Writing advice from Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been wanting to read Anna Karenina for the second time so that I can post my review of what I have now come to believe as the perfect novel. But a home renovation has forced me to relocate my personal library and so I find myself without my trusted friends temporarily until I recover a selection for my research and reading pleasure. In the meantime, as this plan to revisit the novel is floating in my subconscious, I’ve been doing something else to help me become more focused: waking up early to walk for 30 minutes, sometimes one hour. And this is the part where Leo Tolstoy re-enters my life. Since I was walking consistently and without listening to music, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking while walking. Naturally, my thoughts led me to the topic of self-control. On Day 9, I was thinking how I don’t like exercise much, but since I needed to do it for the same reasons why creative people do it, I realized I was practicing self-control.  Just to understand my new behavior better, I googled the term and found this quote attributed to the Russian author:

There never has been, and cannot be, a good life without self-control.

When I read this, I thought it gave me an insight into Anna Karenina’s character. Here is a married woman who cannot control her passions for Count Vronsky that when the two of them finally got together and set up a household in the country, it cannot be said that she was having a good life. Cut off from society and from her son, Anna was desperate to live a meaningful life with Vronsky, who was growing bored with their interactions everyday.

I couldn’t wait to read the novel again after this unexpected insight and help from Tolstoy, which, of course, I must substantiate. But because of my library situation,  I contented myself in reading more of Tolstoy’s quotable quotes and found the thing I had hoped to find, but never actively sought. I found this advice for writers:

leo advice.png


French writer, Anais Nin, mentioned something similar about how writers should produce only what is of value to our culture, but instead of soulful narratives, she mentioned the use of emotional experiences which must reach its full maturity if they are to give any value to the person or writer experiencing them.

In short, writing with soul or emotions is the only way to become of service to this increasingly distracted and unfocused world. Tall order?

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