The Marginalian | Maria Popova
“If you write what you yourself sincerely think and feel and are interested in,” the great marine biologist and author Rachel Carson advised a blind girl aspiring to be a writer, “you will interest other people.” Six years earlier, around Valentine’s Day of 1952, a sixteen-year-old self-described “aspiring Young Writer” by the name of Alice Quinn reached out to T.S. Eliot (September 26, 1888–January 4, 1965) — by that point one of the most famous writers in the world — hoping he might answer several questions about the creative process, what it takes to be a writer, and how he himself developed his creative faculties.
Unlike Carson and unlike Albert Einstein, who also frequently replied to fan letters, particularly those from young people, Eliot rarely did. But something about the young woman’s earnest inquiry touched him. His response — thoroughly warm and just the right amount of wry, full of simply worded wisdom — may be his most direct statement of advice on writing. It was only ever published in Hockney’s Alphabet (public library) — that wonderful, forgotten 1991 charity project raising funds for AIDS research through short essays by famous writers about the letters of the alphabet, each illustrated by artist David Hockney. Provided by his Eliot’s, Valerie, his response to Alice Quinn — the only posthumous contribution to the volume — appears under the letter Q. Read more….