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If a Thing Is Possible, Does It Already Exist?

Now there’s a question that will stretch the mind. Have all the books that will ever be written already been written and what we’re waiting for is someone to put the proper letters in the proper order? Twenty-six letters in the English alphabet and a hundred million books written.

Mark Twain had a theory on writing that I’ve found helpful. He had a shelf that he called a drydock, the kind of place ships go to get themselves out of the water for a while and rest—or be repaired. Twain said he was perfectly happy to run along behind his characters and write down what they did, but when they stopped he never pushed them. He’d set the work on the drydock shelf until they wanted to run again. Huckleberry Finn was three times in drydock.

I’m mixing metaphors here, what with words already written and characters who find their own way, but it’s part of the same thought process. Good writing is already out there, we have only to find it. If there’s a clue to that, it’s to read, read, read and look for advice from Twain and the other authors you find worthy.

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