Top 10 quotes by Stephen Alter

Team Culture Lab

27 February 2016

Stephen Alter at his talk at our Lab

On his first drafts
I write with my feet. When I walk along paths in the mountains, that’s when I write the first drafts of my books. If I choose to take the long way, it always makes for a better story, but getting lost is the best.

On finding the spiritual in nature
There is a sense of spirituality, of beauty and of something sacred in the dance of a peacock. Even for someone like myself who is an atheist, I can understand a spiritual hymn within the context of nature.

First advice to young nature writers
Writers spend too much time behind laptops. The first advice I have for budding nature writers is - get outdoors!

On why mountains take your breath away
Mountains take your breath away partly because of their magnificence and partly how thin the air is when you climb up.

On connecting with animals
As we observe animals, they too are observing us. A writer can use this connection in different ways.

Nature is all around you
You don’t have to go too far afield for your encounters with nature. In a pocket-sized park you may not see elephants, but you can still see wildlife.

On the camera being a hindrance
For years when I was travelling, I consciously did not carry a camera. I always thought I won’t be as good an observer if I was thinking about shooting photographs. But more recently, I think it is a great tool for taking notes, especially if I can’t remember details of my trip. For example, if the temple was on the left bank or the right bank of the river.

On making people aware about climate change 
When you are trying to motivate people to protect the environment you have to make them aware of how spectacular it is.

On his ideal world
There’s a part of me that would love to be in nature where the animals are not aware of my presence.

On his work ethic
I spend three to four hours every day writing one thousand words - three pages a day, double spaced. That is my quota. I stop very consciously after that because if I stop at a thousand words then I know where to start the next day.