Roger Ebert on Writing

Chicago is still mourning the loss of Pulitzer-prize winning film critic, Roger Ebert.

The Urbana native and long-time Chicagoan, wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death though many will also remember him for his syndicated commercial television show, Siskel and Ebert and the Movies. When he lost his ability to speak, one of the devastating effects of the cancer that ended up taking his life, Ebert became an active presence in social media, delighting readers on Twitter and using his blog to write about such topics as his favorite bar, his Aunt Martha, and his obsession with The New Yorker cartoon caption contest. The prolific author also published several books including a memoir (Life Itself), a collections of essays (The Great Movies; I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie), and even a cookbook (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker).

It goes without saying that Ebert knew a great deal about movies. However, his career also demonstrates that he knew a great deal about being a writer and he often wrote about his craft. Here are five of our favorite Roger Ebert quotes on writing:

“The Muse visits during the process of creation, not before.” (“I Think I’m Musing My Mind.” Roger Ebert’s Journal, October 24, 20008.)

“Of what use is freedom of speech to those who fear to offend?” (Roger Ebert’s Movie Home Companion)

“…the most useful advice I have ever received as a writer: ‘One, don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damn thing. Two, once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going? These rules saved me half a career’s worth of time and gained me a reputation as the faster writer in town. I”m not faster. I spend less time not writing.” (Life Itself: A Memoir)

“I find that when I’m actually writing, I enter a zone of concentration too small to admit my troubles.” (Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert)

“Just write, get better, keep writing, keep getting better. It’s the only thing you can control.” (“My Roger Ebert Story.” Deadspin, March 1, 2010.)

Robert K. Elder,  author and one of last year’s speakers, wrote about the moving tribute left in Ebert’s Lake Street screening room. You can find other tributes and memories of Roger Ebert here.