5 Bits Of Writing Advice From James Joyce

5 Bits Of Writing Advice From James Joyce

In this post, Writers Write looks at bits of writing advice from James Joyce.

About James Joyce

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish writer and poet. The Irish Homestead was his first published work, but Ulysses remains his most famous.

His epic novel Ulysses inspired the film, O Brother Where Art Thou?

Joyce is famous for his avant-garde modernism (and many explicit letters to his wife). 

5 Bits Of Writing Advice From James Joyce

  1. Don’t Read Literature

‘I have not read a work of literature for several years. My head is full of pebbles and rubbish and broken matches and bits of glass picked up ’most everywhere.’ – Letter From Museum Collection

Literature is writing that gets talked about in universities and lecture halls. But literature can be dangerous, too: if you are stuck to classics, you miss all the new stuff.

Joyce admitted his own feelings here.

Writing is made from loose thoughts, and beloved sentences.  It’s never just about literature.

A writer must never aim to write literature: write well.

  1. Don’t Read Reviews

‘Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why.’ Letter To Fanny Gulliermet

Joyce must have hated reviews.

Writing is difficult, especially as a career, and sometimes it gets to you. This quote shows a moment where James Joyce was really, really tired of it. He still wrote the great Ulysses in 1922, about eleven years after this letter.

If you have a bad writing day? Remember this letter, and keep going.

Published writing is about persistence. If you stop, you’ll never publish first, or again.

  1. Edit Your Errors

‘His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery.’ – Quote From Ulysses

Ulysses wasn’t a book on writing, but still has advice for authors.

Joyce meant that mistakes can be useful. Writing can’t be perfect the first time, that’s impossible.

Editing lets you dig up (and fix) your writing mistakes. The mistakes become portals to discovery. Every change you make, could be a whole new paragraph, or a new story.

Joyce was right.

  1. Immortality Via Enigma

‘I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.’ – Irish Central

The most successful poetry, is the kind where people don’t know what it means. Speculation is what sells books. Enigmas and ‘rabbit holes’ intrigue the reader, and keep the writer writing.

Da Vinci Code was filled with puzzles, even though it was fiction.

Have fun with puzzles, enigmas, and mythology in your work.


Because it’s fun.

  1. Revolt

‘Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality.’ 1902 Lecture At University College, Dublin

Sometimes good writing comes from anger, fear, or pure jealousy. Revolution creates creativity. Writers always have to push their own boundaries, comforts, and beliefs further than before.

Joyce knew this, and so did the Beat poets, and so do great writers.

If you want to evolve as a writer, feel everything, and document all of it.

Writing is revolution.

The Last Word

In this post, Writers Write looked at the writing advice of James Joyce. We hope that it will help you to write better, and write more.

Source for image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Revolutionary_Joyce_Better_Contrast.jpg

By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

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TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.

Posted on: 2nd February 2023