Writer Unblocked: Heinlein and Sturgeon


I owe a huge thank you to Micki for sending me to the Letters of Note site and this quote from Theodore Sturgeon about Robert Heinlein:

“I went into a horrible dry spell one time. It was a desperate dry spell and an awful lot depended on me getting writing again. Finally, I wrote to Bob Heinlein. I told him my troubles; that I couldn’t write—perhaps it was that I had no ideas in my head that would strike a story. By return airmail—I don’t know how he did it—I got back 26 story ideas. Some of them ran for a page and a half; one or two of them were a line or two. I mean, there were story ideas that some writers would give their left ear for. Some of them were merely suggestions; just little hints, things that will spark a writer like, ‘Ghost of a little cat patting around eternity looking for a familiar lap to sit in.’

This mechanical, chrome-plated Heinlein has a great deal of heart. I had told him my writing troubles, but I hadn’t told him of any other troubles; however, clipped to the stack of story ideas was a check for a hundred dollars with a little scribbled note, ‘I have a suspicion your credit is bent.’

It is very difficult for words like ‘thank you’ to handle a man that can do a thing like that.”

The Letters of Note site has the entire letter and it is amazing. Then look around because the site is full of great letters (and therefore great story ideas). Another one I loved: “To My Old Master,” a letter from a freed man to his old master who wants him to come back and work for him again. Really, the whole site is a treasure trove for writers. Also, time sink. But so worth it.

Edited to add: And then Micki sent me a link to this one and made me cry: Stephen Fry on depression. What a lovely man he must be.

Filed in People, Writing

26 Comments to 'Writer Unblocked: Heinlein and Sturgeon'

On October 4, 2012 at 2:30 am Liz said...

Thank you to both you, and Micki, for the Stephen Fry letter. I need to read that.

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On October 4, 2012 at 3:57 am Jenny said...

Such gentle common sense.

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On October 4, 2012 at 5:45 am romney said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE that site. I wish that site still allowed comments because there is so much to discuss about some of these letters. Makes me a little sad now that people don’t write letters that much anymore…

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On October 4, 2012 at 6:54 am Clever Cherry said...

A friend once sent me fifty dollars in an encouraging letter just as I desperately needed it. It makes me weepy thinking about the kindness of it.

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On October 4, 2012 at 8:11 am Wendy said...

Thank you Jenny and Micki, this is a wonderful site…I love the Uncle Lynn/Chuck Jones letter too.

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On October 4, 2012 at 11:04 am Office Wench Cherry said...

Oh my stars. I tried to read the Uncle Lynn/Chuck Jones letter and started to cry so I had to stop. The letter from Stephen Fry was wonderful. So logical and yet so compassionate.

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On October 4, 2012 at 11:22 am Naked Under My Clothes said...

“It will be sunny one day.” What a great find, these letters — that one in particular. Thanks for sharing!

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On October 4, 2012 at 11:33 am Terri Osburn said...

I saw the Stephen Fry letter a while back and though the content is amazing, it’s even better when you read it hearing his voice in your head. This is a wonderful site. Add me to those lamenting the loss of letter writing.

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On October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm Betty Fokker said...

Time sink!

*Hi ho, hi ho, its off to shirk I go*

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On October 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm Leigh said...

My favourite from letters of note: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/i-like-words.html I stumbled on the site last year, and bookmarked it. Ever so often, I return to spend some time reading other people’s words. Never fails to inspire me.

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On October 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm Sure Thing said...

Thanks to twitter, I’m a regular reader of Letters of Note. (That’s not a hint, just how I found the site.)

And since it can be a HUUUGE time sink, I rely on retweets to remind me to read a letter. That way I can try to manage my time better.

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On October 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm robena grant said...

This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I read the letter, and enjoyed it so much. Love what was said about writers needing peace and quiet, but how they also need conversation. I love getting together with writer friends and shooting the breeze and somehow those sessions always spark a new thought, or a complete idea, and I return to the computer brimming with posibilities.
Have deliberately avoided the other links. Do not want to cry today. However, I will be back after my afternoon of work. So much to do, so little time.

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On October 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm Susan J Berger said...

My comment got erased last night, so again,,, Thank you so much for this post. Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite story tellers. I own all his books and reread five or six a year. What a a fabulous letter.
My time eater this week the story of Penny – a hamster and struggling YA writer and her trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference. http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-writers-struggle.html
Now back to revision.
Thank you!

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On October 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm Becke Martin Davis said...

I LOVE these links! This is my favorite quote from Heinlein: “To have the incomparable and always scintillating Sturgeon ask for ideas is like having the Pacific Ocean ask one to pee in it.” I have a sudden urge to go reread his books!

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On October 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm Kate George said...

Thanks so much for sharing with us. I love Stephen Fry – even more so now that I’ve seen that letter.

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On October 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm Georgina said...


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On October 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm carol said...

Thank you Micki and Jenny. Love the letter To My Old Master. Wonderful site.

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On October 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm NeelyLyon said...

Some people, when asked what books most influenced them when growing up, will cite
Anna Karenina or such. For me, looking back, it was Heinlein and Georgette Heyer. I came from a silent, shabby genteel, desperately conservative family. Heyer taught me (among other things) that quality is not dependent on income or status, and that true manners go well beyond not eating peas with your knife.
Heinlein taught me to rebel, particularly against all forms of shamanism, and to risk. It didn’t always turn out well, but often enough for me to regularly thank the Great Whatever for their influence.

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On October 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm Louise said...

Stephen Fry is a lovely ~~ lovely man. Thanks for sharing.

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On October 4, 2012 at 7:22 pm Barbara Samuel said...

That is absolutely lovely.

And when I saw the address I remembered that my grandfather used to deliver mail to Heinlein. He had autographed copies of many of his books.

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On October 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm Micki said...

Thank you for sharing this with everyone. Someone mentioned Letters of Note a few years ago on FB, so I’m just passing along the goodness. I’ve almost read the whole archive, and so many letters have such power. Makes me resolve to be a better person — and a better letter writer (-:.

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On October 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm Katrina said...

I love Stephen Fry! Thank you for that.

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On October 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm Katrina said...

BTW that totally applies to Fibromyalgia (which is a lot like and comes with depression) because I really Really NEVER know from one day to the next if it’s going to be a “dark & rainy” day or a “sunny” one. It’s crap, I tell ya, Crap.

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On October 5, 2012 at 7:57 am Egads said...

Thank you. I had forgotten about this site. I lost my bookmark to it long ago when my computer crashed. There is one post from there I will never forget, so poignant…


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On October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am Victoria Corby said...

What a wonderful post. It’s so heartening to read of the famous and successful taking so much trouble for others.

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On October 8, 2012 at 4:22 am CrankyOtter said...

I can recommend the “1800’s” link in Authors of note. The first talks about the feel of foreign words and is pitch perfect. I once had a list of words that I liked because of their sound. Probably still have it in a box under the bed. I have new words to add…

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