innocuous things that you often looked at but never quite noticed. “Was that really there?” Things that make life unique. The man with a white eye. The person who lives in the room between 13 and 14. The woman who can still hear everything even though she’s buried for 10 years.

Writers should pay more attention to what goes on in life instead of worrying, “Should I sign my name e.e. cummings with capital E’s or with small e’s?”

Too often I get caught up with minute details in my writing like a misplaced comma or which article should I use not knowing that only very few people care about such shit. Where’s the story?, they’d demand. It’s always the story. I guess these are the things writers are worried about. Don’t be. Just get the words out there. Worry about those articles and commas later. Don’t obsess about your pen name. Don’t adjust the margins too much. Leave the fonts be and just get going!

Isaac would say the same.


Today, I got to talk to a writing mentor for the first time. I’ll blog more about some of the things we discussed in a later post.

Related posts:

  • Reconnecting with your Muse-Links for Writers
  • Evaluating your Writing Progress
  • Writer’s Block or Unblock- Dinner with Shakespeare Excerpt
  • Comparing the Short Story and the Comic Script- First Experience of a Fiction Writer
  • Why I Write
  • Writing Updates-The Magic of Storytelling
  • Liked what you read? Share the story. Isaac would agree.

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    7 thoughts on “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff! Say No to Pen Name Obsessions!

    1. matthewdryden says:

      I hardly worry about the mechanics of my writing anymore. I just spit it out and hope that it sounds right. It’s probably not the proper way to do it, but at least I’ve taken the time to learn how to write some things the proper way. Hopefully. Probably.


      I find that I don’t need to write in an mechanically interesting way to get attention. I just pull out a drill and drip it in ink and go crazy. I hope the message gets through without making a mess of your mind.

    2. ksyu says:

      Don’t worry, it did. 🙂

      Writing is all about being crazy anyway. If we weren’t insane, we wouldn’t be writers.

      If we were mechanical, we’d be boring.

      If we forced ourselves to sound interesting, it wouldn’t be genuine.

      If there is only one proper to way to write, it wouldn’t be passionate.

      Keep writing!

    3. Mike says:

      As a guy who’s had the good fortune to keep body and soul together without resorting to physical labour (I’m a writer, too) for more than 30 years now, I commend you on your struggle to refrain from ‘sweating the small stuff’. That said, I recommend that you occasionally should sweat the not so small stuff – like the sentence that rears its ugly and seriously malformed head just past the middle of your essay:

      ‘I don’t want to write about things that’s already
      been rehashed so many times that people have to give it a facelift or a different packing to fool others into reading them again…’

      Unless that’s an effort to mock the unfortunately grammar-challenged, or to echo some unidentifiable regional dialect, I respectfully suggest that it is wholly unfit for use in writing about the fine art of writing.

      Do write on, but don’t eschew the editing.

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