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.....Creation by the Word.... - Sri Aurobindo

Letters on Poetry and Art ->On His Poetry and Other's Poetry->Practical Guidance for Aspiring Writers ...


Guidance in Writing Prose



Suggestions for Writing Good English

I wonder what to do in order to bring my essay up to the mark. Could you please make some suggestions?
I am afraid I can’t make suggestions. Just now I am too busy with other and more strenuous things to be very fit for literary suggestions. I can only say generally avoid over-writing; let all your sentences be the vehicle of something worth saying and say it with a vivid precision neither defective nor excessive. Don’t let either thought or speech trail or drag or circumvolute. Don’t let the language be more abundant than the sense. Don’t indulge in mere clever ingenuities without a living truth behind them. I think that is all.

14 June 1935


Your English is already correct as a rule. If you want style and expression, that is another matter. The usual outward means is to read good styles and impregnate oneself with them; it has of itself an influence on the writing.

27 May 1934


This book, returned herewith, is not in my opinion suitable for the purpose. The author wanted to make it look like a translation of a romance in Sanskrit and he has therefore made the spirit and even partly the form of the language more Indian than English. It is not therefore useful for getting into the spirit of the English language. Indians have naturally in writing English a tendency to be too coloured, sometimes flowery, sometimes rhetorical and a book like this would increase the tendency. One ought to have in writing English a style which is at its base capable of going to the point, saying with a simple and energetic straightforwardness what one means to say, so that one can add grace of language without disturbing this basis. Arnold is a very good model for this purpose. Emerson less, but his book will also do.
It is surely better to write your own thoughts. The exercise of writing in your own words what another has said or written is a good exercise or test for accuracy, clear understanding of ideas, an observant intelligence; but your object is, I suppose, to be able to understand English and express yourself in good English.

16 May 1932

Poetry and Novel

No need to put poetry against novel and make a case between them. Both can be given admission into the spiritual Parnassus —but not all poetry and all novels. All depends on the consciousness from which the thing is done. If it is done from the psychic or the spiritual consciousness and bears the stamp of its source, that is sufficient. Of course there are certain things that cannot be done from there, but neither poetry nor fiction is in that case. They can be lifted to a higher level and made the expression of the psychic or spiritual mind and vision. When that is said, all is said. I hope my brevity has been of the right kind—and not left the question mystically obscure.

9 June 1936

Tragedy in Fiction

I did not like the tragic ending of Jyotirmayi’s story. The conditions of true tragedy are not fulfilled, so far as I can see. Why create sorrow in literature wantonly?
That depends on the work itself. If it involves inevitably a tragic end, that has to be allowed to come. It is only if the tragedy is dragged in unnaturally for the sake of a forceful ending that it is inartistic.

13 January 1936

Sri Aurobindo

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The only way to come a little close to him is to love him sincerely and give oneself unreservedly to his work. Thus, each one does his best and contributes as much as he can to that transformation of the world which Sri Aurobindo has predicted.

The Mother
(Vol. 12, pp. 398-99)