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Quotations about Writing


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So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it. ~Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948


The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin


You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury


Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow


A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ~Charles Peguy


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath


I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977


I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard


If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison


What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931


The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. ~Norbet Platt


It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West


Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O'Brien


Never use the word, 'very.' It is the weakest word in the English language; doesn't mean anything. If you feel the urge of 'very' coming on, just write the word, 'damn,' in the place of 'very.' The editor will strike out the word, 'damn,' and you will have a good sentence. ~William Allen White (Thanks, Garson O'Toole of quoteinvestigator.com!)


I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener


The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~Mark Twain


The wastebasket is a writer's best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer


Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction. ~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938


Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth


The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov


Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov


Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies. ~Terri Guillemets


Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. ~Orson Scott Card


A metaphor is like a simile. ~Author Unknown


The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888 (Thanks, Andrew & Barbara), variation of Josh Billings' "Don't mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az much difference az thare iz between lightning and a lightning bug."


The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it. ~Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895


Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~Author Unknown


A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer. ~Karl Kraus


A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet. So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose. ~Samuel McChord Crothers, "Every Man's Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else," The Dame School of Experience, 1920


When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can. ~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1842


I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener


Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong. ~Jeb Dickerson, www.howtomatter.com


If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov


I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork. ~Peter De Vries


Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. ~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957


To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make. ~Truman Capote, McCall's, November 1967


A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 1961 September 10th


I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. ~English professor at Ohio University, name unknown


Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. ~Hannah Arendt


It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order. ~Ann Beattie, Picturing Will, 1989


For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle. ~John Cheever


Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"


No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. ~Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907


Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler


Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon


The expression "to write something down" suggests a descent of thought to the fingers whose movements immediately falsify it. ~William Gass, "Habitations of the Word," Kenyon Review, October 1984


Be obscure clearly. ~E.B. White


Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. ~Flannery O'Connor


It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page. ~Joan Baez


 
 
When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence. ~Samuel Butler


Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we? ~Terri Guillemets


Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may. ~Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversation: Diogenes and Plato


Let me walk through the fields of paper
touching with my wand
dry stems and stunted
butterflies....
~Denise Levertov, "A Walk through the Notebooks"


When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man. ~Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670


Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~Joseph Heller


Writer's block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite. ~Terri Guillemets


A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one. ~Baltasar Gracián, translated from Spanish


When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela


I asked Ring Lardner the other day how he writes his short stories, and he said he wrote a few widely separated words or phrases on a piece of paper and then went back and filled in the spaces. ~Harold Ross


When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.
~Lewis Carroll


Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch


The ablest writer is only a gardener first, and then a cook: his tasks are, carefully to select and cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts; and when they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and yet so that they may have a relish. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~Lord Byron


If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it. ~Anaïs Nin


I'd rather be caught holding up a bank than stealing so much as a two-word phrase from another writer. ~Jack Smith


An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts. ~Juvenal, Satires


Writing is a struggle against silence. ~Carlos Fuentes


[W]riting is a product of silence and solitude. ~Comparison, Graduate School of Comparative Literature, University of Warwick, 1979


Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. ~Jack London, "Getting Into Print," 1905


The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation. ~Elias Canetti


It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don't feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you're wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories. ~Paul Gallico, "Confessions of a Story Writer," 1946


All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer


One hates an author that's all author. ~George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Beppo"


What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window. ~Burton Rascoe


The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie


An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


Every word born of an inner necessity — writing must never be anything else. ~Etty Hillesum, quoted in Ten Fun Things to Do Before You Die by Karol Jackowski


A writer's mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head. ~Ethel Wilson


Publication — is the auction of the Mind of Man. ~Emily Dickinson


If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves. ~Don Marquis


There are men that will make you books, and turn them loose into the world, with as much dispatch as they would do a dish of fritters. ~Miguel de Cervantes


Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake. ~E.L. Doctorow


The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. ~Henry David Thoreau


You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~Arthur Polotnik


An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. ~Adlai Stevenson, quoted in Ronald D. Fuchs, You Said a Mouthful


The writer who uses weak arguments and strong epithets is like the landlady who gives weak tea and strong butter. ~"Wit and Humor," Gleason's Monthly Companion, March 1879


Let me sometimes dance
With you,
Or climb
Or stand perchance
In ecstasy,
Fixed and free
In a rhyme,
As poets do.
~Edward Thomas (1878-1917), "Words"


The first goal of writing is to have one's words read successfully. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Most editors are failed writers — but so are most writers. ~T.S. Eliot


What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told. ~André Gide


Some authors write with a grave ink, of a dramatic pen dipped into their dark souls. ~Terri Guillemets


Authors and lovers always suffer some infatuation, from which only absence can set them free. ~Samuel Johnson


I confess I seldom commune with my conscience when I write. ~Anton Chekhov


Lists are the butterfly nets that catch my fleeting thoughts... ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com


A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938


They lard their lean books with the fat of others' works. ~Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621


The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King


It is plagiarism when you take something out of a book and use it as your own. If you take it out of several books then it is research. ~Quoted by Ralph Foss, 1932 (Thanks, Garson O'Toole of quoteinvestigator.com!)


My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin. ~Karl Kraus


As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. ~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894


We write to remember our nows later. ~Terri Guillemets


As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall. ~Virginia Woolf


Caress your phrase tenderly: it will end by smiling at you. ~Anatole France


I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer


When I don't make any progress, it is because I have bumped into the wall of language. Then I draw back with a bloody head. And would like to go on. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn


I've had secrets come out of my typewriter in invisible ink. ~Terri Guillemets


To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all. ~Lord Byron


Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes. ~Theodore Dreiser


It is the little writer rather than the great writer who seems never to quote, and the reason is that he is never really doing anything else. ~Havelock Ellis


Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason. They made no such demand upon those who wrote them. ~Charles Caleb Colton


You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write. ~Saul Bellow


Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. ~Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Samuel Johnson (www.samueljohnson.com/apocryph.html) (Thanks, Frank Lynch!)


How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. ~Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1851 August 19th


The land of literature is a fairy land to those who view it at a distance, but, like all other landscapes, the charm fades on a nearer approach, and the thorns and briars become visible. ~Washington Irving


Ink surrounds me all the time
On my bed sheets, recorded in rhyme
Quills 'ever scribbling in my head
Sometimes damnit I forget what they said.
Ink has settled into my fingerprints
But to keep the words I fear to rinse...
~Terri Guillemets


As is invariably noted at the beginning of positively all literary biographies, the little boy was a glutton for books.... For his first writing exercise he painstakingly reproduced: "Obey your sovereign, honor him and submit to his laws," and the compressed ball of his index finger thus remained ink-stained forever. Now the thirties are over and the forties have begun. ~Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift, 1963, translated from Russian by Michael Scammell


Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. ~From the movie Finding Forrester


It is impossible to discourage the real writers — they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis


Being an author is being in charge of your own personal insane asylum. ~Terri Guillemets


[T]he author writes as a race-horse runs, for the sake of it. He feels like it, and kindles just because he enjoys burning. ~The Living Way, edited and published by S.D. Simonds, Volume III, 1872, referring to Joaquin Miller and his poem "Isles of the Amazons"


Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen? ~Friedrich Nietzsche


It is indeed certain, that whoever attempts any common topick, will find unexpected coincidences of his thoughts with those of other writers; nor can the nicest judgment always distinguish accidental similitude from artful imitation. ~Samuel Johnson, 1751


Writing is both mask and unveiling. ~E.B. White


A notepad by the bedside accounts for half the earnings of my livelihood. If it weren't for bedtime, half my novels would still be stuck at dock. ~Terri Guillemets


Dialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs. ~Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction, 1991


Let's hope the institution of marriage survives its detractors, for without it there would be no more adultery and without adultery two thirds of our novelists would stand in line for unemployment checks. ~Peter S. Prescott


It's not plagiarism — I'm recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do. ~Uniek Swain


I really would like to stop working forever—never work again, never do anything like the kind of work I'm doing now—and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends.... Just a literary and quiet city-hermit existence. ~Allen Ginsberg


True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
~Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism"


Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. ~Franz Kafka


An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. ~Gustave Flaubert


If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand, don't remove it — I might be writing in my dreams. ~Terri Guillemets


There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one's own flesh in the inkpot, each time one dips one's pen. ~Leo Tolstoy


The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. ~Samuel Johnson


Authors are magpies, echoing each other's words and seizing avidly on anything that glitters. ~Bergen Evans


What things there are to write, if one could only write them! My mind is full of gleaming thought; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings. But always the rarest, those streaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my reach. ~Logan Pearsall Smith


No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published. ~Russell Lynes


A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order. ~Jean Luc Godard


Loafing is the most productive part of a writer's life. ~James Norman Hall


Whatever an author puts between the two covers of his book is public property; whatever of himself he does not put there is his private property, as much as if he had never written a word. ~Gail Hamilton


Words were the only net to catch a mood, the only sure weapon against oblivion. ~Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1930s


It's the professional deformation of many writers, and has ruined not a few. (I remember Kingsley Amis, himself no slouch, saying that he could tell on what page of the novel Paul Scott had reached for the bottle and thrown caution to the winds.) ~Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: Some Confessions and Contradictions, 2010, about alcohol


Love letters and poems aren't the least bit difficult to write, if you write directly from your heart into the ink and don't channel through your brain first. ~Terri Guillemets


Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought? ~Joan Didion


I could give you a number of examples to show how widespread has been this practice of mutual pilfering among the authors of our old literature.... by transferring something of theirs to his own immortal work he [Virgil] has ensured that the memory of these old writers—whom, as the tastes of today show, we are already beginning to deride as well as to neglect—should not wholly perish. ~Macrobius, Saturnalia


I write because I'm afraid to say some things out loud. ~Gordon Atkinson, reallivepreacher.com


Journal: fitting your heart and soul into ruled lines. ~Terri Guillemets


Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. ~A. Bronson Alcott


The artist's only responsibility is his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.... If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate: The "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies. ~William Faulkner, quoted in M. Cowley, Writers at Work, 1958


A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947


The reason why many people are so fond of using superlatives, is, they are so positive that the poor positive is not half positive enough for them. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay


[A] great writer creates his precursors. ~Jorge Luis Borges, Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952, translated from Spanish


The only cure for writer's block is insomnia. ~Terri Guillemets


Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964


Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. ~Jules Renard, Journal, 1895 April 10th


The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. ~Ray Bradbury


Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear — and devils, too. ~Terri Guillemets


Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take you only a minute. Or you might not write the paragraph at all. ~Franklin P. Adams, Half a Loaf, 1927


You could compile the worst book in the world entirely out of selected passages from the best writers in the world. ~G.K. Chesterton


The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. ~André Gide, Journals, 1894


Life can't ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death — fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant. ~Edna Ferber, A Kind of Magic, 1963


The writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratification, is a curious anticlimax. ~Alfred Kazin, Think, February 1963


i never think at all when i write
nobody can do two things at the same time
and do them both well
~Don Marquis, archys life of mehitabel, 1933


Our passions shape our books; repose writes them in the intervals. ~Proust, The Past Recaptured, 1927


Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. ~Samuel Johnson, "Recalling the Advice of a College Tutor," Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1791


An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate. ~François-René de Chateaubriand, Le Génie du Christianisme, 1802


Keep a diary and one day it'll keep you. ~Mae West


The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958


There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as do exist do not lead through neat critical gardens, various as they are, but through the jungles of self, the world, and of craft. ~Jessamyn West, Saturday Review, 1957 September 21st


I hate writing, I love having written. ~Dorothy Parker (paraphrase)


Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947 (Thanks, Jennifer)


One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. ~Hart Crane


He that uses many words for the explaining any subject doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink. ~John Ray


A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~G.K. Chesterton


Novelists... fashioning nets to sustain and support the reader as he falls helplessly through the chaos of his own existence. ~Fay Weldon


Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. ~Rainer Maria Rilke


Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such. ~Samuel Butler


It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~Robert Benchley


No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman. ~Van Wyck Brooks


They'll find ink in my veins and blood on my typewriter keys. ~Terri Guillemets


The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it. ~Ernest Hemingway, interview in Paris Review, Spring 1958


I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. ~Ernest Hemingway


The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new. ~Samuel Johnson


      For, to speak my private Opinion, I am for every Man's working upon his own Materials, and producing only what he can find within himself, which is commonly a better Stock than the Owner knows it to be. I think Flowers of Wit ought to spring, as those in a Garden do, from their own Root and Stem, without Foreign Assistance. I would have a Man's Wit rather like a Fountain, that feeds it self invisibly, than a River, that is supply'd by several Streams from abroad.
      Or if it be necessary, as the Case is with some barren Wits, to take in the Thoughts of others, in order to draw forth their own, as dry Pumps will not play till Water is thrown into them; in that Necessity, I would recommend some of the approv'd Standard-Authors of Antiquity for your Perusal, as a Poet and a Wit; because Maggots being what you look for, as Monkeys do for Vermin in their Keepers Heads, you will find they abound in good old Authors, as in rich old Cheese, not in the new; and for that Reason you must have the Classicks, especially the most Worm-eaten of them, often in your Hands.
      But with this Caution, that you are not to use those Ancients as unlucky Lads do their old Fathers, and make no Conscience of picking their Pockets and pillaging them. Your Business is not to steal from them, but to improve upon them, and make their Sentiments your own; which is an Effect of the great Judgment; and tho difficult, yet very possible, without the scurvy Imputation of Filching: For I humbly conceive, tho' I light my Candle at my Neighbour's Fire, that does not alter the Property, or make the Wyck, the Wax, or the Flame, or the whole Candle, less my own.
      Possibly you may think it a very severe Task, to arrive at a competent Knowledge of so many of the Ancients, as excel in their Way; and indeed it would be really so, but for the short and easie Method lately found out of Abstracts, Abridgments, Summaries, &c. which are admirable Expedients for being very learned with little or no Reading; and have the same Use with Burning-Glasses, to collect the diffus'd Rays of Wit and Learning in Authors, and make them point with Warmth and Quickness upon the Reader's Imagination. And to this is nearly related that other modern Device of consulting Indexes, which is to read Books Hebraically, and begin where others usually end; and this is a compendious Way of coming to an Acquaintance with Authors: For Authors are to be used like Lobsters, you must look for the best Meat in the Tails, and lay the Bodies back again in the Dish....
      ~Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet: Together With a Proposal for the Encouragement of Poetry in this Kingdom," 1721


The best style is the style you don't notice. ~Somerset Maugham


There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes. ~William Makepeace Thackeray


I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head. ~John Updike


I'm not a writer. Ernest Hemingway was a writer. I just have a vivid imagination and type 90 WPM. ~Tiffany Madison


When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person. ~Emily Dickinson


Authorship is exhibitionism, and readers a species of voyeur. ~Terri Guillemets


Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man's life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. ~Leo Tolstoy


Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



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