Robert McCrum’s list of 50 things he’s learned about literary life

Fifty things I’ve learned about the literary life

There’s no magic formula for success, and no one person knows best, but for what it’s worth…

Here’s a few of my favorites:

1. Less is more. Or, “the only art is to omit” (Robert Louis Stevenson).

3. Whatever works, works.

4. There are seven basic stories in world literature.

8. Put a body on page one.

9. Literature is theft.

13. The “overnight success” is usually anything but.

22. A great novel can cost as much as a pencil and a pad of paper – or a whole life.

31. Moby-Dick sold fewer than 10,000 copies in Melville’s lifetime.

Here’s McCrum’s complete list.

Robert McCrum is an author, editor, and frequent contributor to the Guardian

My own list is slightly more meagre, but I have learned a thing or two over the last 25 years.

1) Marry money, or be prepared to be poor.

2) I’ll never run out of things to write about.

3) I’m “difficult” to live with if I’m not writing.

4) It’s easy to get lost in a story.

5) You often have to throw away your favorite lines to serve the greater good of the story.

6) Rejection is part of literary life.  Even the best writers get rejected.  You have to move on.

7) Everyone is writing a book, or thinking about writing a book when they retire.  That doesn’t make them writers.

8) Reading fine writing is like breathing fresh air.

9) Writers have to pay for their own books.  Fundraisers are not usually aware that writers have to pay for their own books.

10) Most writers are also readers.



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