Writing Advice: Take a Walk on the Wilde Side.
We get asked for writing advice all the time; from clients, students and the occasional family member. And while each request requires a different approach, some pieces of writing advice are universal.
Getting to know quips and brilliances from Oscar Wilde is one of those universals.
His command of language was so exacting (probably because he was proficient in English, French and German, Italian and Ancient Greek). His concepts were so eloquent. And his unique ability to make you shake your head in disbelief and say “YES!!” has, in our minds at least, yet to be matched.
This week marks the 118th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s death. And so, to honour the wittiest man to every put pen to paper, and to provide those seeking writing advice with a bit of additional inspiration, here’s a quick list of our favourite Wildeisms.
“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
Wilde has a knack for spinning a truth into a benefit. As you write, keep in mind that your audience is a real person with real motivations. They know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. They want to know how this fact helps make their lives better.
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
With the changing of one letter, Wilde found a way to praise and insult at the same time. As you’re writing, look for wordplay opportunities like this. But use them sparingly. One of Wilde’s greatest literary gifts was his restraint (not so much in his personal life).
“I don’t want to go to heaven. None of my friends are there.”
Wilde was a master at bringing levity to tough subjects. This was one of his greatest strengths and can be a great strength when you’re tasked with a serious topic. Remember that your reader, in addition to being a doctor or a banker or mourner, is also a person who needs a bit of levity to break up the monotony.
“A good friend stabs you in the front.”
Understanding the basics of human experience was a skill of Wilde’s, and should be a skill of any writer. As you’re writing, try to rise up above the subject matter and look at the truth surrounding it. You’ll find something poignant to say.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
This might be the best writing advice we can give. Always be ready to write your ideas down. You never know when you’re going to have them and you never want to lose a good one.
But Oscar Wilde’s best words may have been his last: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”