Clarice Lispector’s writing style

When I read my own writing, it seems cold and dry. There is something that I want to communicate, but I can’t—not even to myself, and especially not to others. Lispector’s writing, in contrast, is almost magical; it’s like the words themselves have meaning. What am I doing wrong?

I’ve noticed that when I write, I end up writing in a kind of technical, systematic style, where I make a series of more or less related claims. I was taught in school than when writing essays, we should state our claims boldly; saying “I think” is just clutter. But what if I am writing about thinking itself...? Even when what I’m writing about is a paradox, I still have this tendency to make claims and statements. Lispector writes down her experience, like how you might write in a diary. Sometimes I will write in a style that’s more like “when I thought of that thing, this other thing occurred to me, and then that lead me to feel like this”. Even such a primitive way of expressing my experiences of the world still feels better.

Quotes from Lispector on her own writing 

From Água Viva:

There must be a kind of painting totally free of the dependence on the figure—or object—which, like music, illustrates nothing, tells no story, and launches no myth. Such painting would simply evoke the incommunicable kingdoms of the spirit, where dreams becomes thought, where line becomes existence.1
And if I say “I” it’s because I dare not say “you,” or “we” or “one.” I’m forced to the humility of personalizing myself belittling myself but I am the are-you.2
What I tell you should be read quickly like when you look.3
So writing is the method of using the word as bait: the word fishing for whatever is not word. When this non-word—between the lines—takes the bait, something has been written. Once whatever is between the lines is caught, the word can be tossed away in relief. But that’s where the analogy ends: the non-word, taking the bait, incorporates it. So what saves you is writing absentmindedly.4

See also: Calling a tree a “tree”

There is much to say that I don’t know how to say. The words are lacking. But I refuse to invent new ones: those that already exist must say what can be said and what is forbidden. And I can sense whatever is forbidden. If I have the strength. beyond thought there are no words: it is itself.5

From A Breath of Life:

The process that Angela has for writing is the same process as the act of dreaming: what starts forming are images, colors, acts, and especially an atmosphere of dreams that resembles a color and not a word. She doesn’t know how to explain herself. All she knows is how to do and to do without understanding herself.6

From The Egg and the Chicken:

It lives inside the chicken to avoid being called white. The egg really is white. But it cannot be called white. Not because that harms it, but people who call the egg white, those people die to life. Calling something white that is white can destroy humanity. Once a man was accused of being what he was, and he was called That Man. They weren’t lying: He was. But to this day we still haven’t recovered, one after the next. The general law for us to stay alive: one can say “a pretty face,” but whoever says “the face,” dies; for having exhausted the topic.
Over time, the egg became a chicken egg. It is not. But, once it was adopted, it took that name. — One should say “the chicken’s egg.” If one merely says “the egg,” the topic is exhausted, and the world becomes naked.

From The Passion According to G. H.:

I shall need courage to do what I’m about to do: speak. And risk the enormous surprise I shall feel at the poverty of the spoken thing. As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I’ll have to add: that’s not it, that’s not it! But I cannot be afraid of being ridiculous, I always preferred less to more also out of fear of the ridiculous: because there’s also the shattering of modesty. I’m putting off having to speak to myself. Out of fear?

  1. Quoting Michel Seuphor 
  2. p. 6 
  3. p. 11 
  4. p. 15 
  5. p. 22 
  6. pp. 113f