Friday, February 11, 2011

Everything I Know I Learned from Thomas Edison

This week, February 11th, we celebrate the 164th anniversary of the birth of inventor Thomas Edison.

In researching a subject biographers always end up with an abundance of great information, all of which illuminates the subject in some way, all of which we are terribly invested in, and most of which we have not a prayer of using in the final product. It hurts. I’m often asked how I decide what I’ll use and what I must cut. One biographer I know solved the problem by, as she puts it, “writing to quotes.” A good quote can often speak volumes about your subject when you just don’t have room for volumes in your manuscript, especially in material for children, where the writing must be extraordinarily tight.

With no subject is this more true than for Thomas Edison. He is the man who said the following: Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits. And: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. And: Great ideas originate in the muscles.

Well. Bit of a theme there, wouldn’t you say? Clearly this was a man with little patience for armchair inventors with great notions but without the drive to put them into action. GET OFF YOUR BACKSIDE! he must have wanted to scream at such dabblers. JUST DO IT ALREADY!

Great advice for writers too, isn’t it? The idea is never enough. It’s the writing that counts, the writing that's both the sweet and the bitterly difficult part of the task. Even the dabblers know that. That's why they dabble.


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