Advice from the Masters: Jorge Luis Borges

Apr 17, 2014 | Better Writing

Jorge Luis Borges is a favorite author among those who revel in complex sentences and intertwined metaphors. His Wikipedia entry describes him this way.

“His work embraces the ‘character of unreality in all literature.’ His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and The Aleph (El Aleph), published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, philosophy, and religion.”

I’m a fan of simple, straightforward writing, so I don’t like the vast majority of what Borges wrote. But one of his books is among my all-time favorites.

Borges wrote Dr. Brodie’s Report when he was in his seventies. In the preface to the first edition he says that he wanted to write “straightforward stories.” They are straightforward. They are masterpieces.

Borges gave many interviews and reflected often on the craft of writing. Here is one reflection that I think is good advice for writers of all kinds.

“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource.”

If you’re serious about writing, take that to heart. You will do your best writing when you can mine your experience for the situations and emotions that give you credibility and passion.

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts.

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