For Gabriel García Márquez, there is no other way to learn the art of writing than reading the great masters of the literary world. He was fascinated with the life-changing power of people's stories and events, no matter how commonplace they may be. This same fascination drove him to write simple yet deeply moving works. He separated himself from the pedantry of philosophy and the complex interpretations of society. Instead, his novels delve into the feelings that spur men into action, and his narratives shine a light into the life of Latin America, thus consolidating him as a leader in one of the most important literary movements of the twenty first century.
His source of inspiration was the magical realism his grandmother would weave in the legends and tales she told him. Throughout his life, he compiled lessons and bits of wisdom he considered to be crucial if one decided to pursue a career in writing.
Like any great writer, he went through dark periods of uncertainty, especially after completing one of his most important novels, A Hundred Years of Solitude. Nevertheless, he always found a way to get out of a slump and reinvent himself by always turning to one simple truth: it is always the stories about feelings that touch us more deeply. Love, loneliness, sadness, madness, and the sensation that magic can change our lives at any given moment are deeply woven into his work.
Gabriel García Márquez was an avid dreamer, able to reflect the realities of Latin America, and these 16 lessons will inspire those who also dream of becoming great writers.
1. "If I had to give a young writer some advice, I would say to write about something that has happened to them. It's always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to them or something they have read or been told."
2. "From the moment I wrote Leaf Storm I realized I wanted to be a writer and nobody could stop me, and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world. That was in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I got my first royalties after having written five of my eight books."
3. "Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood."
4. "I realized that everything that occurred during my childhood had a literary value I was recently appreciating."
5. "Life itself is the greatest source of inspiration, and dreams are only a very small part of the torrent that life is."
6. "I liked the noise of the typing machines, which sounded like rain. If they stopped and I was left in silence, I wasn't able to work."
7. "Inspiration is when you find the right theme, one you really like; that makes the work much easier. Intuition, which is also fundamental to write fiction, is a special quality that helps you decipher what is real without the need of scientific knowledge or any other special kind of learning."
8. "Many writers who think of themselves as being politically committed feel obligated to write stories not about what they want, but about what they think they should want. That makes for a certain type of calculated literature that doesn’t have anything to do with experience or intuition."
9. "It is easier to catch a rabbit than a reader."
10. "One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily. In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone."
11. "I’m convinced that there is a special state of mind in which you can write with great ease and things just flow (...) that moment and that state of mind seem to come when you have found the right theme and the right way of treating it. And it has to be something you really like too, because there is no worse job than doing something you don’t like."
12. "Unfortunately, many young writers are more concerned about fame than about their own work (…) these young writers are wasting their time writing to critics rather than working on their own writing. It’s much more important to write than to be written about."
13. "The writer’s very attempt to portray reality often leads him to a distorted view of it. While trying to transpose reality, he can end up losing contact with it, in an ivory tower, as they say. Journalism is a very good guard against that."
14. "If one is bored of writing, one will bore the reader."
14. "We cannot force a reader to read a sentence twice."
15. "A novelist can do anything he wants as long as he makes people believe in it."
16. "I don't believe in the romantic myth that a writer must be hungry and in a wreck in order to write."
You can apply these tips by one of the greatest masters of Latin American literature in your works. But the most important thing is that you keep writing. Being a writer is not easy; it's a lifetime's work, and there are films portraying this constant path on learning and being creative. Just as García Márquez, Anton Chekhov has given us important tips about the artistry of writing.