Best Quotes About Writing

EDUCATION-RELATED QUOTES BY DAN L. MILLER


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Best Quotes About Writing—On this page I present a voluminous collection of interesting, thought-provoking, and useful quotations on writing. I also provide links to PDF collections of quotations in the categories of Writing Quotes (Continued)Journalism, Language, Literary/Arts Criticism, Quotations, and The Habits and Routines of Famous Authors. I start this page with links to articles that provide ideas on how best to use quotations, particularly in school and college classrooms.

This collection of quotations is unique in that I’ve chosen for inclusion only quotes that are pertinent and straightforward. I’ve added classic quotations, but I’ve also used many quotations taken directly from primary sources, and I’ve purposely integrated numerous quotes from women and minorities.

In addition to the wisdom and guidance quotes provide, quotes are perfectly suited for use in displays, presentations, speeches, research, students’ papers, and classroom lessons and discussions.

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The Greatest Insight From the Fewest Words: Using Quotations in the Writing Class

Miller, Dan L. “The Greatest Insight From The Fewest Words: Using Quotations In The Writing Class.” English Record. Volume XXXIX. Number 1 (1988): 24.29. Print.

Centuries ago Voltaire stated that “the multiplicity of facts and writings is becoming so great that everything must soon be reduced to extracts.” Considering that we are now in an age of information glut, we have apparently arrived. Regardless of whether Voltaire was prophetic, there are a number of advantages to using quotations as a staple in the English classroom. In this article I summarize the many ways teachers can make effective use of quotations in the English classroom.

Greatest Insight from the Fewest Words

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The Literary Form of the 80s: Using Quotations to Teach English

Miller, Dan L. “The Literary Form of the 80s: Using Quotations to Teach English.” English Journal. 76.3 (1987): 52-55. Print.

Quotations are short. Considering the fast-paced, electronic culture in which students are immersed, a quotation ranging from five to six words to three or four sentences is readily acceptable to the adolescent in a hurry. As a change of pace from short stories, poems, and novels, it’s refreshing to delve into quotations to stimulate thought and focus on the development of communication skills. Classroom teachers can utilize quotations in many ways to teach skills and concepts in the English classroom.

Literary Form of the 80s

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Best  Writing Quotes (Continued): Best Writing Quotes [Continued]

Best Quotes on Journalism: Best Quotes on Journalism

Best Quotes on Language: Best Quotes on Language

Best Quotes on Literary/Arts Criticism: Best Quotes on Literary:Arts Criticism

Best Quotes on Quotations: Best Quotes on Quotations

Best Quotes on the Habits and Routines of Famous Authors: Best Quotes on the Habits and Routines of Famous Authors

BEST WRITING QUOTES

Yes, there is no doubt that paper is patient and as I don’t intend to show this cardboard-covered notebook bearing the proud name of ‘diary’ to anyone, unless I find a real friend, boy or girl, probably nobody cares. And now I come to the root of the matter, the reason for my starting a diary; it is that I have no such real friend.

–Anne Frank

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.

–Robert Cormier

When I am asked what kind of writing is the most lucrative, I have to say, ransom notes.

–H. N. Swanson

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

—Jodi Picoult

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.

–John Steinbeck

Don’t say the old lady screamed—bring her on and let her scream

—Mark Twain

Verbose writing creates comatose readers.

–Elyse Sommer

Every kind of writing is good save that which bores.

–Voltaire

Simplicity is the glory of expression.

–Walt Whitman

The aim of writing is to enable people a little better to enjoy life or a little better to endure it.

–W. H. Auden

Dante never went to hell. Shakespeare never went to ancient Rome. Writers have the right to exercise their imaginations in any area they think appropriate. I think possibly a book gains by its writer not having been through the experience, rather than the other way around. Experience itself doesn’t authenticate good writing.

–William Styron

The best writing is rewriting.

–E. B. White

Mark Twain once said that the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the one who cannot read them…(I)f you want to write well, then you have to read good writers. If you confine yourself to mediocre writers, then that’s the style you’re going to assimilate.

–William Least Heat Moon

Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

–William Strunk, Jr.

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

–Thomas Jefferson

The pen is the tongue of the mind.

–Cervantes

When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

–Samuel Lover

The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.

–Samuel Johnson

The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.

–Mohammed

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

–Joseph Pulitzer

 If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.

—Robert Southey

I’m not happy when I’m writing, but I’m miserable when I’m not.

–Fannie Hurst

‘I’ll never forget this idea’ is the devil’s whisper. Catch everything that matters in your notebook.

–Richard Bach

Don’t write about what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.

–Valerie Sherwood

I took a number of stories by popular writers as well as others by Maupassant, O. Henry, Stevenson, etc., and studied them carefully. Modifying what I learned over the next few years, I began to sell.

–Louis L’Amour

A book title must grab the reader gently by the throat.

–Richard Peck

To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for a little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone—just plain going at it, in pain and delight.

–John Hersey

When a man is writing, he is living in a different world. He is free. That is what writing is all about. It is a way to freedom.

–Frank Conroy

I always believed in hooking the reader as fast as possible and never letting him off the hook, the theory being that the minute you relax and let a reader get a little bored you may lose him.

–Ernest Lehman

I want to change the world, and, despite the difficulties in that, it’s why I write. I’ll settle for small changes, but my purpose in writing is to influence behavior, to influence society and its development, and to explain what I’ve learned.

–Alvin Toffler

Misspelled words mar a page. They’re as noticeable and as unfortunate as a run in a pair of nylons or a fumble on the football field….When you take the trouble to write something, you do so because you feel it’s worth reading….But misspelling undermines your purpose….Good spelling, on the other hand, seems clear and easy to read. It’s good form. In short, good spelling communicates.

–Edna G. Furness

A manuscript, like a fetus, is never improved by showing it to somebody before it is completed.

–Unknown

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

—Isaac Asimov

Don’t let indolence, the forerunner of death take over. Enough has happened, enough people entered your life, to make stories, many stories, even a book. So let them onto the page and let them work out their destinies.

–Sylvia Plath

The fear of being wrong is the prime inhibitor of the creative process.

–Jean Bryant

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

–Isaac Asimov

Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!

—Dave Barry

Rejection Letter: ‘Dear Mr. Andrews: We cannot use the paper you sent us. You wrote on it.’

–Gregg Levoy

If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.

–Ray Bradbury

Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.

–Gertrude Stein

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.

—Neil Gaiman

As writers, we know what the ‘writer’s high’ feels like, the sense of elation we get when we’re cooking on a project. The world and all of its problems melt away. Our lives have purpose, direction, meaning. We feel our passions rise within us. We tap into thoughts and emotions and feel restored. As Annie Dillard said, ‘It is life at its most free.’

–Jack Heffron

Why punctuation matters. Some people find inspiration in cooking their families and their dogs. Others find inspiration in cooking, their families, and their dogs.

—Unknown

The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.

—James Truslow Adams

Planners, builders, laborers, schemers, executives, make a city, a country, a university, habitable, give them their bones and their blood. Poets and novelists make us appreciate the life we live in them, give them their souls.

—Henry S. Canby

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer’s life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.

—Eugene Ionesco

DECIDES. During my years of teaching graduate MFA candidates, this was the word that was the most overused. ‘I decided to go talk to her.’ ‘She decided it was time to…’ Don’t have someone ‘decide’ to do something. The decision is implied in the action. Skip the decision and go to the deed itself.

—Michelle Richmond

I don’t think anybody can teach anybody anything. I think that you learn it, but the young writer that is as I say demon-driven and wants to learn and has got to write, he don’t know why, he will learn from almost any source that he finds. He will learn from older people who are not writers, he will learn from writers, but he learns it — you can’t teach it.

—William Faulkner

I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book–sometimes as many as 100. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.

—Ernest Hemingway

When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.

—Raymond Chandler

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a  row.

—Ray Bradbury

Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft ‑10%.

—Stephen King

Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case…. What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

—Annie Dillard

I discovered what I’ve come to see as the one true rule of writing: When in doubt, add a dog….If you want to signal to the reader that the hour is late, or that you know the chapter is dragging, have the dog stretch and yawn. If you need to make things more exciting, let the dog stir up trouble. If you aim to tug readers’ heartstrings so hard that a few might break—and get your book on award lists and best-seller lists in the process—well, you’ve heard the advice ‘Kill your darlings,’ right? So kiss that pooch goodbye.

—Anica Mrose Rissi

In a good novel, the first five words make you forget you’re reading.

—John Gardner

Usually, when people get to the end of a chapter, they close the book and go to sleep. I deliberately write a book so when the reader gets to the end of the chapter, he or she must turn one more page.

—Sidney Sheldon

Every child is an artist until he’s told he’s not an artist.

—John Lennon

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

—Kurt Vonnegut

A cliché is dead matter. It causes gangrene in the prose around it, and sooner or later it eats your brain. The only thing to do with a cliché is send it to the sports page. Or the speechwriter, where it will live forever.

—Verlyn Klinkenborg

If you are looking for perfection or an artistic expression that is free of chaos, you should give up writing. Learning to be comfortable with the chaos of early drafts is essential. You’d never expect an infant to wake up one morning fully toilet-trained, speaking in perfect English, and heading off to the bus stop. It’s equally unrealistic to expect your characters and narrative flow to sort themselves out instantly. Art takes time. Stories have their own heartbeat, and they will unfold at their own pace. All you have to do is to continue to show up and do the work. Every day.

—Laurie Hals Anderson

When you face writer’s block, just lower your standards and keep going.

—Sandra Tsing Loh

First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

—Robert Cecil Day Lewis

You’re never going to tell an original story. The world is a very old place and all the stories that matter to people have been told over and over again–and if you want to write fiction, study myth [the archetypal stories], because those are the stories that have withstood the test of time.

–Suzy Spencer

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

–Anne Frank

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

Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.

–Thomas Carlyle

Write while the heat is in you….The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled.

–Henry David Thoreau

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.

–Joan Didion

Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas.

–Eric Hoffer

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,

Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

–Lord Byron

Rejection is one hundred percent guaranteed in the writing profession.

–Gregg Levoy

You cannot correct your work well until you’ve forgotten it.

–Voltaire

I know how utterly I should have failed myself had my bread not been earned elsewhere while I was making my efforts. Get a steady job, and then in such leisure hours as may belong to you…persevere in your literary attempts. Should you fail, then your failure will not be fatal—and what better could you have done with the leisure hours had you not so failed? Such double toil, you will say is severe. Yes; but if you want this thing, you must submit to severe toil.

–Anthony Trollope

I know of only one rule: Style cannot be too clear, too simple.

–Stendhal

To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.

—Bette Davis

I don’t believe in personal immortality; the only way I expect to have some version of such a thing is through my books.

—Isaac Asimov

If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on any one point it is on this: the surest way to arouse and hold the attention of the reader is by being specific, definite, and concrete. The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures.

–William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

–Joseph Chilton Pearce

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.

–Steve Martin

The best stories don’t come from ‘good vs. bad’ but from ‘good vs. good.’

–Leo Tolstoy

Story: someone wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it.

–Frank Daniel

Conflict is simply having characters not get what they want.

–Leslie Dixon

It’s hard enough to write a good drama, it’s much harder to write a good comedy, and it’s hardest of all to write a drama with comedy. Which is what life is. 

–Jack Lemmon

For me, reading books and writing them are tied together. The words of other writers teach me and refresh me and inspire me.

–Betsy Byars

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who. 

–Rudyard Kipling

In the mind, as in the body, there is the necessity of getting rid of waste, and a man of active literary habits will write for the fire as well as for the press. 

–Jerome Cardan

An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are. He has to tell, because nobody else can tell, what it is like to be alive.

–James Baldwin

Training to be a writer is a slow and continuous process, with time off for human behavior.

–Marie-Elise

I think that in order to write really well and convincingly, one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, faultfinding, imagination, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice—they all make fine fuel.

–Edna Ferber

In Hollywood, writers are considered only the first drafts of human beings.

–Frank Deford

Where strictness of grammar does not weaken expression, it should be attended to in complaisance to the purists of New England. But where by small grammatical negligences the energy of an idea is condensed, or a word stands for a sentence, I hold grammatical rigor in contempt.

–Thomas Jefferson

There is a little word at the end of my pencil. I am the stage director, the costume designer, and the man who pulls the curtain. If I’m in the mood, I can admit to being despotic, too, for when a character is not behaving as I would wish him to, he can be quickly dismissed with a wave of my eraser. This is certainly part of the joy of making books for children.

–Arnold Lobel

I write in the seclusion of my attic. I sit at a desk; I face the wall. If you sit facing the wall, the only way out is through the sentences.

–E. L. Doctorow

There is much complaint that no new books are really written today. This is probably true; but it is just as true that no new books were ever written. Milton borrowed of Dante, and Dante borrowed of Virgil, and Virgil borrowed of Homer, and Homer borrowed of the unknown poets who doubtless sang their songs a long succession of ages before him. But Milton and Dante and Virgil and Homer made the stuff they handled more resplendent and newer by handling it. A gloss of newness was added to an old theme as it came from the hands of Dante. Shakespeare never invented a plot, but he made some of the world-old plots he used gleam with a brighter newness than they had known for a thousand years. Even a genius as supreme as Shakespeare can only use the old stuff that is in the world; and the old stuff of which ideas are made, like the old air and water and soil, is always and forever new and growing newer. The sweetest music comes from violins made of the oldest wood.

–Sam Walter Foss

Never let a domestic quarrel ruin a day’s writing. If you can’t start the next day fresh, get rid of your wife.

–Mario Puzo

Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.

–Peter De Vries

The most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but because they put what they have to say as if it had never been said before.

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Writing is one of the easiest things: erasing is one of the hardest.

–Rabbi Israel Salanter

The process of writing a book is infinitely more important than the book that is completed as a result of the writing, let alone the success or failure that book may have after it is written…the book is merely a symbol of the writing. In writing the book, I am living. I am growing. I am tapping myself. I am changing. The process is the product.

–Theodore Isaac Rubin

In America only the successful writer is important, in France all writers are important, in England no writer is important, and in Australia you have to explain what a writer is.

–Geoffrey Cotterell

All the fun’s in how you say a thing.

–Robert Frost

How many good books suffer neglect through the inefficiency of their beginnings!

–Edgar Allan Poe

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

–Saul Bellow

Teaching has ruined more American novelists than drink.

–Gore Vidal

Respect your reader. The niftiest turn of phrase, the most elegant flight of rhetorical fancy, isn’t worth beans next to a clear thought clearly expressed.

–Jeff Greenfield

Translate the stuff of headlines into fictionalized yarns. Any daily small-town newspaper in the US has the stuffings of at least one smashing bestseller buried in its pages.

–Catherine Breslin

Write something every day.

–Roger Zelazny

Writing is most of all an exercise in determination, first to get the job done, second to get it done right.

–Tom Clancy

I once stayed in a hotel, next door to a well-known writer. He never talked about writing. Each night I heard his typewriter, hour after hour, past midnight. Everybody else in the hotel was asleep. The sound of that machine reminds me, still, that what writers do is write.

–Richard Bach

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.

–Catherine Drinker Bowen

If one waits for the right time to come before writing, the right time never comes.

–James Russell Lowell

I’m an outline man. I think spontaneous writing is a waste of time.

–Tom Wolfe

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining…researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

–E. L. Doctorow

‘It’s like undressing in front of a window. At night. With the lights on and the curtains open,’ I replied to a friend’s question about what sending manuscripts off to unknown editors feels like.

‘And a rejection?’ My friend wondered.

‘That means someone’s watching—and pulls the shade down.’

–Jane Kirkpatrick

Do not talk to me of Archimedes’s lever. He was an absent-minded person with a mathematical imagination….Give me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world.

–Joseph Conrad

First, establish a reason for your story, then introduce your characters, and after you’ve done that, make a dash for the climax. That’s all there is to it. Establish a premise and then rush for the final scene. Don’t waste any time en route. Be sure that it contains action, action, and then some more action. Mix a few thrills with it. Bring a tear to the eyes of your audience. Then, the next instant, chase away the tear with a smile. If you do that, then you’ve got a story.

–H. H. Van Loan

It’s an author’s primary duty to entertain. Sling out all the philosophical terms, but keep the reader turning the page.

 —Susan Howatch

A author is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

–Thomas Mann

To write a book is to lay bare one’s mind for all to scrutinize, judge, and criticize.

–Dan L. Miller

You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired—it’s hard work.

–Tom Clancy

All writers are more or less crazy—and the only argument I’ll listen to is whether they were crazy to start with or got that way from writing.

–Allen Marple

The simple declarative sentence is the soul of good writing.

–David Rosenbaum

There is a meaning in life….there is one thing that matters—to set a chime of words tinkling in the minds of a few fastidious people.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

The fascination of the silent midnight, the veiled lamp, the smoldering fire, the white paper asking to be covered with elusive words; the thoughts grouping themselves into architectural forms, and slowly rising into dreamy structures, constantly changing, shifting, beautifying their outlines,—this is the subtlest of solitary temptations, and the loftiest of the intoxications of genius.

–Henry Adams

Hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm.

–John O’Hara

I want to live other lives. I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.

–Anne Tyler

A thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.

–Thomas Wolfe

I write because I’m afraid of dying and maybe there’s some chance some scattered bits of my work will live on after me and thereby frustrate Death.

–Dean Koontz

One of the most common and erroneous ideas is that the clever writer hides his meaning. In fact, the good writer makes his meaning as clear as possible. He leaves no doubt about what is being read and he is not vague except when he has good reason.

–Gary Provost

Of all those arts in which the wise excel,

Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.

–John Sheffield

Words have a longer life than deeds.

–Pindar

Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.

–Sylvia Plath

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it.

–Truman Capote

The book dies a real death for me when I write the last word. I have little sorrow and then go on to a new book which is alive. The rows of my books on the shelf are to me like very well embalmed corpses. They are neither alive nor mine. I have no sorrow for them because I have forgotten them, forgotten in its truest sense.

–John Steinbeck

Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers I’d be a politician.

–Eugene Ionesco

It is hard enough to write books and stories without being asked to explain them as well.

–Ernest Hemingway

I don’t care to talk about a novel I’m doing because if I communicate the magic spell, even in an abbreviated form, it loses it’s force for me. Once you have talked, the act of communication has been made.

–Angus Wilson

Nice writing isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to have smooth and pretty language. You have to surprise the reader frequently, you can’t just be nice all the time. Provoke the reader. Astonish the reader. Writing that has no surprises is as bland as oatmeal. Surprise the reader with the unexpected verb or adjective. Use one startling adjective per page.

–Anne Bernays

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.

–W. Somerset Maugham

It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs.

–Gerald Brenan

A writer doesn’t need to go out and live, but stay home and invent.

–Ned Rorem

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

–James Michener

Never fall in love with your first draft.

–Herb Williams

A writer is a simple-minded person….He’s not a great mind, he’s not a great thinker, he’s not a great philosopher, he’s a storyteller.

–Erskine Caldwell

I write the books first, then do the research, then rewrite them.

–Peter Dickinson

Writing is like a twitch. You do it because you have to do it. And it’s fun, God knows it’s fun. All these writers say, ‘Oh, it’s so hard, it’s such torture,’ because they’re having such a good time and if they told people that they’d get lynched.

–Stephen King

What release to write so that one forgets oneself, forgets one’s companion, forgets where one is or what one is going to do next—to be drenched in sleep or in the sea. Pencils and pads and curling blue sheets alive with letters heap up on-the desk.

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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

In America only the successful writer is important, in France all writers are important, in England no writer is important, in Australia you have to explain what a writer is.

–Geoffrey Cotterell

Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.

–T. W. Higginson

Pen and ink is wit’s plough.

–John Clarke

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

It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life.

–Barthold Georg Niebuhr

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success—but only if you persist.

–Isaac Asimov

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. Originality is deliberate and forced, and partakes of the nature of a protest.

–Eric Hoffer

There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.

–Dostoyevsky

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down…If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.

–Edna St. Vincent Millay

The true writer is not a talker; at least he doesn’t talk about his writing. Or shouldn’t. The blood runs out of his writing veins if he spills, orally, what he is doing, or sounds off about his problems.

–William Targ

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper….I just let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor until I’m ready. Delay is natural to a writer. He’s like a surfer. He bides his time, waiting for the perfect wave on which to ride in.

—E. B. White

Writing is life making itself known to me through words.

–Jessamyn West

The best writing is always done at night when you’re asleep. You put yourself to sleep reading a book or the transcripts of judicial hearings. You let the facts just pour into your mind and then somehow they magically arrange themselves at night.

There is no sense in trying to bull your way through when you’re stuck on a passage—it means that somehow the facts don’t fit. You have to knock off and go to bed, and if the subconscious doesn’t arrange the facts, then you’re nowhere.

–Theodore H. White

If you are a real writer you know that what you put down on the page isn’t sacred. You just keep throwing out what isn’t any good and keep writing. The point of writing isn’t self-therapy. You have what amounts to a contract with the reader, and the reader has the right to quit at any time.

–Charles Johnson

I would much rather go to Indonesia or Australia as a working writer than as a tourist, and I feel that way about life. I’d rather go through life as a writer than as a tourist.

–Alvin Toffler

Fortunately, Writer’s Block is almost always curable. Either by the passage of time, or by the informed efforts of the writer on his own, or both. Simple measures to get started again include retyping the last page, chapter, or whole manuscript: replotting from the viewpoint of another character; skipping ahead and dealing with the trouble spot later; or laying aside the narrative until the writer gains a new perspective on his material.

–Jean Backus

In my experience, novelists and others who complain of a  mysterious disease called Writer’s Block should be treated with suspicion.

     

This inexplicable failure to write anything can be the result  of two conditions—simple laziness or having nothing to say. Writers are sometimes encouraged to treat their laziness as if it were a rare and beautiful neurosis, proof of their artistic temperament if not of their genius. Only the sourest Philistine would deny that one has to be in the right mood to write creatively, they plead.

     

On the contrary, one needs only to develop a certain power of concentration and have something to say. These writers who, quite genuinely, have nothing to say, no perception to impart, would be better employed in some other occupation like selling hairbrushes or driving buses.

–Auberon Waugh

There are several kinds of compliments handed to writers. Among them I value only one thing higher than laugher: tears. You have to dig more deeply into a reader’s gut to extract tears, which is why they have more value. Create an admirable character, have the reader fall in love with him, then kill him. Create an abominable character, cause the reader to hate him, then cause the character to change, altering the reader’s perception and emotional reaction to the character.

–Barry B. Longyear

Talent is cheap. What matters is discipline.

–Andre Dubus

I even love to revise: it’s like a piece of work I can put on the table and make better, the same way I can make something with my hands.

–Eudora Welty

I write to touch another human being. Not just to entertain, but to give comfort so one can say, ‘Ah, I am not alone in this wilderness.’

–Michael Wagman

Novels are being written these days with no plot, and except for a very talented person like Kafka, this can be very dangerous….the first duty of a novelist is to tell a story.

–Julian Symons

Writing is a sedentary and lonely profession, hardly adventurous in any physical sense. And journalism is worse because journalists are writers who have no education and disdain looking up words in dictionaries or subjects in encyclopedias, relying on their memories. Certainly none of it is romantic. If it were, policemen and nurses and cab drivers would compose all the novels.

–Harry Golden

A writer must first of all have a working vocabulary. He must know the quality of words and their functions, methods of handling them, and their power or futility. He must know which words to avoid as well as the ones most suitable for his use, and he must have an artist’s taste and skill in arranging them.

–Norma R. Youngberg

The author of the novel has an infinity of choices. He can move swiftly or slowly. He can be as brief as Camus or Nathaniel West, or take as much time as Tolstoy. He can move everywhere he wants to in time, thought, place, history, allusion, fantasy and reverie. He can digress with any enthusiasm and even take revenge upon an old girl friend by writing her in an unkindly manner.

–Joseph Heller

About the subject of outlines. They’re dangerous and perhaps useful. A first-rate stand-up comic who goes before an audience may know very well what he’s going to do in the five or ten minutes that he’s allotted. On the other hand, once he feels his audience sufficiently warmed up and responding in the way he wishes them to respond, he will throw most of his prepared material to the winds and just ad lib. The same is true of the novelist. Once you feel you’ve established the kind of rapport with your material, once you’re getting the note that you want you’ve got to go along with whatever comes out of your typewriter.

–Wallace Markfield

Anything which is not ridiculously incompetent has a chance of being published.

–Robertson Davies

When I’m not writing, unease moves and twitches at the back of my neck, between my shoulder blades. A writer is somebody who, when he’s writing, never feels there’s anything else he ought to be doing; a writer is somebody who, when he’s doing anything else, always feels he ought to be writing.

–Lesley Conger

There is no word, no action, which is of itself out of place if it springs from artistic necessity.

–Madeleine L’Engle

Originality in writing is largely a matter of doing better what other people have done badly or only fairly well. It often involves combinations of old elements in a new way. Something completely new, as the wheel was once, is rare—perhaps impossible now. Certainly you don’t write a play in a vacuum you pick up ideas from every play you read or see, every scrap of dialogue you overhear, every film, every radio or TV show; from every day at the office, every ride in a tram, meal with the family, class you teach, spadeful of earth you throw, truck you drive…

–Eunice Hanger

The best training for any novelist is to read and teach yourself to have a critical ability. Mostly, just read; and if you love novels, it’s just going to seep right into you. You must want to be a storyteller. If you’re not meant to be a novelist, you’ll find some other medium which will be much better for you. With so many types of writing, it’s a pity when young people think, ‘Oh, I must write a novel,’ when it might be much better for them to be a columnist or an essayist.

–Helen MacInnes

Writing is like being at a party and saying, ‘Have you heard the one about?’ It’s the pleasure of telling a good tale, the logic and neatness of it when you get all the ends to thread up together and it works.

–Paul Gallico

I never talk about future projects. It’s bad luck and it dissipates your energy. Writing for me is like undoing a dream. And you never talk about a dream until it’s over and comes swimming out of your subconscious, do you?

–Robert Anderson

When I am writing well, that is akin to what saints call ecstasy. You know it’s good, and no other kind of living can ever measure up to it.

–Edna O’Brien

Perhaps you have heard of the Scheherazade Syndrome: ‘If you bore me, you die.’ Authors have to defy that syndrome, an increasing pressure in a TV-consuming society.

–Brian W. Aldiss

The more particular, the more specific you are, the more universal you are. These people who insist on writing cosmic novels about this woman who symbolizes fertility, who climbs up a mountain, slug, slug, slug, and marries a man who is all manhood and they have a baby who represents the principle of duty—they aren’t any good!

–Nancy Hale

Treat it as a job—not a mystical calling. Then you’ll get up every morning and go ‘to work’ instead of waiting for the muse to attend you.

–Jean Brady

If the noun is good and the verb is strong, you almost never need an adjective.

–J. Anthony Lukas

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten….It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.

–Michael Crichton

There is no reason why anybody should read a writer’s story unless he can capture his or her interest. A writer is competing with many varieties of entertainment, and the man or woman who buys his book has many alternatives—baseball, football, hockey, movies, TV, a drink at a bar, basketball, bowling, etc. A writer is not just competing with other writers, but with all the above. A writer has not just to write a story, he or she must write a better story.

–Louis L’Amour

If you would be a writer, first be a reader. Only through the assimilation of ideas, thoughts and philosophies can one begin to focus his own ideas, thoughts and philosophies.

–Allen W. Eckert

Writing is not a profession, occupation or job; it is not a way of life: it is a comprehensive response to life.

–Gregory Mcdonald

No one put a gun to your head and ordered you to become a writer. One writes out of his own choice and must be prepared to take the rough spots along the road with a certain equanimity, though allowed some grinding of the teeth.

–Stanley Ellin

The beauty or the curse of writing is that there is no formula for success, no government-tested right way. Mechanics have a manual to follow as they reassemble a transmission. Cooks have package directions that lead them from mix to cake. Writers will find neither packed with a typewriter.

–Thomas Clark

The first thing the young writer should do is to read everything, and read all the time. Poetry, philosophy, economics, Sears Roebuck catalogs, history, novels. Reading that’s good, bad, and indifferent, but infinitely varied.

He should also travel as far as his feet, his time, and his finances will carry him.

He should submit everything he sees, hears, reads, or believes to a most searching examination, as if his salvation depends upon it, as indeed it does.

He should write one book, again, good, bad, or indifferent, to prove to himself that he can fill 350 pages with a connected composition, that he has enough stamina to finish the course. The world is full of writers who have ‘not quite finished’ a book for twenty years.

Finally, he should set out to share, observe, and record the experience and the vision of this very wonderful world.

–Morris L. West

Writers write because they can’t help themselves….The born writer writes to live, and he lives to write. It is a compulsion to communicate. We have something to say and, while it may not be an earth-shaking message, it seems so important to us that the words we put on paper are our way of clutching a reader’s arm to plead, ‘Listen—please listen to what I have to tell you.’

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

It is not necessary to portray many characters. The centre of gravity should be in two persons; him and her.

–Anton Chekhov

First I pick a locale, then I populate it with people, and then the people start messing each other up.

–Mary Ellin Barrett

I never write in (a) pokey way….I have to turn loose like the blowing wind. I’ve got to get going. I’ve got to roll. I can’t halt. When I get started, I’m like a flowing stream or a wind that blows over the meadow. I’ve got to move….

I never hang up on a word….If I can’t find the word I want at that time, I just keep going. I’ll hang up when I revise. But I want to get the story down on paper first. I want to get the mood of the poem down. I can think about words later.

–Jesse Stuart

I write about things I don’t know all that well just to try to understand them. The act of writing is an investigative, learning act.

–Grace Paley

You should never try to write anything you wouldn’t enjoy reading.

–Alison Lurie

The secret in writing detail is to become more observant. Look at your shoes. They are not merely shoes; they are dirty tennis sneakers, pumps, clogs, oxfords, sandals, or galoshes. The ring on your finger is a diamond, a turquoise, gold wedding band, or a five-and-dime special that turns your finger green. As you remember back, try to remember specifics instead of general terms.

–Janice T. Dixon and Dora D. Flack

Virtually every beginning poet hurts himself by an addiction to adjectives. Verbs are by far the most important things for poems—especially wonderful tough monosyllables like ‘gasp’ and ‘cry.’ Nouns are the next most important. Adjectives tend to be useless.

–Donald Hall

You’ve got to get an education from somewhere if you’re going to write. I don’t believe in unlettered, untutored writers. It seems to me literature springs from literature. But whether you have the formal degree or not; that’s empty as far as your writing goes. Your writing depends on the quality of the work—wherever it comes from. Have you ever heard of an unlettered, untutored writer who was a good writer? They might be good storytellers, and if what they say is taken down it might make what they call oral literature.

–Elizabeth Spencer

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

–Francis Bacon

Goethe said there would be little left of him if he were to discard what he owed to others.

–Charlotte Cushman

Of all sad words of the writer’s pen, saddest are these, ‘I didn’t jot it when!’

–Laurence J. Peter

The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?

–Dale Carnegie

Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.

–Stephen Leacock

No matter what it is you write, you teach.

–Michael Seidman

Nothing is new except arrangement.

–William Durant

(A novel) begins to seep into your brain, drop by drop. But it isn’t as though you’re getting sap out of one tree; you’re getting sap out of 50 trees spread around in a very thick woods. It’s not a neat and orderly experience. These drips and drops collect, and suddenly, you have a puddle. At that point you may want to write something down.

–Philip Roth

Grammar ‘rules’ are to be obeyed only when they contribute to the sense and rhythm of the prose….A well-split infinitive, produced for a purpose like honest cordwood, is much more effective than any number of sapless ‘correct’ sentences.

–Paul Darcy Boles

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

The two creatures most to be pitied are the spider and the novelist—their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts.

–Katherine Patterson

Revising is repugnant. I have to play for keeps on every page.

–Robert Penn Warren

People who I did not think could write on bathroom walls earn over $50,000 a year (writing) because they stick to it.

–Bill Emerson

Too much polishing and you spoil things. There’s a limit to the expressibility of ideas. You have a new thought, and interesting one. Then, as you try to perfect it, it ceases to be new and interesting, and loses the freshness with which it first occurred to you. You’re spoiling it.

–Leo Tolstoy

Writing for a living is the most rewarding and the most impoverishing thing anyone can do.

–Norman Mailer

Weak verbs are the lazy writer’s crutch and the reader’s despair.

–William E. Unger

Why does a man spend fifty years of his life in an occupation that is often painful? I once told a class I was teaching that writing is an intellectual contact sport, similar in some respects to football. The effort required can be exhausting, the goal unreached, and you are hurt on almost every play; but that doesn’t deprive a man or a boy from getting peculiar pleasures from the game.

–Irwin Shaw

The ability to write simple, direct prose that says precisely what you want it to say in the fewest words has always been the mark of an educated person.

–Business Week

I see but one rule: to be clear. If I am not clear, all my world crumbles to nothing.

–Stendhal

Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

–Gene Fowler

A good writer is basically a story-teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

Less is more.

–Robert Browning

Writing books is better than planting vines: the latter serves only the needs of the stomach, whereas the former feeds the soul.

–Alcuin

The greatest force that the written word alone can exercise is its ability to influence one’s mind, one’s heart, one’s conscience into action—good or bad—without raising a voice, using physical coercion, or public embarrassment.

–O. A. Battista

Two sorts of writers possess genius: those who think, and those who cause others to think.

–Joseph Roux

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

Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.

–Napoleon I

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

–John Ray

A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right.

—John K. Hutchens

How can you write if you can’t cry?

–Ring Lardner

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.

–Jules Renard

It’s a nervous work. The state that you need to write is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.

–Shirley Hazzard

I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.

–Isaac Asimov

Most writers regard truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.

–Mark Twain

Writers are the engineers of human souls.

–Joseph Stalin

Often must you turn your stylus to erase if you hope to write something worth a second reading.

–Horace

Stop being lazy! Lazy in doing research! Lazy in your outlining of your piece! Lazy in your thinking! Lazy in your writing! Writing is work! Thinking is work! Writing means rewriting. There is a correct word to express a precise idea. Precision, precision, precision! Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!

–Gini Kopecky

Readers are like sheep. If there’s any gate on the right or left, they’ll take it. You must, therefore, always keep them on the path.

–John Wood

Writers! Choose a subject equal to your abilities; think carefully what your shoulders may refuse and what they are capable of bearing.

–Horace

The writer…is a person who talks to himself, or better, who talks in himself.

–Malcolm Cowley

One need not believe too literally in Oscar Wilde’s account of how he spent the morning putting in a comma, and the afternoon in taking it out again.

–F. L. Lucas

I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else.

–Georges Simenon

We write to create a world in which we can live, to heighten our awareness of life, to lure and enchant and console others, to serenade our loves…and to transcend our life.

–Anaïs Nin

More than one way exists to write any sentence longer than one word. Any sentence longer than four or five words can be written four or five ways. Some ways are better than others; some are dead wrong; one may be right, depending on context. Next time, in another context, that same sentence may be better if you write it another way.

–Andrew Offutt

Listen to yourself. If you want to write, write. You’ll hear discouraging voices urging you to do the sane thing and get a job. Sometimes the voice will come from within. Listen to that one and see if it’s stronger than the voice within that prompts you to write. You may have to do this many times, but a pattern will emerge. If you decide to write, kindly thank those who love you for their concern, tune out their advice (you don’t need to announce that you’re doing this) and write.

–Peggy Anderson

Never write on a subject without first having read yourself full on it.

–Jean Paul Richter

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.

William Butler Yeats

Writing good editorials is chiefly telling the people what they think, not what you think.

–Arthur Brisbane

Whatever we conceive well we express clearly.

–Nicholas Boileau

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

–Samuel Johnson

If you wish to be a writer, write.

–Epictetus

Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.

–Willa Cather

A writer’s problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.

–Ernest Hemingway

An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Talent is like a faucet; while it is open, one must write. Inspiration is a farce that poets have invented to give themselves importance.

–Jean Anouilh

Good writing is a kind of skating which carries off the performer where he would not go.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say don’t listen to writers talking about writing.

–Lillian Hellman

Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.

–Lillian Hellman

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.

–Olin Miller

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

Failure is very difficult for a writer to bear, but very few can manage the shock of early success.

–Maurice Valency

Style, in its finest sense, is the last acquirement of the educated mind.

–Alfred North Whitehead

Style is effectiveness of assertion.

–George Bernard Shaw

Every style that is not boring is a good one.

–Voltaire

No style is good that is not fit to be spoken or read aloud with effect.

–William Hazlitt

I never write metropolis for seven cents because I can get the same price for city. I never write policeman because I can get the same money for cop.

–Mark Twain

A sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself.

–Don Marquis

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.

–Ernest Hemingway

The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one’s family and friends; and lastly, the solid cash.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

–Sholem Asch

The pen is the tongue of the hand—a silent utterer of words for the eye.

–Henry Ward Beecher

The pen is mightier than the sword.

–Bulwer-Lytton

No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.

–Samuel Johnson

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

–Samuel Johnson

Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are.

–Henry David Thoreau

If it were not for a rainy day, a drunken vigil, a fit of the spleen, a course of physic, a sleepy Sunday, an ill run at dice, a long tailor’s bill, a beggar’s purse, a factious head, a hot sun, costive diet, want of books, and a just contempt for learning—but for these…the number of authors and of writing would dwindle away to a degree most woeful to behold.

–Jonathan Swift

Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.

–Gustave Flaubert

You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written: you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.

–Sydney Smith

In composition I do not think second thoughts are best.

–Byron

The desire to write grows with writing.

–Erasmus

All writing comes by the grace of God.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Certainly the Age of Writing is the most miraculous of all things man has devised.

–Thomas Carlyle

When I want to read a book, I write one.

–Benjamin Disraeli

What comes from the heart goes to the heart.

–Samuel Taylor

Coleridge

Nothing is ended with honour which does not conclude better than it began.

–Samuel Johnson

Learn to write well, or not to write at all.

–John Dryden and

John Sheffield

It is only by writing ill that you can attain to write well.

–Samuel Johnson

What is easy is seldom excellent.

–Samuel Johnson

The more a man writes, the more he can write.

–William Hazlitt

Too much polishing weakens rather than improves a work.

–Pliny the Younger

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

–Benjamin Franklin

Literary fame is the only fame of which a wise man ought to be ambitious, because it is the only lasting and living fame.

–Robert Southey

There is probably no hell for authors in the next world—they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.

–C. N. Bovee

Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing, when properly managed,…is but a different name for conversation.

–Laurence Sterne

The reason why so few good books are written is, that so few people that can write know anything. In general an author has always lived in a room, has read books, has cultivated science, is acquainted with the style and sentiments of the best authors, but he is out of the way of employing his own eyes and ears. He has nothing to hear and nothing to see. His life is a vacuum.

–Walter Bagehot

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations….Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.

–Henry David Thoreau

When you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

–Wilson Mizner

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.

–Abraham Harold Maslow

A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.

–Aldous Huxley

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.

–Ring Lardner

We do not write as we want to but as we can.

–Somerset Maugham

In Hollywood the woods are full of people that learned to write, but evidently can’t read. If they could read their stuff, they’d stop writing.

–Will Rogers

As to the adjective; when in doubt, strike it out.

–Mark Twain

Word by word the great books are written.

–Voltaire

There are only two powers in the world, the sword and the pen; and in the end the former is always conquered by the latter.

–Napoleon I

Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

–Benjamin Franklin

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Achilles exists only through Homer. Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory.

–Francois Rene de Chateaubriand

The writer, using fragments of disorder, seeks to impose order on the world around him, that otherwise immense panorama of futility and anarchy.

–Wright Morris

A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.

–E. L. Doctorow

Anyone can make history. Only a great man can write it.

–Oscar Wilde

The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.

–Francois Rene de Chateaubriand

The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.

–Alain Robbe-Grillet

When a writer becomes the center of his attention, he becomes a nudnik. And a nudnik who believes he’s profound is even worse than just a plain nudnik.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

Of all those arts in which the wise excel,

Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.

–John Sheffield

‘Fool!’ said my muse to me, ‘look in thy heart, and write.’

–Sir Philip Sidney

A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.

–Samuel Johnson

If you would not be forgotten,

As soon as you are dead and rotten,

Either write things worth reading,

Or do things worth the writing.

–Benjamin Franklin

In every man’s writings, the character of the writer must lie recorded.

–Thomas Carlyle

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, then remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.

–Ernest Hemingway

The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. 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

Really the writer doesn’t want success….He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall—Kilroy was here—that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see.

–William Faulkner

If you write about the things and the people you know best, you discover your roots. Even if they are new roots, fresh roots…they are better than…no roots.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

The literary man has a circle of the chosen few who read him and become his only public….What more natural than that he should write for those who, even if they do not pay him, at least understand him?

–Amado Nervo

I write from the worm’s-eye point of view.

–Ernie Pyle

In youth men are apt to write more wisely than they really know or feel; and the remainder of life may be not idly spent in realizing and convincing themselves of the wisdom they uttered long ago.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

Writing is one of the few areas in life where ‘Do it right the first time or don’t do it at all’ doesn’t apply. If we tried to do it right the first time, most of us would never finish a sentence.

–Ronald John Donovan

There are three rules for writing a successful novel. The problem is, no one knows what they are.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Writing is not writing skills, but knowing how to see….Tune in and notice all the details. There are people who can’t read and write who are great novelists. They’ve got two lenses…a telephoto lens for big pictures and a lens a dentist would use. What they do to show the big picture is to use those details they see with the small lens.

–Carolyn Chute

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.

–Peter de Vries

The main thing to remember in autobiography is not to let any damn modesty creep in to spoil the story.

–Margery Allingham

Each of us, then, makes his own illusion of the world—illusion poetic, sentimental, joyous, melancholy, foul, or dismal—according to his nature. And the writer has no mission other than to reproduce faithfully this illusion, with all the processes of art he had learned.

–Guy de Maupassant

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.

–Meister Eckhart

One man is as good as another until he has written a book.

–Benjamin Jowett

The day you write to please everyone you no longer are in journalism. You are in show business.

–Frank Miller, Jr.

The first essence of journalism is to know what you want to know; the second, is to find out who will tell you.

–John Gunther

Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill.

–Edmund Morrison

The writer is committed when he plunges to the very depths of himself with the intent to disclose, not his individuality, but his person in the complex society that conditions and supports him.

Jean-Paul Sartre

There should be two main objectives in ordinary prose writing: to convey a message and to include in it nothing that will distract the reader’s attention or check his habitual pace of reading—he should feel that he is seated at ease in a taxi, not riding a temperamental horse through traffic.

–Robert Graves and Allan Hodge

Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself—it is the occurring which is difficult.

–Stephen Leacock

Caesar had perished from the world of men

Had not his sword been rescued by his pen.

–Henry Vaughan

The obscurity of a writer is generally in proportion to his incapacity.

–Quintilian

When an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.

–Samuel Johnson

How vain to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

–Henry David Thoreau

Every writer without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an injustice collector and a depressed person constantly haunted by fears of unproductivity.

–Edmund Bergler

Footnotes, the little dogs yapping at the heels of the text.

–William James

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.

–Henry David Thoreau

(Writing)—the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

–Mary Heaton Vorse

It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

–Sholem Asch

Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing: it’s about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustrations that it creates.

–Mordecai Richler

Our society, like decadent Rome, has turned into an amusement society, with writers chief among the court jesters—not so much above the clatter as part of it.

–Saul Bellow

If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.

–Epictetus

The waste basket is a writer’s best friend.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

If a man means his writing seriously, he must mean to write well. But how can he write well until he learns to see what he has written badly. His progress toward good writing and recognition of bad writing are bound to unfold at something like the same rate.

–John Ciardi

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

–Virginia Woolf

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

–Cyril Connolly

Writing has power, but its power has no vector. Writers can stir the mind, but they can’t direct it. Times change things, God changes things, the dictators change things, but writers can’t change anything.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

You have to throw yourself away when you write.

–Maxwell Perkins

I write for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear Readers, are an afterthought.

–Gertrude Stein

Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends and society are the natural enemies of a writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.

–Laurence Clark Powell

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

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

No man understands a deep book until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents.

–Ezra Pound

The job of the novelist is to entertain….To entertain…you need more than clarity. You need eloquence. You need flair. You need the whole gamut of words and sentence structures—the involved and the complex as well as the bare bones simple.

–Melvin J. Grayson

A writer’s life is his crucible. First you draw on your own experience. When you have drained your own experience or have stopped experiencing in quantity, you must draw on the experience of others through observation and research. Research is vital.

–Paddy Chayefsky

The idea is to get the pencil moving quickly….To write a scene, work up feeling: ride in on it.

–Bernard Malamud

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.

–D. H. Lawrence

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the mast. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.

–William Faulkner

All this advice from senior writers to establish a discipline—always to get down a thousand words a day whatever one’s mood—I find an absurdly puritanical and impractical approach. Write, if you must, because you feel like writing, never because you feel you ought to write.

–John Fowles

I think it’s a pretty good rule not to tell what a thing is about until it’s finished. If you do you always seem to lose some of it. It never quite belongs to you so much again.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

‘Get black on white’ used to be Maupassant’s advice—that’s what I always do. I don’t give a hoot what the writing’s like, I write any sort of rubbish which will cover the main outline of the story, then I can begin to see it.

–Frank O’Connor

Advice to young readers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.

–E. B. White

You have to assume that the act of writing is the most important of all. If you start worrying about people’s feelings then you get nowhere at all.

–Norman Mailer

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.

–John Ruskin

Words must be weighed, not counted.

–Polish Proverb

Always seek the hard, definite, personal word.

–T. E. Hulme

1. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

2. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

3. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.

4. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word

     if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

5. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

–George Orwell

Never allow the integrity of your own way of seeing things and saying things to be swamped by the influence of a master, however great.

–George P. Lathrop

Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.

–Jesse Stuart

I would advise any writer trying to achieve success to ignore popular fashion as much as possible, and write what he or she really wants to write. Of course, it helps to remember that writing is an act of communication. The more accessible your work is, the more people will want to read it.

–Stephen King

No genuine piece of writing ever happens without the author’s total emotional belief and involvement in what he or she is writing about. It must germinate inside his own unconscious and consciousness and emotions if it is to be a truly fine book.

–Charlotte Zolotow

Writing can get harder rather than easier as you get better at it. The competence a good writer acquires is not so much facility as it is staying power.

–Sheridan Blau

Be merciless on yourself. If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

–Kurt Vonnegut

Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers.

–Kurt Vonnegut

Keep your hands from literary picking and stealing. But if you cannot refrain from this kind of stealth, abstain from murdering what you steal.

–Augustus Toplady

One may write from the outside of his mind, as it were; write and write, learnedly and eloquently, and make no impression; but when he speaks from real insight and conviction of his own, men are always glad to hear him, whether they agree with him or not. Get down to your real self…and let that speak. One’s real self is always vital, and gives the impression of vitality.

–John Burroughs

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it.

–Herman Melville

The secret way to fail as a writer is set out with the determination to please everyone.

–Herbert Bayard Swoop

There is probably no hell for authors in the next world…they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.

–Christian Nestell Bode

I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works.

–Samuel Johnson

Authors are judged by strange capricious rules,

The great ones are thought mad, the small ones fools.

–Alexander Pope

The only happy author in this world is he who is below the care of reputation.

–Washington Irving

There seems to be no physical handicap or change of environment that can hold a real writer down.

–Kathleen Norris

The great art of writing is the art of making people real to themselves with words.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

The art of the pen is to rouse the inward vision, to spring imagination with a word or phrase.

–George Meredith

The writer’s intention is limited by the tempers and experience of the reader.

–Vernon Lee

The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.

–Chinese Proverb

…and as sentences should follow one another in harmonious sequence, so the paragraphs must fit on to one another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages.

–Winston Churchill

There is excitement in the very act of composition. Some of you know this at first hand–a deep satisfaction when the thing begins to take shape. Actually, I wonder if life holds a deeper satisfaction.

–Catherine Drinker Brown

This race and this country and this life produced me. I shall express myself as I am.

–James Joyce

An enormous amount of other learning must take place before one can write worthwhile essays of ideas; that is in the nature of the whole abstraction process.

–James Miffed

Writing is good for us because it brings our thoughts out into the open, as a boy turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them.

–Oliver Wendell Holmes

Writing can be, like the practice of any other art, a way of life. It is what we all want, to find a way to live.

–Sherwood Anderson

The vital difference between a writer and someone who merely is published is that the writer seems always to be saying to himself, as Stendhal actually did, ‘If I am not clear, the world around me collapses.’

–Alfred Kazin

The best writing, both prose and poetry, as Shakespeare pre-eminently shows, makes use, with condensation and selection, of playful, impassioned, imaginative talk.

–Sidney Cox

I hate anything that occupies more space than it is worth. I hate to see a load of band-boxes go along the street, and I hate to see a parcel of big words without anything in them.

–William Hazlitt

A young author is tempted to leave anything he has written through fear of not having enough to say if he goes cutting out too freely. But it is easier to be long than short.

–Samuel Butler

Creativity is continual surprise, and only because it is surprise can it be truth. When we grow self-conscious we hide, we cloak, we disguise, we lie. So the true writer artist always hopes, through working swiftly with his emotions to spring forth the delights and terrors, to trap them before they escape.

–Ray Bradbury

It is much easier to sit at a desk and read plans for a billion gallons of water a day, and look at maps and photographs; but you will write a better article if you heave yourself out of a comfortable chair and go down in tunnel 3 and get soaked.

–Stuart Chase

Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it you are lost…If we look at it to see where it is wrong, we shall see this and make it righter. If we look at it to see where it is right, we shall see this and shall not make it righter. We cannot see it both wrong and right at the same time.

–Samuel Butler

The mere act of reading aloud put his work before him in a new light and, by constraining his attention to every line, made him judge it more rigorously. I always intend to read, and generally do read, what I write aloud to some one; any one almost will do, but he should not be so clever that I am afraid of him. I feel weak places at once when I read aloud where I thought, as long as I read to myself only, that the passage was all right.

–Samuel Butler

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

–Marianne Moore

It doesn’t matter which leg of your table you make first, so long as the table has four legs and will stand up solidly when you have finished it.

–Ezra Pound

Life is a jungle of events whose meanings are at once too casual (and to that extent insignificant) and too full of possible implication (without offering us any guidance as to which implication or set of implications we should choose). The skilled storyteller makes those meanings at once more significant and less confused.

–David Daiches

I have often at the beginning of a book found myself very uncertain what I would do, and appalled at the difficulty of knowing what to put where, and how to develop my incidents. I never have that feeling now because I have always found that there is some one point or other in which I can see my way. I immediately set to work at that point and before I have done and settled it, I invariably find that there is another point which I can also see and settle, etc., etc….

–Samuel Butler

The art and soul of storying

   In one line can be writ:

Simplicity’s to writing, as brevity to wit.

–Robert Hart

You know you’re a writer when every blooming flower becomes a ‘why’ and every planted seed becomes a ‘what if.’

–Rose Adkins

If your story has only suspense, it probably isn’t a very good story. But if it has no suspense, you don’t have a story at all.

–E. M. Forster

The appeal of writing is primarily the investigation of mystery.

–Joyce Carol Oates

Authors are magpies, echoing each other’s words and seizing avidly on anything that glitters.

–Bergan Evans

It is terribly difficult for a writer to know what he is up to, since so many decisions are already made before he sits down to write—like the selection of material, which I believe is not a conscious choice on the writer’s part. It’s as unconscious as the deeply mysterious business of a novel arriving—when you suddenly feel a little twitch. The only thing that appeals to you about that twitch or idea is that you can write a novel about it; it has no other appeal, and you might even deplore it, but there it is…the selection of material is a moral decision, but it’s not a decision; it’s a recognition.

–Martin Amis

It is the task not only of the actor but of the artist as well to find the sort of expression that will arouse in others what is going on in himself.

–George Herbert Mead

Writing must be as immediate as life, or there are no juices, no chance to involve yourself or others in your vitality.

–Ray Bradbury

You writers, choose a subject that is within your powers, and ponder long what your shoulders can and cannot bear. He who makes every effort to select his theme aright will be at no loss for choice of words or lucid arrangement.

–Horace

Do one thing…imagine what you’re writing about. See it and live it. Don’t think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it.

–Ted Hughes

Just because people work for an institution they don’t have to write like one. Institutions can be warmed up. Administrators and executives can be turned into human beings. Information can be imparted clearly and without pompous verbosity.

–William Zinsser

Few men make themselves masters of the things they write or speak.

–John Selden

Memorable sentences are memorable on account of some single irradiating word.

–Alexander Smith

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

–Henry David Thoreau

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.

–H. G. Wells

I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.

–James A. Michener

For me, writing is a way of paying as much attention as possible.

–Susan Sontag

Writing is like religion. Every man who feels the call must work out his own salvation.

–George Horace Lorimer

When we encounter a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man.

–Blaise Pascal

Less is more, in prose as in architecture.

–Donald Hall

An author really hasn’t made it until he no longer shows his books to his friends.

–Dorothy Parker

Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.

–J. P. Donleavy

My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see! That—and no more, and it is everything! If I succeed, you shall find there…encouragement, consolation, fear, charm—all you demand—and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask..

–Joseph Conrad

When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win.

–Ed Macauley

The two most beautiful words in the English language are: ‘Check enclosed.’

–Dorothy Parker

If you’re not failing now and again, it’s a sign you’re playing it safe.

–Woody Allen

As a woman is understandably undone when a large, laboriously prepared dinner gets eaten in ten minutes, so is a writer who sees someone read in an hour what it took him four years to write.

–Peg Bracken

There is no justification for being a writer. You have to give yourself a reason to write every day. You have to say to yourself, ‘No matter what, I deserve to write for one more day.’

–Norman Mailer

You write a hit play the same way you write a flop.

–William Saroyan

First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.

–Martin Myers

The writer who draws his material from a book is like one who borrows money only to lend it.

–Kahlil Gibran

Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money.

—Louis Untermeyer

It is not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.

–T. S. Eliot

A real writer of nonfiction books is as much a dramatist as a journalist. It does not lessen the responsibility for accuracy, but the writer owes the reader something additional. It is the writer’s fault, not the reader’s, if the reader puts down the book.

–David Halberstam

Enjoy good reviews for a day or so, but don’t believe them. If you do, you’re morally obliged to believe bad reviews, which is preposterous.

–Stephen Becker

Writing is finding out what you really know.

–William Sloan

Authors who please everyone at once are quickly exhausted.

–Andre Gide

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are an absolute necessity.

–Jessamyn West

Write tight.

–Helen Newton

To write simply is as difficult as to be good.

–W. Somerset Maugham

What’s all this business about being a writer? It’s just putting one word after another.

–Irving Thalberg

There’s nothing mystical or magic about being a writer. A writer is just a person who writes something. There are almost no people who are not dentists who can fix teeth, but there are a lot of people who aren’t professional writers who write very well. This is one of the reasons why being a writer is tougher than being a dentist.

–Andy Rooney

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.

–John Steinbeck

Readers

are judges of

your right to practice

   words:

they can revoke your

   license with

a yawn.

–Lester Logan

Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.

–Ray Bradbury

Novelists tend to be hard-working people. Writing is not a mystery; it’s a job.

–Reynolds Price

Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.

–Maxwell Perkins

I don’t think anyone gets writer’s block. I think fear takes over.

–Neil Simon

Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me.

–Neil Simon

When the thought is there,

the pen is not;

with the pen in hand,

the thought’s forgot.

–J. Griffin Pitts

A writer is a compulsive liar, a dreamer, a mythomaniac, or a madman.

–Françoise Sagan

You can’t fake it. Bad writing is a gift.

–Ricard le Gallienne

Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun.

–Don Marquis

I make myself revise whether I like it or not.

–John Fowles

It seems to me that all writing must come from the gut level. All the craft in the world cannot summon emotion.

–Chris Wiltz

We must labour to be beautiful.

–W. B. Yeats

Actually if a writer needs a dictionary he should not write. He should have read the dictionary at least three times from beginning to end and then loaned it to someone who needs it.

–Ernest Hemingway

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.

–Groucho Marx

Writing is a suspension of life in order to recreate life.

–John McPhee

Half my life is an act of revision.

–John Irving

In good writing, words become one with things.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The idea is to get the pencil moving quickly.

–Bernard Malamud

A good writer cannot write badly on purpose.

–Paddy Chayefsky

A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment.

–William Sansom

When I stepped from hard manual work to writing, I just stepped from one kind of hard work to another.

–Sean O’Casey

What an author likes to write most is his signature on the back of a paycheck.

–Brendan Francis

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.

–Marianne Moore

The only human value of anything, writing included, is intense vision of the facts.

–William Carlos Williams

The one absolute requirement for me to write…is to be awake.

–Isaac Asimov

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.

–Georges Simenon

It’s a crazy business, anyway, locking yourself in a room and inventing conversations, no way for a grownup to behave.

–John Leonard

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it….Then write.

–William Faulkner

Nothing is new except arrangement.

–Will Durant

Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.

–Paul Theroux

Writers can treat their mental illnesses every day.

–Kurt Vonnegut

Writers should be read—but neither seen nor heard.              

–Daphne du Maurier

It’s easier to write about money than to obtain it.

–Voltaire

Writers are chroniclers of the human experience. Writing ability is a sacred trust and should be used as such. Writers should not only entertain but should also use their talent to illuminate the unfortunate things in life and thus enlighten the heart.

–Patrick D. Smith

Fiction has to be better made than life.

–John Irving

If you continue to write, you go past the place where praise, publication or admiration sustains you. The more praise the better—but it does not sustain you. You arrive at a point where only the possibilities of poetry provide food for your desires, possibilities glimpsed in great poems that you love. What began perhaps as the north wind’s cooky—what continued variously as affectation and self-love, what zaps crazily up and down in public recognition—finds repose only in love of the art, and in the desire, if not precisely the hope, that you may make something fit to endure with the old ones.

–Donald Hall

I want fiction always to situate us in the psychic and literal spot where life is most difficult, most dangerous, most beautiful.

–John Hawkes

If you mean to be a writer, then decide what you want to write and write it. Talking about it, dreaming about it, will get you nowhere. It will probably take years for you to get the hang of it. It took me years. If you can find a working writer whose product you respect and who is willing and able to share some of his know-how with you, take his classes. But in the end it’s up to you. I’d say that in today’s tough publishing climate, you have to want to be a writer very, very much in order to succeed.

–Joseph Hansen

The writer uses imagination and human experience to create three-dimensional characters—characters with pasts, futures, parents, siblings, hopes, fears, sorrows, happiness. At the same time that the writer shows us individuals, he or she is showing us our common humanity, inviting identification and involvement.

–Nancy Bond

The desire to write is an odd flame.

The sprays of criticism

Can only bank, not extinguish.

And the more paper it is fed,

the hotter it burns.

–Deanna B. Durbin

There is no lack of messages. Writers who worry about the world are many, but writers who write a good story are few. So if I have a choice to care out with either a new version of the Ten Commandments or a new story, I will rather pick the new story.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

A man’s fiction, no matter how remote it may be from the realistic or the autobiographical, is very much the record of his particular life.

–Ross MacDonald

Warmth is extremely important to me as a writer. It’s one of the four cardinal virtues of good writing, the others being: simplicity, clarity, economy. The first three are do-able; the fourth is intangible.

–William Zinsser

Though there are exceptions, as a rule, the good novelist does not worry primarily about linguistic brilliance—at least not brilliance of the showy, immediately obvious kind—but instead worries about telling his story in a moving way, making the reader laugh or cry or endure suspense, whatever it is that this particular story, told at its best, will incline the reader to do.

–John Gardner

Writing is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

–E. L. Doctorow

Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work.

–Leo Lionni

In a good short story, the characters are pinned inescapably in the present. Things might have been different before the story began and might change after it ends, but for the present moment, things are the only way they can be. For its success, the short story depends not on language or subject matter but on melding the two.

–Linda Furman

The advice I would offer to any writer is that even when you think you have revised your book to the point where you cannot look at it again, it is time to sit down and revise it some more.

–Michael Korda

One doesn’t become a writer by thinking about being a writer; one becomes a writer by writing. It’s very easy for writers to feel that we’re collecting material by living in the world and relating to other people or that we’re learning our craft by reading other good writers. But basically you have to get down to the hard chore of writing.

–P. D. James

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

–Elmore Leonard

When one writes a book one is in the rare position of being responded to on a level which for most of us, most of the time, goes unremarked. One bases one’s life on certain essential ideas about the nature and purpose of the entire endeavor and the participants thereof—but seldom do these essential ideas, which in fact govern choices and actions receive direct attention. Seldom, in the course of daily living, do people have the opportunity or the inclination to tell us about ourselves, how they see us, what they think of what we do.

–Cynthia Voigt

I do believe that literature is revolutionary and thus, political in a deeper sense. Literature not only sustains a historical experience and continues a tradition. It also—through moral risk and formal experimentation ad verbal humor—transforms the conservative horizon of the readers and helps liberate us all from the determinisms of prejudice, doctrinal rigidity and barren repetition.

–Carlos Fuentes

I think the writer’s obligation is just to tell the truth, and that’s the one commitment he can’t betray without destroying himself. For the writer, the creative person, the practice of what he or she does is the connection between the inner and outer life, between political circumstances, economic and social circumstances, and his own internal being.

–E. L. Doctorow

When I start writing  a novel, I never have a great idea or a set of blueprints. I just have a general feeling of excitement, and I start writing in its direction. It’s like following a scent trail. I always do a lot of revision, and I promise myself that I will before I ever start, because that gives me freedom. The scent trail doesn’t always take you to the right place, and if something doesn’t work you can always throw it away.

–Thomas McGuane

I never play it safe when I write a book. I bring myself to the edge of a cliff, trying something new. I’m not saying it hasn’t been done before. I’m saying that I’ve never done it. To be safe is not to try. The challenge of trying something is what charges me up.

–Janet Dailey

The editor must try to broker between what he senses happening in a culture at large and the mechanisms that exist for purveying what is happening. There is a fine line between responding to what the market demands and printing what the house feels the audience should have or needs. If you don’t supply demand, you’ll be out of business. But if you don’t create, you won’t be very alive. So you must have both.

–Jonathan Galassi

A good novel ought to have a shape. Pop novelists never fail to gather their strands of action into a climax. They are helped in this by the comparative inertness of their characters. The characters of an art novel resist the structure which their creators try to impose on them; they want to go their own way. They do not even want the book to come to an end and so they have, sometimes arbitrarily, as in E. M. Forster, to be killed off. A good novel contrives, nevertheless, somehow to trace a parabola. It is not merely a slice of life. It is life delicately molded into a shape. A picture has a frame and a novel ends where it has to—in some kind of resolution of thought or action which satisfies as the end of a symphony satisfies.

–Anthony Burgess

You speak to hear yourself, to keep the memory alive, but writing about the memory is to make it universally accessible, to give it to others, to see if others can benefit from that as entertainment, as education, as insight into things experienced by a person different than you.

–Stratis Caviares

A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.

–John Updike

I like to discover ways to tell stories without seeming to tell stories. To make something true, you have to use artifice. Creating the illusion of truth—meaning, telling the truth.

–E. L. Doctorow

Writing is a very mysterious mix of being highly conscious and self-conscious and just following something that you seem to feel. You have to be very conscious, you have to be a very good reader of what you write, but you also have to abandon yourself and be innocent about your writing.

–Susan Sontag

What matters is the honorableness of the craft. You should write your best no matter whatever or whoever you’re writing for.

–William Zinsser

The pressure of writing is tremendous. The pressure of invention, the pressure of moving forward, the pressure of being original. And I don’t mean ’original’ in the grand literary sense but in the sense of doing something new of yourself. It’s not only daily pressure but hourly, every minute. It’s every second, really. Sentence by sentence. It’s hard to think of another profession where you are constantly starting from scratch.

–Philip Roth

I’m not sure how much you can teach writing. I think you can help people and point out techniques. Basically, writers have to find their own voices, and you can learn writing by writing. You learn writing also by studying the best writers, and you learn writing by living fully. There are techniques the same way that people no doubt can teach certain techniques for painting. But unless you have the original talent, I don’t think that teaching itself can produce very much.

–P. D. James

All you can write about is what you know, but then you have to put your imagination to work.

–Harriet Doerr

The action is the subject of a play. When people ask me what me plays are about, I say, ‘Well, it’s about what happens from the beginning to the end.’ Symbolism, metaphor, and meaning are not my concern—they should be inevitable results of the action, not something that is put in or layered on.

–Edward Albee

Writing is not made out of experience, it’s made out of language. There’s no experience which is better or worse. It depends on what you do with it and the way you write.

–Susan Sontag

Stories spring from experience, and then the storyteller goes on to say, ‘Yes, but what if?’ and ‘What then?’

–Madeleine L’Engle

The story speaks to the inner life of the reader. It is, I believe, as essential as food and water, as sleep, dreams, and love.

–Norma Fox Mazer

Words are the coin of the realm in this place. Millions of words have echoed through this chamber and found their way to the printed page. Give to the word merchants who labor here continuing sensitivity to the influence of the spoken word.

Help them to appreciate the power of words to inspire, to discourage, to console, to convict, to persuade, to alienate, to honor, to disparage, to encourage, to disappoint, to comfort, to embarrass, to edify, to offend, to strengthen, to weaken, to motivate, to immobilize, to give hope, to frustrate, to purify, to pollute, to build, to destroy.

–Rev. Richard C. Halverson

I don’t like to interpret my own work. I only know I write because I want to connect with people, and that comes from my emotional, not my intellectual equipment. I want readers to say, ‘Wow, I know how she feels.’

–Bette Greene

Movies…are increasingly about technique, and technology, rather than people, and draw their inspiration from other movies rather than from any special passion or insight of the director. Literature is in danger of becoming similarly stylized and self-absorbed. There is a vast and growing body of fiction that takes as its subject the process of inventing fiction, or the conventions of fiction in this or that form, or the nature of fictional structures. This work is considered experimental by those who produce and admire it, generally the same people, but in practice most of it has become so ritualized and predictable that it is, in effect, simply another form of silence: white noise.

  For that matter, most of the noise that fills our lives is white noise. We live in a great silence where what frightens us and moves us and sustains us is rarely given voice. But when that silence is broken we bend forward and listen.

–Tobias Wolff

A poem can be read and reread and reread and will continually yield more and more meanings, but on that first reading, there’s just something in a wonderful poem that is mesmerizing and captivating immediately.

–Galway Kinnell

Good writing, the kind that makes me pay attention, is not simply an expression of an author’s temperament, financial motivations, neuroses or beliefs. Good writing is an act of communication, one that takes into account the needs of the most important person involved in the project: the reader. A truly good writer wants to communicate, not to express; he or she has information about the world to get across in the most effective manner possible.

–David Groff

Writers learn from life, master it, pretend it happened another way, rise above it by relearning it. Unlike most people, writers have a strong sense of revenging themselves on life.

–Judith Rossner

I don’t think it’s ever possible to say where a story comes from, or why it presents itself from the angle it does. What seems to happen is that a character, or a situation, seems to arise as it were from nowhere and proceeds to take over one’s whole mind, worrying your brain like a dog with a bone, refusing to let go until you sit down and work it out properly, and actually write the thing. Only then does this obsession—compulsion, whatever it is—relax its grip.

  And even then, this only happens when you’ve got it right. If, when I think I’ve finished a story, I still feel myself obsessed by it and in its grip, then I know it isn’t finished—something in it still has to be worked on and put right.

–Celia Fremlin

It’s one thing to accept an improbable plot and quite another to accept an improbable style. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but not my affection for the English language.

–Anatole Broyard

The brain is better for a writer than a computer.

-N. Wiener

Ideas won’t keep: something must be done about them.

–Alfred North Whitehead

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud. Any of us will put out more and better ideas if our efforts are appreciated.

–Alex F. Osborn

The written word has long been a mightier influence in changing man’s ideas and behavior than the spoken promise.

   –Laurence J. Peter

I think the whole glory of writing lies in the fact that it forces us out of ourselves into the lives of others.

–Sherwood Anderson

Words are one of our chief means of adjusting to all situations of life. The better control we have over words, the more successful our adjustment is likely to be. –Bergen Evans

Every animal leaves traces of what it was; man alone leaves traces of what he created.

–J. Bronowski

Don’t use a big vocabulary, either general or technical. SESQUIPEDALIANISM OBFUSCATES PELLUCIDITY. If you get my drift.

–David Viscott

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.

–Willa A. Foster

The truly creative person (and the only one who should tackle either the creative article or fiction has to write, whether or not he seems to have anything to write about. He is drawn to his desk almost against his will. He may think of excuses to postpone the misery of perhaps finding he has no ideas, but in the end he submits; he begins to discipline himself to his daily stint. Once this happens, a remarkable thing occurs: Ideas come.

–Marjorie Holmes

Great writers are not the only interesting writers.

–C. J. Squire

The creative process depends least of all upon accident. It requires that the mind be properly worked and tended, that it be given the blessing of silence and the gift of sequence. Whether the moment of triumph produces a spark or a thunderbolt, it is certain to have a lasting effect. It can generate the carrying power to sustain an author through a thousand nights of torment at he writing desk.

–Norman Cousins

One difference between Johnson and most writers is that he not only wrote for money but admitted it.

–Richard Armour

There’s a story in every man. The challenge is to find it. Then the problem is to tell it without putting the customers to sleep.

–Jim Murray

When I’m writing, I’m only conscious that I’m a storyteller first, I’m interested in creating real people, dramatic situations that will keep the reader turning pages. Then, if I can say here’s the chance for me to explore ideas…great. I don’t think of myself as a thematic writer, but as a storyteller. If they don’t work as stories, then no one will read them so the message would get lost anyway.

–Robert Cormier

Every writer goes through a period when you play it safe. You don’t tell anyone you’re writing—in case you fail at it. But there has to come a point when you say to yourself, ‘I’m serious, I’m going to give this every bit of effort I have.’

–Jean Auel

I’ll put a couple of characters together and see if they do something. If they just stand there and smile at each other, that doesn’t work. So I get rid of one and bring in another that’s a little more antagonistic or something.

–Carolyn Chute

You can be a writer without talent. But without the desire, every word you write will come hard and leaden. You won’t last.

–Art Spikol

Style is simply how you string your words together. It doesn’t have to be unique; in fact, when it is it can get in the way: unique gets tiresome.

–Art Spikol

Writing, like virtue, is very much its own reward.

–Lawrence Block

The man who has made a financial success of writing is in the worst danger of all, and it is hardly a secret that I am one of those who has made money. But I believe, and I suppose I have always believed, that the writer who loafs after he has made a financial success is confessing that the money was all he was after in the first place. That was never my idea. Much as I like owning a Rolls-Royce, for instance, I could do without it. What I could not do without is a typewriter, a supply of yellow second sheets, and the time to put them to good use.

–John O’Hara

Writing is discipline. It is planting the seat of your pants—or your skirt—in a chair and hanging in there through all the pain and loneliness of creation.

–Sidney Sheldon

You are a writer. What does that mean? On a blank sheet of paper you create universes. You populate them, create life, control the fates of your creations. You are as close to being a god as any mortal can hope to come. And you are more and other. You are a shaman, the record-keeper. You record the history and mythology of the tribe; you are the perpetrator of the myths, the reporter whose commentaries will be used by later historians who try to define our age. Your role goes beyond earning a living: It is to excite the imagination of a reader, to inspire flights of fancy that may ‘alter and illuminate our times.’  As writers, you bear an awesome responsibility—to your contemporaries as well as your children. No matter what it is you write, you teach.

–Michael Seidman

Three remarks about books one should never make to a writer: ‘How’s it doing?’ ‘I couldn’t find it anywhere’ and ‘Haven’t you finished it yet?’

–Judith Martin

You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come;

Knock as you please, there’s nobody at home.

–Alexander Pope

The books I haven’t written are better than the books other people have.

–Cyril V. Connolly

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud. Any of us will put out more and better ideas if our efforts are appreciated.

–Alex F. Osborn

Creative minds always have been known to survive any kind of bad training.

–Anna Freud

All of us learn to write in the second grade…most of us go on to greater things.

–Bobby Knight

A falsehood once received from a famed writer becomes traditional to posterity.

–John Dryden

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Anyone can make history. Only a great man can write it.

–Oscar Wilde

The men who act, stand nearer to the mass of man than the men who write; and it is in their hands that new thought gets its translation into the crude language of deeds.

–Woodrow Wilson

What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.

–Dean William R. Inge

Every thought is new when an author expresses it in a manner peculiar to himself.

–Marquis de Vauvenargues

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.

–Josh Billings

Is originality the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it?

–Laurence J. Peter

When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple; take it and copy it. Give reference? Why should you? Either your readers know where you have taken the passage and the precaution is needless, or they do not know and you humiliate them.

–Anatole France

It is a mean thief, or a successful author, that plunders the dead.

–Austin O’Malley

Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism.

–George Moore

Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.

–Benjamin Disraeli

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

Call them, if you please, bookmakers, not authors range them rather among second-hand dealers than plagiarists.

–Voltaire

If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you.

–Dorothy Parker

The hunger for applause is the source of all conscious literature and heroism.

–Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Literature is like any other trade; you will never sell anything unless you go to the right shop.

–George Bernard Show

Posterity—what you write for after being turned down by publishers.

–George Ade

A publisher lives by what he feels. Authors do too, but authors are blind moles working their solitary way along their individual tunnels; the publisher is like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, piping his way along a path he wants them to follow.

–Lovat Dickson

The trouble with the publishing business is that too many people who have half a mind to write a book do so.

–William Targ

No author is a man of genius to his publisher.

–Heinrich Heine

Every style that is not boring is a good one.

–Voltaire

No style is good that is not fit to be spoken or read aloud with effect.

–William Hazlitt

If any man wishes to write a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts.

–Johann W. von Goethe

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.

–Albert Camus

No writer long remains incognito.

–E. B. White

Style is the man himself.

–Georges de Buffon

Style is the physiognomy of the mind, and a safer index to character than the face.

–Arthur Schopenhauer

I might go so far as to say that any writer who produced a book of unquestioned good taste has written a tasteless book…There is no taste in life or nature. It is simply the way it is…There is shocking bad taste in the Old Testament, abominable taste in Homer and execrable taste in Shakespeare.

–John Steinbeck

In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin.

–James Russell Lowell

Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.

–Henri Frederic Amiel

Every man is a borrower and a mimic; life is theatrical and literature a quotation.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another. The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.

–Voltaire

There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all the virtues of no avail.

–Aldous Huxley

A talent somewhat above mediocrity, shrewd and not too sensitive, is more likely to rise in the world than genius, which is apt to be perturbable and to wear itself out before fruition.

–Charles Horton Cooley

Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.

–Erica Jung

I always write the last chapters of my books before I write the beginning….It’s always nice to know where you’re going, is my theory.

–Truman Capote

Theater is great training ground for novelists. Theater experience teaches you the architecture of scenes, how dialogue must build to revelation.

–Robert Ludlum

Children’s books are the most important thing you can do, because these are people who are learning about reading.

–Daniel Pinkwater

The novelist’s place has traditionally been on the side of the loser. I can see no purpose in writing about people who seem to have won everything. There’s no story there…Why write about happiness, anyway? There’s nothing there—no conflict, no catalyst for discovering anything about humanity.

–Nelson Algren

All I’m doing each time I set out to write a novel is to try and make it as well as I can. I don’t think about form….I’m just trying to make this thing fit right, the way a carpenter likes everything square and plumb, even if it won’t show. I just try to make it right for its own sake, between me and it.

–Robert Parker

(Writing for children) is really much more difficult than writing for adults. It’s ever so much harder to hold a child’s concentration.

–Roald Dahl

The storyteller’s art is ancient and sacred. It is, an art in which the artist realizes his very existence as completely as he can. He lives by means of his investment in language, and language in is element. He is alive in proportion to his ability to express his spirit in words.

–N. Scott Momaday

To me, writing a book is a great voyage of discovery; what attracts me to a subject in part is what I don’t know about it, what I can learn from it.

–David McCullough

I started out with short stories because I thought they would be easier to write than a book. They’re not, really. They don’t take as long, but you’re compelled to be thrifty with your words and make a character as real as you can in a very small space.

–Joyce Harrington

I believe that we who presume to write for children have a number of obligations. The first is to write as well as we can. The second is to be honest. The third (and if we get by the first two it is here that we are truly measured) is that we hold out a vision of life that is both challenge and achievement. It does not matter if the vision is happy or tragic, witty or somber. What matters, and matters desperately, is that we proclaim that life is worth living, that the struggle we undertake together must be one that fulfills the promise of ourselves.

–Avi

Writing a novel is one way of announcing one’s opinion of the world. The best novels have the advantage of being allusive, indirect, evocative, and beautiful rather than flat-footed, querulous, or strident.

–Jane Smiley

The way a writer shapes human experience depends to a great extent on her history—all those forces, most of which she had nothing to do with, that made her what she is.

–Katherine Paterson

There is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.

–Ernest Hemingway

It is clear that the craft of the short-story writer is very different from the ruminating craft of the novelist. The story has to construct a form that drives home what is to be said. It has to be succinct and piercing. It has to leave out in order to put something sharper and more telling in. Novelists can cover up faults of design; the short story cannot.

–V. S. Pritchett

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

…The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

–William Faulkner

All writers, even the worst, are led into assuming a role vaguely comparable to God’s, for they create characters over whom they exercise almost total control. I should add, though, that a writer is even more like a double agent than he is like God. He condemns and sustains his characters by turns. Their relationship is so ambiguous that when the characters come to elude his control—one doesn’t know whom to blame.

–Graham Greene

Lives are sometimes saved by novels, but generally fiction doesn’t have that much effect. Nevertheless, when you’re a writer you have to pretend, believe that writing has an enormous effect. You have to convince yourself that every story you write is something wonderful.

–John Gardner

I have a vision of the process of writing a novel. I’m in a dark room where there are lots of sticks and logs. I pile them all up and build a construction, all in the dark. Then I turn the light on. It can look very different from what you intended it to be; but it can often be better.

–David Plante

If I don’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin.

–Katherine Anne Porter

I am immediately suspicious of anybody who tells me he is going to write a story or novel from an exclusively intellectual premise. I think most good fiction begins with people: the writer and his characters, who they are, what they want.

–Kit Reed

Writing a book has stages. First there’s the euphoria of the inception of an idea. That is followed by the agony of the actual execution. You work all day, and then you make the mistake of reading what you’ve written. You feel like you’re trying to climb a mountain and you’ve taken only a baby step. You spend 1000 hours writing, and when you read what you’ve written in those 1000 hours, you want to throw the whole project away. Now, as I’m getting older, it’s getting worse rather than getting better. I know where all the pitfalls are, and the writing process is more demanding, more complicated.

–Robin Cook

Blessed are the weird people poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.

—Jacob Nordby

The art of writing is all about the inspiration of the moment and the excitement of riding the wave of an idea.

—Elizabeth George

This constant exercise of memory seems to be the chief occupation of my mind, and all my experience seems to be simply memory, with continuity, marginal notes, constant revision and comparison of one thing with another. Now and again thousands of memories converge, harmonize, arrange themselves around a central idea in a coherent form, and I write a story….I must know a story ‘by heart’ and I must write from memory.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Writing is learned on the job and the real teacher is experience.

–Kit Reed

A writer sitting in New England should be able to write a perfectly persuasive novel about slum life in Mexico City. In theory. But in practice, we do seem tied to our  own lives. I’ve tried to stretch my imagination as far as it will go, but there’s a point beyond which you’re just transcribing other people’s research, and not writing out of a felt sense of things.

–John Updike

The task of the poet or novelist is to convey states of mind and of being as immediately as possible, through language. Immediacy of language is not always or necessarily simplicity, although simplicity is a highly desirable literary instrument.

–Shirley Hazzard

Swimmers know that if they relax on the water it will prove to be miraculously buoyant; and writers know that a succession of little strokes on the material nearest them—without any prejudgments about the specific gravity of the topic or the reasonableness of their expectations—will result in creative progress.

–Bill Stafford

The simple declarative sentence is kind: I like to comfort the reader frequently with the familiar.

–Julian Barnes

I quit writing if I feel inspired, because I know I’m going to have to throw that away. Writing a novel is like building a wall brick by brick; only amateurs believe in inspiration.

–Frank Yerby

I keep poems for months at a time before I let them go. I rework them a lot. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I dash off some poem a day. Even to change a line a day, that’s something. And I have kept poems for thirty years back.

–Robert Penn Warren

No matter how good the writing may be, a book is never complete until it is read. The writer does not pass through the gates of excellence alone, but in the company of readers.

–Katherine Paterson

Maybe the nature of fiction is that, unlike reporting for the New York Times, it has to admit everything—all aspects and forms of thought and behavior and feeling, no matter how awful they may be. Fiction has no borders; everything is open, you have a limitless possibility of knowing the truth.

–E. L. Doctorow

Any writer’s first novel is where you catch them unguarded, and that’s the one to examine in order to understand what the process of literary creation is all about.

–Virginia Woolf

When you write, you have to get in touch with some deep place in yourself, and when you get older…you build up layers you have to get through, like a tough skin.

–Alice Munro

The world is immortal. And it follows from this that just as we had the writer as soon as writing was invented 5,000 years ago, so we will have the writer, of necessity, for as long as civilization continues to exist. He may write with other tools and in different forms, but he will write.

–Isaac Asimov

I never really doubted that I could write a novel. I know that sounds conceited but it’s true. The only thing I ever doubted about writing was whether I’d find the time and energy. But I always knew I could do it. Everything in life is a matter of confidence, whether it’s riding a bicycle or writing a book.

–P. D. James

With a play, you do out-of-town previews—you get feedback before it opens on Broadway. Not so with a novel, where only you, your editor, and a couple of other people see the finished product before publication.

–Robert Anderson

When a woman comes to write a novel, she will find that she is perpetually wishing to alter the established values—to make serious what appears insignificant to a man, and trivial what is to him important.

–Virginia Woolf

In order to write and to write well—especially poetry—it is better to hear your own language spoken every day—in grocery stores, in streetcars, in bed.

–Joseph Brodsky

It seems to me that writing is a marvelous way of making sense of one’s life, both for the writer and for the reader. With the invention of the daguerreotype, writing was thought to be completely finished. Radio, TV, even the gramophone was supposed to have sounded the knell for literature. But that particular extremely intimate communication a writer and a reader enjoy, makes it somehow disappointing for me to meet an author. If late at night I might read a paragraph, sometimes no more than a sentence, but possessing a brilliance and an intimacy that completely transcends human relationships, to meet the writer in the lobby of the hotel is going to be a comedown.

–John Cheever

The novelist should allow himself the freedom to weed out pure facts or even to twist facts, as long as the final view of history does not contradict what happened in the larger scheme. I think imaginative writing has often cast a clearer light on history than a lot of scholarly work.

–William Styron

Writing is an expression of the way I see. Writing is tremendously important to me. If I’m unable to write for several weeks I’m physically ill, but what I say and saying it are inseparable.

–Marilyn French

In order to write a novel you have to be terribly bossy. You have to be so convinced that the way you see things is right, that you can sit down and write a whole book out of that vision without even stopping to consider that there might be another point of view. And you have to tell all your characters what to do all the time. It’s do this, do that….You create these people, and then you push them around.

–Susan Cheever

There are few people more dishonest than writer professing to recall how they came to do things. Most good ideas, in my experience, come out of thin air, either after a very good night or a very bad one, and characters are much the same.

–John le Carré

When you’re writing novels you’re not in business to create propaganda. You’re showing patterns in people’s lives and the consequences of choosing one thing over another. It’s a way of raising people’s consciousnesses. And it has to be done truthfully or it doesn’t work.

–Marge Piercy

I have often imagined that if I were in solitary confinement for an indefinite time and knew that no one would every read what I wrote, I would still write poetry, but I would not write novels. Why? Perhaps because the poem is primarily a dialogue with the self, and the novel a dialogue with others….I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something.

–May Sarton

The great epics, like our own classics, must mean something, not by didactic pedagogy, propaganda, or edification—but by their action, a murky metaphysical historic significance, a sober intuition into the character of a nation—profundities imagined, as if in a dream, by authors who knew what they had written.

–W. H. Auden

Writing comes very hard to me. I do not understand why people think writing is easy….I am at a loss to know how to arrive at Word One, much less the whole piece.

–Mark Harris

Most beginning writers cannot go forward because they insist upon making every sentence clean before going on to the next. Somehow I learned to live with the chaos of a first draft.

–Mark Harris

The novelist may do what the historian is not allowed: imagine his characters whole, and let the chips fall where they may.

–Frances Taliaferro

The life of the writer is essentially lonely; he has to live among the interest and creations of his own mind, and therefore he has above all things, as a condition of his work, to accustom himself to loneliness.

–Gustave Flaubert

The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one’s life and discover one’s usefulness. For me, it’s the most intimate form of communicating about love and memory and nostalgia.

–John Cheever

The novelists who take the greatest risks may not be those who use experimental techniques, for experimentalism can cover a multitude of sins. It is, rather, the writers who use conventional techniques who need a world of courage, for they work with the ordinary materials of life and run the risk of succumbing to that ordinariness.

The conventional novelist has to wring excitement out of what is, out of the naked truth. He has to persuade his heavy characters to dance and sing, for there is no other sound and fury in his work. When he fails, we tend to take that failure personally, because he is talking about us.

–Anatole Broyard

As the biographer becomes involved in gathering, selecting, organizing, and finally writing, he or she cannot help but become the re-creator of a life. Although, as Virginia Woolf pointed out, the creative process in biography is bounded by fact, the creative mind is still at work, picking and choosing the threads that will be woven into the fabric of a life.

–Jeanne W. Halpern

This is the secret of good storytelling: to lie….A storyteller, like any other sort of enthusiastic liar, is on an unpredictable adventure. His initial lie, his premise, will suggest many new lies of its own. The storyteller must choose among them, seeking those which are most believable, which keep the arithmetic sound.

–Kurt Vonnegut

The what-if syndrome is the writer’s springboard. It’s been responsible for more storytelling than any other form of prodding, except possibly outrage.

–Robert Ludlum

Writers are never good enough to fake emotions. You can change events, make it summertime instead of wintertime, make it Quincy instead of Dorchester, but you can’t really change emotions.

–Bette Greene

I like a writer who uses adjectives sparingly; who uses action verbs to give his story the punch and power he wants it to have.

–Murlin B. Spencer

In historical dramas, facts can be helpful tools, but it takes art to snare the truth.

–Frank Rich

I think most writers write because there is a compulsion to do so. All of us have a great story to tell but often the difficulties in sitting down and completing the project are overwhelming. And thus for the author the ‘first novel’ is usually the most difficult. It is a grand mountain to be climbed which for many the preparations alone seem impossible. For others the drive exist to make that climb, yet, once they have achieved the summit the rewards seem too small, the hours of solitude too great to continue further, and for some fewer still the compulsion exists not only to climb one mountain but to climb others so that as they reach the peak of one pinnacle their eyes are already fixed upon some distant summit; gauging the distances, the route, to start another climb.

–T. W. Hard

The writer’s…decisions are based on training, experience, competence, self-criticism, remembered criticism, luck, a compulsion to do the very best. Hard work. And caring. That is what creativity means to me. Creativity is the art of making constant choices in a consistent manner toward an imagined, perfect, inseparable whole.

–Ellen Raskin

A writer is…only half his book. The other half is the reader, and from the reader the writer learns.

–P. L. Travers

It is all very well to draw scenes and tell tales and repeat phrases, but by inviting the reader into the realm of his memories, the writer…has certain responsibilities. There should be some evidence of an interior life, an illumination as well as an explanation.

–Philip Terzian

Fiction is a mixture of imagination and reality. Besides imagination, you get help from dreams, fantasies—all kinds of ideas surface when you concentrate on inventing.

–Hilma Wolitzer

The worst reason for anything being part of a novel (is) that it really happened. Everything has really happened, sometime! The only reason for something to happen is a novel is that it’s the perfect thing to have happen at that time.

–John Irving

It occurs to me that I have spent a good part of my life trying to construct bridges….There were so many chasms I saw that needed bridging—chasms of time and culture and disparate human nature—that I began sawing and hammering at the enough wood planks for my children and for any other children who might read what I had written….The bridge that the child trusts and delights in—and in my case, the book that will take children from where they are to where they might be—needs to be made not from synthetic or inanimate objects, but from the stuff of life. And the writer has no life to give but her own.

–Katherine Paterson

Writers were not born to change the world. We cannot even make it worse. A writer is not a god. He is someone with the talent to write a story that will entertain. It is not for us to explain life. Fiction can entertain and stir the mind; it does not direct it. If a preacher like Tolstoy could not help his people, we are not going to be helped by a lot of little preachers.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

Every author has to have some Pavlovian dog trick, some little routine to set him off every day. Mine is, if I can get past page 20, I feel I’m on my way—either is a screenplay or a book.

I write all the time, and I think about it all the time, so when I come to the typewriter in the morning that’s just the time when I put it down. It’s too late to think about it then. This is not uncommon among writers who realize that they’re working out a thing when their conscious minds are otherwise occupied by mechanical tasks—shaving, driving a car.

–James K. Feibleman

It is only the vividness of memory that keeps the dead alive forever. A writer’s job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as your personal memories.

–John Irving

Life is the ultimate source of all fictions, even the most fantastic, and…in its blundering, dilatory, often secret way, it provides an infinite number of fables, renewed in substance and from for each new generation.

–Malcolm Cowley

You have to be clear on what your motives are and what you want to do in writing a novel: whether you want to make a living at it, whether you want to make a lot of money, or whether you really don’t want to write at all but want to go to a psychiatrist or find a lover and the writing is a substitute. I wanted to make some money.

–Bari Wood

A common fault in writing is to spend too much time on the early part of a composition. As a result, some ideas receive too much attention simply because they are considered first and other things too little attention because they come later.

–Robert Barrass

I’m a back-to-the-wall, deadline-looming, undisciplined-in-time writer whose mind starts functioning toward evening, so when at last there is no escape from the typewriter I write into the small hours for days and weeks at a time, growing ever more tired and miserable. And the more dejected I become, the more easily the words flow! It’s a working schedule not to be recommended.

–Sheila Burnford

To say that what (you write) is not literature is just like saying that a book can’t be any good if it makes you want to read it. When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of a story similar to the control of a great pitcher over the ball. That is to me what you have more than anything else and more than anyone else.

–Raymond Chandler

I almost always write with a pen on typewriter-sized paper, or in a large notebook of that size, am often at a desk, or sitting in an armchair. I save first drafts—as a matter of fact, I am a saver and keep all changes in any poem, whether few or many, and have always been fascinated by the look of the text as it develops.

–Richard Eberhart

I believe in the mystery of creation and have gone on record that some of my poems which are considered by best ones have been given to me, as it were, as if the poem used the man, not the other way around, or as if the personality were a vane on which the wind of the spirit moved to make the poem.

–Richard Eberhart

Writing is one art form that can be practiced almost anywhere at almost any time. Normally, you cannot paint in the office, or sculpture in the classroom or play the piano in a plane or the trumpet on a train. But, given some paper and a writing element, one can write in any of these places. What emerges will not always be a work of art; yet it could be.

–Theodore M. Bernstein

Just as a poem can be a brief, intense experience, the short story or play can create indelible impressions that stick to the memory, even though the time span of the work is short. Emotional impact needs no yardstick. The talent of the writer dictates the length of dramatic art.

–David A. Shon and Richard H. Tyre

Writing a short play poses a tough problem for the finest playwright. It challenges the writer to create one dramatic situation—ordinarily one major problem that must be resolved. It limits the writer to a few characters. It must unfold in one continuous action. Each word of dialogue must contribute to the definition of the characters and the development of the plot. There is no room for windy words. The writing must be lean and charged, moving the play forward while involving the reader or viewer.

–David A. Shon and Richard H. Tyre

Novel writing is a craft that must be learned. You just simply do not open your mouth and breathe in the air of a novelist. It takes years of learning, years of observations, years of trial.

–Jay Bennett

Everyone is necessarily the hero in is own life story.

–John Barth

In nonfiction, you’re reporting and in fiction you’re making—I won’t say creating—a disciplined system of your own….In the political events we see, there is no beginning and no end. In a novel at least, a journalist can impose a kind of order on things, make a logic in what happens.

–Robert S. Elegant

Good books, good painting and sculpture and graphics, good music, have all come from those studios at MacDowell and Yaddo. But other good work has also been produced at dining room tables or at basement desks or in the car parked at the suburban railroad station waiting for the 5:03 from New York or on the lid of the toilet seat. Stay home or go to a colony with its sometimes frustrating perfection. It really doesn’t matter as long as your vision is clear, your motivation strong, and you have something important to say.

–Doris Grumbach

Never throw away anything you’ve written. Some time you can find a place for it.

–Joe Gores

Agatha Christie once described to me her own particular method of getting down to work…She would…repair to a very bad hotel. In a bad hotel, there was nothing to do but to write, and plenty of time to do it in. The beds were so uncomfortable that you had no inclination to retire early or to get up late…the meals were so bad that there was no temptation to linger over them….So the book would be done in a matter of weeks and you could pack up the few dull clothes which were all you need bother to take with you, and go off triumphantly home.

–Christianna Brand

Even when work goes comparatively unrewarded, there is bound to come some assurance, to the born writer, that it would not be best for him to turn to life insurance or hydraulics. Perhaps this assurance comes in a meagre sentence of praise….Perhaps it comes only like a shaft of planet light, piercing quickly into the would-be author’s spirit.

–MacKinlay Kantor

A writer’s ambition should be to trade a hundred contemporary readers for ten readers in ten years’ time and one reader in a hundred years’ time.

–Arthur Koestler

The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.

–George Bernard Shaw

The first requirement for writing at all: a belief that one has significant testimony nobody else can provide.

–Shirley Hazzard

It’s worth considering why some gifted writers have careers and others don’t. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of the talent itself….As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is durability. For the gifted writer, durability seems to be directly connected to how one deals with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as without, and how effectively one incorporates them into the creative process itself, particularly in the prolonged first stage of a career.

–Ted Solotaroff

An outstanding writer is one who becomes, over time, a seasoned editor of his or her own material.

–Deborah Purcell

Before I was a writer, I was an actor and then a producer. What I learned in the theater is that if you don’t keep the audience interested, the show closes—theater without pacing is a bore. So I consistently sharpen, sharpen, sharpen. I mull over ten or fifteen pages at a time, and then I eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. You have to put yourself in the readers’ position.

–Robert Ludlum

When you write, don’t think about how smart you are; think about how smart the readers are. Write to communicate with readers, not to impress them.

–Gary Provost

What we do when we write is to want the world to love us in a way no human being could love another.

–Denise Gess

What is style?…The art of clear, effective, and readable writing. The rhythm that makes a sentence sound right to the mental ear. The ruthless cutting out of phrases that only clutter and impede this special music. And always, always, the patient, painstaking search for the perfect combination of words and phrases that will create this mental music and express what is to be said in the most moving and effective way.

–Marjorie Holmes

An effective style is a matter of thoughts in combinations that are fresh, arresting, and filled with surprises.

–Marjorie Holmes

Loving to get our name in print isn’t egotistical; it’s just a positive way to react to those who used to tell you, ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’

–John Warren Steen

No one who cannot limit himself has ever been able to write.

–Nicolas Boileau

To the writer most in tune

with nature’s laws,

technique is a result

and not a cause.

–John D. Engle Jr.

I’d rather write a book four times over than spend a great deal of time getting every chapter just right. I did a number of drafts. Between the first and second there were some real changes, and between the second and third is what I’d call ‘finding the language.’

There was a real clash in my mind between the joy of weaving plots and the realization that for me writing was not the rendition of a story but the rendition of life. Other writers are more interested in the interplay of characters, and I am more interested in the feel of them.

–Christopher Isherwood

You write as you write, in your time, as you see your world. One form is as good as another. There are a thousand ways to write, and each is as good as the other if it fits you, if you are any good.

–Lillian Hellman

I blame myself for not often enough seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Somewhere in his journals Dostoevsky remarks that a writer can begin anywhere, at the most commonplace thing, scratch around in it long enough, pry and dig away long enough, and, lo!, soon he will hit upon the marvelous.

–Saul Bellow

As a novelist, it is a good part of my job to attempt to formulate, as dramatically and as precisely as I can, the pain and anguish that we all feel. Now more than ever, it seems to me, it becomes the writer’s job to remind people of their common humanity—of the fact, if you will, that they have souls.

–Saul Bellow

In our Literary Lives…we make grand statements, such as hope is false, death is real. But when we sit down at the typewriter all that guff is gone. When I write I’m no longer embarrassed or terrified. I have no sense of hope or vanity. I’m on my own and I love it.

–Lore Segal

In writing of myself—which is the only subject anyone knows intimately—I have occasionally had the exquisite thrill of putting my finger on a little capsule of truth, and heard it give the faint squeak of mortality under my pressure, an antic sound.

–E. B. White

I write so often of people with no magnitude, at least on the surface. I write of ‘little people.’ But are there ‘little people’? I sometimes think there are only little conceptions of people. Whatever is living and feeling with intensity is not little, and examined in depth, it would seem to me that most ‘little people’ are living with that intensity that I can use as a writer.

–Tennessee Williams

You should never try to write about anything too long after your experience of it. Little bits of yourself rub off in this kind of writing.

–Beryl Bainbridge

When you write and you have a deadline and you have a writing block, you chop the block down by just sitting at a typewriter. But there are times when you have nothing on order, nothing pressing, and it becomes—I don’t call it a block; I call it laziness.

–Carl Reiner

The aim the writer sets himself is the same as that of the magician—to penetrate to the secret, beating heart of life; and by touching it, marvelously to transmute one set of circumstances to another. His method is the same. Instinctual he senses that words are inherently magical, and that by setting one with another he may formulate the language which is his spell.

–Mollie Hunter

Writing is like painting. At first the painter looks back and forth—from his canvas to the bowl of flowers he’s painting on the canvas. But finally his total concentration is focused on what is in front of him on the easel, and it  may barely resemble the bowl of flowers. The same holds true in writing. The writer draws from memory, imagination and experience, then they melt together and fuse. The best writing, I think, is full of lies that tell the truth.

–Robert Anderson

I’ve never outlined a novel before starting to write it—at the outset I’ve never been aware of the story I was trying to handle except in the most general terms. The beginnings of my novels have always been mere flickerings in the imagination, though in each case the flickerings have been generated, clearly enough, by a kind of emotional ferment that had been in process for some time.

–John Hawkes

To write books is rather like driving a vintage car. Starting is usually difficult and , once on your way, you never know if the works will seize up or you will run out of fuel. On the other hand, when the engine has been running well for a good while, you daren’t stop in case you can’t start up again. An author will go round searching for new material for his next book just as the driver must go round searching for new bits for his old car.

–Val Brio

The novelist’s first exercise is to conjugate the verb ‘to see.’ The next is to conjugate ‘to feel.’ The next is to conjugate ‘to form.’

–Paul Horgan

Novel writing goes, at its best, beyond cleverness to that point where one’s whole mind and experience and vision are the novel, and the effort to translate this wholeness into prose is life: a circle of creation.

–Gore Vidal

We live in a rough cold world today. But I make a different world when I write: I make it what I think it ought to be.

–Paul Gallico

I sometimes think that writers are the great pretenders of all time. They feel everything both more and less. Without question, they are split people, experiencing and observing at one and the same time. Then they are accused of betraying their friends or their lovers when all the time it is they who feel betrayed, because nobody, but nobody, felt as extremely as they did at a given moment.

–Edna O’Brien

As poets and playwrights, essayists and novelists, we are the verbal alchemists of society, changing base words into beauty and truth, one and the same. We are witch doctors practicing mind magic on the skulls of flesh eaters. If truth is indivisible, as it must be, then our images—consciously created out of our commonalities—help man to see the face of truth.

–Shane Stevens

We are all of us storytellers. It can be no other way. And the story we tell is of the nature of man. That, too, never changes.

–Shane Stevens

I am fortunate as a writer in not being dependent on my surroundings….I have written quite happily on ocean liners during gales, with the typewriter falling into my lap at intervals, in hotel bedrooms, in woodsheds, in punts on lakes, in German internment camps, and in the inspecteurs’ room at the Palais de Justice in Paris at the time when the French Republic suspected me of being a danger to it.

–P. G. Wodehouse

Writing my stories—or, at any rate, rewriting them—I enjoy. It is the thinking them out that makes the iron enter into the soul.

–P. G. Wodehouse

Good writing—as distinct from mere ‘style’—is first of all sound thinking. A writer needs a prehensile mind, one that can grasp an idea and hold it in the round, firmly and forcibly, using it as a tool. I don’t even mean that these ideas need necessarily be conscious ones—but they must be present, drive engine and providing its motive power….The writer does not express ‘himself’—he expresses his view of the world, refracted through his own unique personality.

–Sydney J. Harris

There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them. Number 1: Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about the critics. Number 2: They don’t read to find their identity. Number 3: They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. Number 4: They have no use for psychology. Number 5: They detest sociology. Number 6: They don’t try to understand Kafka or Finnegans Wake. Number 7: They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. Number 8: They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes. Number 9: When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority. Number 10: They don‘t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

The rule…for revision: keep going at a reasonable pace to the end, skipping the impossible; then start afresh until you have solved the true problems and removed the insoluble.

–Jacques Barzun

The function of a work of art is to be communicable….all artists realize that the vision is valueless unless it can be shared.

–Carson McCullers

A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes.

–William Sansom

I write novels about what interests me and I can’t write about anything else. And one of the things which interests me most is discovering the humanity in the apparently inhuman character.

–Graham Greene

There is a danger that a writer can write so movingly that he gives the reader the illusion that he has done something about the problem.

–Kurt Vonnegut

I don’t see—from the artistic point of view—the qualitative difference between the way authors of children’s books and adult books go about their work.

–Lloyd Alexander

I’m against the picture of the artist as the starry-eyed visionary not really in control or knowing what he does. I think I’d almost prefer the word ‘craftsman.’ He’s like one of the old-fashioned ship-builders, who conceived the boat in their mind and then, after that, touched every single piece that went into the boat. They were in complete control; they knew it inch by inch, and I think the novelist is very much like that.

–William Golding

The novelist and short story writer, like none other, is licensed to do outlandish things with his fiction. He is not obligated by law or custom to prove that such-and-such a thing actually happened or that a particular character ever existed in life. His only limitation is his own imagination. He is permitted to imagine, to invent, and to create persons and happenings as long as they conform to the laws of probability and to ethical customs. He has the privilege to saturate his pages with perfume or with mephitis until our senses are stultified. He can populate his fictional world with men and women who live by mayhem and murder. He can bring all the saints of heaven to stand before our eyes and inspire us with their goodness.

–Erskine Caldwell

All the novelist and short story writer has to do to accomplish his fiction is to make his storytelling meaningful and convincing and interesting. And, as always, the superior author implies more than he says in print. Such is the doctrine of wordsmanship.

–Erskine Caldwell

Whenever we read a book, although we do not read it aloud, or even consciously form the words in our minds, we are aware of a voice. It is as though someone had been speaking to us, telling us something, or working upon our feelings. It is this voice which we roughly call style, and however much a writer may ignore his personality or even seek to conceal it, he cannot disguise his voice, his style, unless he is deliberately writing a parody. It is here that the truth will out…and if we know a writer of any note, it is extraordinary how we seem to hear the inflections of his living voice as we read what he has written.

–Bonamy Dobrée

I don’t see how it’s possible to attempt extended creative work with ink or ballpoint. Pen work is so laborious that it can give you a totally misleading notion of the amount of graft (work) you’ve done: that pile of ink-scrawl looks and feels a lot, but it’s often very little. With pen and pad you’re tempted to write crouched by the fire in an armchair, and slackness comes out in your prose. With a typewriter you have to sit upright and use both hands like a real manual worker—no nonsense about eating lunch with one hand while you scratch away with the other. Most important, the mere fact that you’re printing your work while you compose gives that work an objective, separated look: it’s not an effluvium from your body, a sort of heart’s blood too precious for the harsh world’s spilling; it’s something you’re making, like a chair, and, like a chair, it’s for somebody else’s use.

–Anthony Burgess

The novelist—it is his distinction and his danger—is terribly exposed to life. Other artists, partially at least, withdraw; they shut themselves up for weeks alone with a dish of apples and a paintbox, or a roll of music paper and a piano. When they emerge it is to forget and distract themselves. But the novelist never forgets and is seldom distracted. He fills his glass and lights his cigarette, he enjoys presumably all the pleasures of talk and table, but always with a sense that he is being stimulated and played upon by the subject-matter of his art. Taste, sound, movement, a few words here, a gesture there, a man coming in, a woman going out, even the motor that passes in the street or the beggar who shuffles along the pavement, and all the reds and blues and lights and shades of the scene claim his attention and rouse his curiosity. He can no more cease to receive impressions than a fish in mid-ocean can cease to let the water rush through his gills.

–Virginia Woolf

The real short story writer is a jeweler….He stays in his shop, he polishes those jewels, he collects craft, lore, confirms gossip, assays jeweler’s rouge, looks to steal the trick of the arcane, and generally disports like a medieval alchemist who’s got a little furnace, a small retort, a cave, a handful of fool’s gold, and a mad monk’s will. With such qualifications, one in a hundred becomes an extraordinary writer.

–Norman Mailer

Some writers are self-centered to the point of failing their audiences. Their writing is so complex, so filled with ambiguity and obscurity, so turgid with hidden and private meanings, that most readers may reject the communication process altogether….The mature writer, on the other hand, masters the forms and techniques of whatever genre he is working in, so that his words will do what he intends them to do….Until the writer’s statement is understood, communication cannot begin.

–Thomas E. Sanders

Style is the principle of decision in a work of art, the signature of the artist’s will. And as the human will is capable of an indefinite number of stances, there are an indefinite number of possible styles for works of art.

–Susan Sontag

Any writer who keeps up a running quarrel with his time—which means any writer—leaves a kind of unintended private history behind him like a dog’s tracks on a beach.

–Archibald MacLeish

To me, what makes a writer is that moment of lonely, frightening dignity when he sees a dramatic version of a dangerous truth about the society in which he lives. He sees the consequences of committing this to paper, and he goes ahead regardless. And thus does civilization advance.

–Richard M. Powell

All fiction is ‘experimental.’ The experiment that works is the one that counts. Style, design, subject matter, language: the writer has total freedom. He also has the freedom to reach—to reach for and grasp just a little more than he may think he has the power to do.

–Nolan Miller

The germ of an idea can lie dormant for months, or years, then germinate and come to flower, because the soil is right, the atmosphere propitious.

–Daphne DuMaurier

It is the job of the writer to make the inarticulate intelligent.

–Ralph Ellison

The plays which have lasted are about people not in total accord with their time or with society—Oedipus, Macbeth, Hamlet. It is dangerous for society to have only writing that confirms our own optimistic view of ourselves and the world.

–Edward Albee

I hold that the writer has a duty, sink or swim, to be lucid. To be, when it is fitting, profound, subtle, allusive, sincere, startling, difficult, but to struggle with all his energy to be clear. Not concise, not correct, not simple, not single-stranded—but lucid, as lucid as possible. A lucid sentence may not convey the truth; there may, at a given point, be no expressible truth. But incoherence, confusion, obscurity, which do not yield to hard effort to grasp what is being said, are always the work of a charlatan, a self-deceiving humbug or a clumsy idiot.

–Storm Jameson

I have only one subject—myself. If I’m going to reveal something about all of us, then it has to be through me. I have that limitation, or advantage.

–William Saroyan

Writers should be read, and authors should be remembered, not because of what the critics said or by pollsters’ ratings. They should be remembered for the excitement they give the reader who wants to tuck himself away from the day’s problems and indulge in a shameless communication with a storyteller who invites you to share adventure.

–Theodore H. White

What writers sometimes forget is that it is their responsibility, with the help of conscientious editors, to observe what is logical and accepted in usage, not to make their own rules, arbitrarily, and reject, pompously, the editor’s efforts to maintain conformity as interference or ‘censorship.’

What editors sometimes forget is that their rules of accepted usage are not dicta arbitrarily proclaimed by dictionaries and style books, to be superficially imposed, but are drawn from the practices of good writers, past and present.

–Margaret Nicholson

Writing is a bit like sculpture. You have to go with the material—allow the material to find its own form.

–Thomas Tryon

I’m not interested in symbolism, but form. I guess I’m a very traditional writer, I’m just interested in persuading people that what I’m writing is the truth.

–Paul Theroux

My point to young writers is to socialize. Don’t just go up to a pine cabin all alone and brood and write. You reach that stage soon enough anyway.

–Truman Capote

Everything influences playwrights. A playwright who isn’t influenced is never of any use. He’s the litmus paper of the arts.

–Arthur Miller

To turn life into words is to make life yours to do with as you please, instead of the other way round. Words translate and transmute raw life, make bearable the unbearable.

–Gore Vidal

Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life.

–John Barth

The only imagination allowed (in writing biography) is over form, not facts, but that imagination can be considerable. Biography can become a work of art and literature.

–Leon Edel

A novelist and an historian both seek the same truths. An historian gets his out of the documents, a novelist out of his imagination.

–Shelby Foote

To universalize culture is our ultimate aim. It is our particular business as writers simply because no other group is in a position to care as much as we can care about it, and because it is in the nature of writing to reach out to the whole world. It is, perhaps above all, the ultimate way in which men will one day come to identify with one another and thus make the insanity of war less likely.

–Arthur Miller

In my opinion, a true description of Nature should be very brief and have a character of relevance. Commonplaces such as, ‘the setting sun bathing in the waves of the darkening sea, poured its purple gold, etc.’…one ought to abandon. In descriptions of nature one ought to seize upon the little particulars, grouping them in such a way that, in reading, when you shut your eyes, you get a picture….Nature becomes animated if you are not squeamish about employing comparisons of her phenomena with ordinary human activities.

–Anton Chekhov

A great number of people just wait at the idea station and never board a creative train of thought. But all about them are thought starters. Obviously, these thought starters do not tell you in so many words, ‘Here is the beginning of an idea that if pursued further—often much further—will be a whale of an idea….’ Newspapers and magazines, not to mention your own observation along the street, give you hundreds of tidbits with which to start. Different minds see different possibilities….Ideas sparkle everywhere. Watch for them, particularly in your own mind.

–Robert P. Crawford

Good writing must have a poetic faculty whether you write in prose or in verse. When those words come down on wings, they have the same kind of value no matter what form they wind up in.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Style in writing is something like style in a car, a woman, or a Greek temple—a kind of linear mastery of materials that stands out from the landscape and compels a second look.

–Sheridan Baker

Style is the product of a craftsman alive to experience and to the possibilities and the obstinacies in the material he works. It is a labor of love, and like love it can bring pleasure and satisfaction.

–Sheridan Baker

A writer should like words the way some people like stones. He should like phrasing and syntax, and the very punctuation that keeps them straight. His interest in language should equal his interest in what he has to say, or he will never get the two together in any way he can call his own. He will never convince or delight, or get a second look.

–Sheridan Baker

There is a certain mystery about writing, just as there is about life. But the stylistic side of writing is, in fact, the only side that can be analyzed and learned.

–Sheridan Baker

A writer, thinking of himself rather than his reader, may have included material to impress the reader with the writer’s knowledge, ability, or diligence. He may even have written an entirely unnecessary paper just to produce another publication. To discard his own writing ruthlessly is the first lesson he must learn. A good writer fills his own wastebasket rather than his reader’s.

–H. J. Tichy

Life has presented us with an inexhaustible source of themes, and just as it took men a long time to discover the priceless particles of uranium in a plain stone, so we, once impotent in our paucity of theme and idea, have now suddenly learned to discover in every man an unwritten novel; in every human action material for a story; dramatic tensions in conflicts and the motives for songs in moods. Like a child who dreams of standing before a rich dining room table, but who lacks a spoon to sample the preferred delicacies, we discover with surprise that our greed is greater than our stomach, our pockets are too small, and our strength insufficient to carry it all away with us. But, instead of being satisfied with what is within arm’s reach, we often try to grasp everything that is in view, more even than our arms can embrace, and we remain empty-handed.

–Erih Kos

Some novelists have written mainly to make money, and they might be amused at being credited with prophetic vision or superior insight. But the ones who have withstood the test of time are those who, with their art of storytelling and character depiction, have revealed to us something that we did not quite know about ourselves before. They have reminded us that there is a little of Squire Weston, Uriah Heep, or Captain Ahab in every man and a trace of Moll Flanders, Becky Sharp, or Hester Prynne in every woman.

–George D. Crothers

A biographer is not a court record or a legal document. He is a human being, writing about another human being, and his own temperament, his own point of view, and his own frame of reference are unconsciously imposed upon the men he is writing about. Even if the biographer is free from…the need for making money and wants to write nothing but the literal truth, he is still handicapped by the fact that there is no such thing as a completely objective human being.

–Marchette Chute

The art of writing true dramatic dialogue is an austere art, denying itself all license, grudging every sentence devoted to the mere machinery of the play, suppressing all jokes and epigrams severed from character, relying for fun and pathos on the fun and tears of life. From start to finish good dialogue is handmade, like good lace; clear, of fine texture, furthering with each thread the harmony and strength of a design to which all must be subordinated.

–John Galsworthy

I adore to write, but I suffer. I would not do anything else in the world but write even though I suffer beyond reason.

–Janet Flanner

Writing is a model act of intelligence taking form, intelligence becoming shareable, intelligence becoming an act of communion with others.

–Susan Sontag

Writing…is an odd profession and life work because it is so peculiarly balanced. Half of it is literally hard labor, a kind of slavery of searching for the precisely, the justifiably right words or even the right unique single word, perhaps of only one simple syllable. And then when found and that particular little stricture of hard labor suddenly ended, what euphoria in equal brief measurer, what a lightness and relief in pleasure, what mental felicity and rise in spirits.

–Janet Flanner

We can only say about a thousandth of what we think and what we feel. We can’t get much of that on paper.

–Katherine Anne Porter

One is not a writer for having chosen to say certain things, but for having chosen to say them in a certain way. And, to be sure, the style makes the value of the prose.

–Jean-Paul Sartre

The impulse to tell stories is as natural, and hence as little in need of justification, as is the impulse to dance.

–George P. Elliott

Each author’s quest and contribution is to say in his own way what life has said to him.

–John Mason Brown

I is hard to say what interests a child in a book. They can become fascinated by the strangest things…But in general it is probably safe to assume that a successful child’s book has any of the same elements as a successful adult book: gripping plot, interesting characters, a bit of surprise, and most important, competent writing.

–Sandra Schmidt

The work of  a writer is only a kind of optical instrument he offers the reader in order to permit him to discern in himself something he might never have seen without this book.

–Marcel Proust

Talent goes into the first draft, and the art into the drafts that follow.

–John le Carre

Talent is a combination of the gift of response and the gift of abstraction; art the organization of talent.

–John le Carre

There is no life which is so satisfying, so sacred from intrusion as the writer’s.

–John le Carre

Only one thing is asked of the writer: that he tell his story as best he can, and having done so, curiously enough, get on with another.

–John le Carre

During the long, long haul of work on a full-length play there are periods when I am obliged to read what I’ve been writing to see how it is or isn’t shaping up. Almost invariably I am so disappointed or repulsed by what I read that I am unable, for a while, to continue work on it, to start a second, third, or fourth draft of the pachydermous project, and then, since I can’t just stop working, I divert myself with some shorter project, a story, a poem, or a less ponderous play. These diversions are undertaken simply as that, as diversions, and they nearly always have a quality in common, which is experimentation in content and in style, particularly in style. The fatigue I felt before this escapade is lifted. I find myself enjoying my work again. The inside weather changes; even the outside weather seems to get lighter and brighter, and I am easier to live with.

–Tennessee Williams

At a very early stage of the novel’s development I get this urge to collect bits of straw and fluff, and to eat pebbles. Nobody will ever discover how clearly a bird visualizes, or if it visualizes at all, the future nest and the eggs in it. When I remember afterwards the force that made me jot down the correct names of things, or the inches and tints of things, even before I actually needed the information, I am inclined to assume that what I call, for want of a better term, inspiration, had been already at work, mutely pointing at this or that, having me accumulate the known materials for an unknown structure. After the first shock of recognition—a sudden sense of ‘this is what I’m going to write’—the novel starts to breed by itself; the process goes on solely in the mind, not on paper; and to be aware of the stage it has reached at any given moment, I do not have to be conscious of every exact phrase. I feel a kind of gentle development, an uncurling inside, and I know that the details are there already, that in fact I would see them plainly if I looked closer, if I stopped the machine and opened its inner compartment; but I prefer to wait until what is loosely called inspiration has completed the task for me.

–Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t claim that my novels are truth. I claim that they are fiction, out of which a kind of truth emerges.

–Muriel Spark

I polish most of my writing a great deal, writing many corrections on every page and then copying it over. In fact, I throw away many versions of every page before I am satisfied with it. I always read it at least once aloud to myself to be sure that the sentences are not too long or too choppy and that the rhythms sound right.

–Olivia Coolidge

A story, the germ of a design, comes from real life. From one’s own more or less real life. Never mind how the imagination will transform it into something rich and strange and, above all, unrecognizable; that happens later, if at all. Meanwhile, the imagination has done nothing more than be somewhat entranced by what looks for a moment to be possible.

–Howard Nemerov

Hemingway in the late years worked with painful slowness. He wrote mostly in longhand, frequently while standing at a bookcase in his bedroom; occasionally he would typewrite (‘when trying to keep up with dialogue’). For years he carefully logged each day’s work. Except for occasional spurts when he was engaged in relatively unimportant efforts, his output ran between 400 and 700 words a day. Mary Hemingway remembers very few occasions when it topped 1,000 words.

He did not find writing to be quick or easy.

–Robert Manning

When a writer retires deliberately from life or is forced out of it by some defect, his writing has a tendency to atrophy, just like a man’s limb when it’s not used.

I’m not advocating the strenuous life for everyone or trying to say it’s the choice form of life. Anyone who’s had the luck or misfortune to be an athlete has to keep his body in shape. The body and mind are closely coordinated.

–Ernest Hemingway

No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in….That kind of symbol sticks out like—like raisins in raisin bread. Raisin bread is all right, but plain bread is better.

–Ernest Hemingway

People usually ask after my writing habits, thinking, I suppose, there must be some carefully kept secret that accounts for my prolific production. Actually there isn’t. I do all my own typing, but I type 70 words a minute and never slow down. The key characteristic is, I suppose, single-mindedness. I type every day, except when the typewriters are kept forcibly out of reach; I start early each day and continue typing till the number of typographical errors reaches an unacceptable concentration.

–Isaac Asimov

A really unconscionable amount of a publisher’s time is spent declining as politely as possible manuscripts, for the most part unsolicited, which are hopeless. I mean that word of course in a purely subjective sense, because one publisher’s poison is another publisher’s meat, and my guess is that an unbelievable proportion of really bad manuscripts find quite respectable imprints sooner or later, and more frequently sooner than later.

–Alfred A. Knopf

To write clearly is great gain, but it is not the whole of writing. Beyond this obtainable clearness, beyond even the clearness which is touched with grace (a quality to be valued even in modest supply) lies much else. A straight giving of facts, the easy intimacy of a letter, the flash of a picture or an idea or an action is not enough. No one of them is large enough to fill the full circle of disciplined writing. To say exactly what does fill that full circle is not possible, for since disciplined writing expresses the infinite ways of men, it must take infinite forms. It is life moving in words. Being so alive and differing so in its forms and spirit, it cannot be fully analyzed.

–Percival Hunt

The creative process is often not responsive to conscious efforts to initiate or control it. It does not proceed methodically or in a programmatic fashion. It meanders. It is unpredictable, digressive, capricious.

–John Gardner

It is through the process of making artistic form—plays, poems, novels—out of one’s experience that one becomes a writer, and it is through this process, this struggle, that the writer helps give meaning to the experience of the group. And it is the process of mastering the discipline, the techniques, the fortitude, the culture, through which this is made possible, which constitutes the writer’s real experience as writer, as artist.

–Ralph Ellison

There seems no danger that the short story will decline in the number of its practitioners or the impact of their work. Indeed, we are more convinced than ever that it is in the short story that the new writers of the country, with all the freedom their elders and they have won, will give us the true particular essence of the art of fiction. And that it will be in short stories we will see the most effective world-in-miniature dramatizations of the conflicts of our time.

–Whit and Hallie Burnett

People always ask authors ‘How long did it take you to write?’ and indeed as a scholar I have spent much of my time, intelligence, and energy trying to establish the dates for the writing, the composition, of various poems, plays, stories. Apart from the obvious encyclopedic convenience of having an end date—which in any case is always supplied by the date of its appearance in print—to assign for a work, any author must look upon the scholar’s work as highly unrealistic and totally unrevealing as far as any understanding of the artistic process is concerned.

The answer to the question: ‘How long?’ has to be ‘My entire life up to the moment when the publisher cries ‘halt’ because any further changes would result in fantastic printing charges.’

–John Stewart Carter

Creation is a continuing process. I wrote nothing but scholarly articles for twenty years, yet all that time I must somehow have been writing because when I wrote my first purely narrative sentence…I began to draw on all that had happened to me in forty-six years. Suddenly—but not suddenly at all—I wanted to speak.

–John Stewart Carter

The relationship between publisher and author is the same as the relationship between a knife and a throat.

–Lincoln Schuster

There is nothing left for us novelists to do but think. For unless we think, unless we make a clearer estimate of our condition, we will continue to write kid stuff, to fail in our function; we will lack serious interests and become truly irrelevant.

–Saul Bellow

The writer is admired, the writer is envied. But what has he to say for himself? Why, he says, just as writers have said for more than an century, that he is cut off from the life of his own society, despised by its overlords who are cynical and have nothing but contempt for the artist, without a true public, estranged. He dreams of ages when the poet or the painter expressed a perfect unit of time and place, had real acceptance, and enjoyed a vital harmony with his surroundings—he dreams of a golden age….Well, this is no age of gold.

–Saul Bellow

We writers…can either shut up because the times are too bad, or continue because we have an instinct to make books, talent to enjoy, which even these disfigured times cannot obliterate. Isolated professionalism is death. Without the common world, the novelist is nothing but a curiosity and will find himself in a glass case along some dull museum corridor of the future.

–Saul Bellow

One likes to be comprehended, not praised (by a reviewer).

–John Cheever

The conscious and unconscious levels in a novelist are often at war. A book is prepared in the unconscious, and it is important for a novelist not to betray that unconscious. If you do, the unconscious will not ‘prepare’ material for you, and you will face a writing block.

–Norman Mailer

Technique is something that comes into existence with the individual work. In any real sense, it is actually discovered by the author, just as he discovers his own experience and deepest meaning in the course of creating his play. It materializes, always anew or always somewhat differently, in each new play in accordance with the demands of character, situation, moral slant, and intellectual bent. That is what successful technique is, and there is, of course, no teaching-formula for it. There is only one way of teaching it, and that is by stimulating the writer to discover his own technique by finding, liberating, and shaping his own inmost experience and meaning.

–John Gassner

The good writer makes a story by adding one part of his experience to another, fitting, adjusting, tinkering, building up, until a form emerges in which both the complexity of life and the transformation of the story are equally evident….He looks for the story that can emerge from the recombinations of experience that he constructs with words on paper.

–R. V. Cassill

The editing of books is one of the more cheerful trades….the biggest psychic income is the editor’s feeling that he often helps to bring to birth a talent or an idea. He can, in his better moments, think of himself as a midwife to the culture of his time—a part of the process by which civilization is created, preserved, and handed on from one generation to another.

–John Fischer

I think often how the writing of a book is the making of a journey. A novelist goes traveling with his mind on a trip to a certain place at a certain time with certain people; on such a trip his purpose and his obligation is to record vividly what he sees and what he hears and how it feels to be there. If he is vivid enough, there will be readers to go with him and to share with him the experience of such a journey, be it rough or smooth, wild or tame, wise or foolish, good or evil, long or short. About the only kind of trip readers do not care to make with a writer is a dull trip.

–Tom Lea

In art, truth lies in surprising.

–Julian Green

Writers of any significance have always played an oddly dual role. They have been voices and echoes at one and the same time. They have spoken for others while speaking for themselves. Although their voices have been theirs uniquely, in them they have expressed the unphrased needs of others. They have been spokesmen for their eras, too.

–John Mason Brown

The businessman who is a novelist in his spare time, an occasional and amateur novelist, is a character who must always be envied by professionals. For here is a man who has avoided the treadmill of talent and the catastrophes which lie in the path of genius. The businessman who is a novelist is able to drop in on literature and feel no suicidal loss of esteem if the lady is not home, and he can spend his life preparing without fuss for the awful interview.

–V. S. Pritchett

Beginning writing is never on paper; it is in the mind…the recognition of vital experience in our lives. We feel, we know, and we try to put this into patterns.

–Peggy Simson Curry

The tongue of experience has most truth.

–Arabic Proverb

All there is is sitting down to work and trusting that the ignition key still turns everything on.

–Peter Straub

The hardest part about writing is sticking it out.

–Peggy Anderson

Listen to everyone. Then choose what is best for you.

–Lawrence Treat

You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price in disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.

–Phyllis Whitney

The complete novelist would come into the world with a catalog of qualities something like this. He would own the concentration of a Trappist monk, the organizational ability of a Prussian field marshal, the insight into human relations of a Viennese psychiatrist, the discipline of a man who prints the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, the exquisite sense of timing of an Olympic gymnast and, by the way, a natural instinct and flair for exceptional use of language. Obviously, no man or woman has all of this. Yet unless he has some of it, dished out solely by the grace of the Lord, he cannot become a writer.

–Leon Uris

Dreaming and hoping won’t produce a piece of work; only writing, rewriting and re-rewriting (if necessary)—a devoted translation of thoughts and dreams into words on paper—will result in an article, story or novel.

–Roberta Gellis

Read a lot, finding out what kind of writing turns you on, in order to develop a criterion for your own writing. And then trust it—and yourself.

–Rosemary Daniell

Read at least one book a day. Study the memoirs of authors who interest you.

–Arthur C. Clarke

You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.

–Larry Niven

The writer’s genetic inheritance and her or his experiences shape the writer into a unique individual, and it is this uniqueness that is the writer’s only stuff for sale.

–James Gunn

Compromise will be imposed from without. Therefore, avoid it from within. To please your readers don’t betray yourself.

–Flora Rheta Schreiber

Life is a short run—milk it. Write what you really want to write.

–Ralph G. Martin

Write to please yourself. As you do, you’ll reflect on your pages the thoughts and values of the people who share your own strange view of the world, and you’ll remind them that they’re not mad or alone.

–Richard Bach

The reader has certain rights. He bought your story. Think of this as an implicit contract. He’s entitled to be entertained, instructed, amused; maybe all three. If he quits in the middle, or puts the book down feeling his time has been wasted, you’re in violation.

–Larry Niven

Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.

–Anne McCaffrey

Take the greatest possible unknown and say it in the simplest possible way.

–Rosemary Dantell

Think of language as malleable, like clay—that you are simply shaping that clay to hold your meaning, whatever that may be.

–Rosemary Daniell

Don’t think and then write it down. Think on paper.

–Harry Kemelman

Study the writers’ magazines and pound hell out of the typewriter.

–Erle Stanley Gardner

If I had any advice to give, I’d take it myself.

–John Steinbeck

The new writer should observe, listen, look…and then write. Nothing begets better writing than the simple process of writing.

–Rod Serling

The beginning writer needs talent, application and aspirin. If he wants to write just to make money, he is not a writer.

–James Thurber

Beware of advice—even this.

–Carl Sandburg

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground. There are no two ways about it, but down it comes, and he may stick in the points and stops wherever he can get a chance.

–Henry David Thoreau

A writer can’t help but develop style—and, if a good writer, adapt different styles to the uses of different materials. (Telling writers that they had to develop their own style to be successful) has sent innumerable writers out searching for different styles, as if one costume was suitable for all occasions, and has placed the emphasis of innumerable would-be writers on style instead of structure.

–James Gunn

A writer can only write what he knows about; and while ignorance of life, or a superficial understanding of life, has never stopped many writers from publishing books…it is certainly not the goal of any good or serious writer.

  –Gay Talese

Almost all advice is silly. No one knows what an individual

author is doing, and even he or she is not perfectly sure.

–Gregory Mcdonald

Above all else, you must be your own harshest critic, your own strictest editor, your own most demanding taskmaster; if you are honest with yourself in these respects, you will never please yourself entirely, but in continuing to try to do so, you cannot help but please others.

–Edward R. Eckert

Until you can spot flaws in your material—and know how to repair them—and until you really want to go through this process (as opposed to deeming yourself and your work flawless), you may get money for your writing but you aren’t a writer.

–John Jakes

Remember the word ‘irresistible.’ The writer confronts massive resistance from both publisher and reader. Trap an editor from the title, from the first paragraph to the very end. The same must be said of the reader. The writer must stop the editor from rejecting the manuscript. The writer must prevent the reader from putting the book down. The writer’s work must be irresistible.

–William X. Kienzle

You fail more than you succeed, even when your efforts get published and you get paid.

–Larry Grobel

Don’t give up, because those who don’t like your work may very well be wrong. And after you’re published, don’t pay any attention to the critics.

–Andrew Greeley

Be wary of people who want to rush in with advice. They usually want to maintain the status quo.

–Ann Beattie

Any advice, ideas or suggestions about writing from people not in the creative world should be staunchly ignored and the damaging mental vibrations quelled with a good hot fudge sundae.

–Nancy Winslow Parker

To be flattered by good criticism is corrupt and to be threatened by bad criticism is cowardly.

–Harry Mark

Petrakis

The publisher is the enemy. An enemy that one may work with fairly amicably on occasion, but an enemy nonetheless. It’s like a relationship between the US and Russia. A writer who faces that reality will never be surprised or disappointed by her publisher, or anything that publisher does.

–Bertrice Small

Most publishers are basically commercial-minded. They have no time for literary idealism.

–Irving Wallace

Once the writing begins, turn out a set number of completed pages a day. There is a compelling tendency to surrender to writer’s block. Setting a schedule and sticking to it helps prevent that.

–William X. Kienzle

Every writer must acknowledge and be able to handle the unalterable fact that he has, in effect, given himself a life sentence in solitary confinement. The ordinary world of work is closed to him—and that’s if he’s lucky!

–Peter Straub

Writing is difficult, often painful, and always lonely. As you learn to write better, writing becomes more difficult, more painful, and no less lonely.

–Betty Rollin

Preserve time each day for absolute quiet and privacy, whether you are writing or not. It is, after all, the inner life that alone nourishes the writer’s real sensibilities.

–Donald Spoto

Good fiction is people. And people are people you know. And the more you write about people you know, the more other people who read it recognize themselves or their problems or the way they feel about things.

–Theodore Sturgeon

Reporting on the extreme things as if they were the average things will start you on the art of fiction.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

You know you’re a born writer if…

At college, you enclosed SASE when you wrote ‘Hi, Dad, send money’ letters.

You make carbons of love letters.

You do rough drafts before filling out magazine survey cards.

While seated at your typewriter, you’re capable of meditating for 15 minutes at a stretch on the growth rate of grass.

–Craig H. Barrett

A playwright is a problem solver. I think of a character in a difficult situation, then try to figure out the events that led him to that point and how he’ll get out of trouble. The play writes itself from there.

–Milan Stitt

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.

–Red Smith

Normally I don’t pay attention to ages except for the books I write for beginning readers. For them I edit out complexities of style and if possible cut the vocabulary down. But for everyone else, I write the same for the 6-year-old and the adult. They both can comprehend anything if you give it to them in straight-ahead form.

–Dr. Seuss

The actual process of writing a novel is very different from writing a play. In the novel you must add texture, details—extend scenes, rather than pare them down.

–Robert Anderson

With a novel, which takes perhaps years to write, the author is not the same man at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. It is not only that his characters have developed—he has developed with them, and this nearly always gives a sense of roughness to the work: a novel can seldom have the sense of perfection which you find in Chekhov’s story, ‘The Lady with a Dog.’ It is the consciousness of that failure which makes the revision of a novel seem endless—the author is trying in vain to adapt the story to his changed personality—as though it were something he had begun in childhood and was finishing now in old age.

–Graham Greene

I always know when I’m not writing well. That’s when I invent a flimsy excuse to leave my work.

–Edna O’Brien

A writer…is an imaginative person who seeks to convey his imaginative vision to his fellow-men by means of words, just as if he were a painter he would try to convey it in terms of colour and shape, or if a musician in terms of sounds. His medium is the dictionary, especially that great dictionary which is forever writing itself on the lips of a nation in speech.

–John Wain

People are your plots then, only if you know them well enough and present them with problems they will have great difficulty in solving. As you take them through their struggle, you will generate conflict. This is good; it is what you must have, for without conflict, your story will simply not move. The most elaborate plot in the world is useless without the animation that conflict imparts to it.

–William C. Knott

The design of my novel is fixed in my imagination and every character follows the course I imagine for him. I am the perfect dictator in that private world insofar as I alone am responsible for its stability and truth.

–Vladimir Nabokov

Whatever you want to say, there is only one word that will express it, one verb to make it move, one adjective to qualify it. You must seek that word, that verb and that adjective, and never be satisfied with approximations, never resort to tricks, even clever ones, or to verbal pirouettes, to escape the difficulty.

–Guy de Maupassant

When I am considering poetry to publish, I don’t look for the well-made or the un-well-made poem, the cooked or the raw. The important thing is to speak with your own voice—the thing that is yours and nobody else’s.

–Howard Moss

When I ask myself what my materials are, it seems to me that I cannot exclude anything. I use the whole of my life. I use all that I have experienced and observed and been told of and thought about in solitude and read about in books. A very great deal of it has come from books. I am convinced that all of it, however acquired, enters in some subtle way into everything I write….When I am writing with all my power I have the resources of the whole of my life just behind the tip of my pencil.

–Richard McKenna

No matter how great…a writer’s intellectual perception, its expression…will be worth little unless he perceives also through the emotions. Stark intellectuality is as unacceptable as stark sentimentality.

–Paul Horgan

The danger for a writer who does not insist on psychology in his treatment of character is that he will become a puppet master, manipulating more or less adroitly manufactured figures who are ultimately boring.

–Arthur Ganz

If you’re going to touch or tempt the world with what you write, you’d better make the ultimate effort, and in my prose writing I’ll crawl on my elbows to get it right.

–Hortense Calisher

Your ability never reaches your hopes. You must be arrogant enough to think you can do it (write another book), and humble enough to do it.

–Hortense Calisher

Writing is the scrim through which the reader sees the story. If the writing is too fancy, or has patterns in it, there’s a conflict in the scrim. It disturbs the reader and he doesn’t see it clearly.

–James M. Cain

Style is more than a technical mannerism, more than a consistent way to apply colors or to wiggle a line. It is a method of going directly to the heart of each situation and peeing and depicting it in its own specific term; it is participating in each particular mood and finding the proper technique for expressing it; it is presenting clearly, without detours and unnecessary frills, what is talked about; it is understanding and feeling about characters and environments the way we feel about ourselves and our world. A formal, independent style does not allow such complete identification; it does not permit each story, each character to live its own life. It dresses the actors with the same costumes, over and over again, no matter what their play is and no matter what their lives are.

–Leo Lionni

People write realistically but at the same time they want to create environments which are somehow desirable, which are surrounded by atmospheres in which behavior becomes significant, which display the charm of life….The realistic tendency is to challenge the human significance of things. The more realistic you are, the more you threaten the grounds of your own art. Realism has always both accepted and rejected the circumstances of ordinary life. It accepted the task of writing about ordinary life and tried to meet it in some extraordinary fashion.

–Saul Bellow

Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing…is a civilized art that is rooted in tradition. It draws upon the experience and practices of the masters, and all successful experimentation and novelty in writing is ultimately based upon techniques that have already been successfully demonstrated. Certainly, no serious writer can be so smug as to ignore what others have produced and are producing; nor can he be so dull as to be unaware of past achievements and present ventures in the realm of style and techniques.

–Winston Weathers and Otis Winchester

If you intend to write, get all the facts and then sit down and write it as near like poetry as you can without violating the record. Use your imagination. Let it pour, like hot iron, turn it on free-swinging, expansive, overwhelming, exultant, triumphant. That is, if you are to bring any fire and passion to a dull and drab world.

–James Daugherty

It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.

–William Faulkner

The writer has his own vision at work. If there lie within him intense and deep feelings, a passion and an urgency for life and all that life evokes, a vigorous reality emerges. If that author has the artistry to commit into words, the soul of his thoughts and feelings, his characters and their story will reach us with genuineness and significance. There will be an underlying universality, a touchstone of reality.

–Mae Durham

Those writers who speak for and with their age are able to do so with a great deal more ease and grace than those who speak counter to prevailing attitudes.

–Flannery O’Conner

There is a widespread mistaken notion that ‘writing’ is a talent that exists in a void—a sense of words and phrases, a style, a gift of expression and arrangement. But this is only the hollow form of writing; it needs to be filled with substance.

–Sydney J. Harris

The problem of aesthetic creation is very different from that of scientific discovery. The question to be resolved is generally imposed on the scientist from without…and the framework of the problem is outlined with such rigor that, for a given state of knowledge, it is hardly possible to allow more than one correct solution. In contrast with this, the aesthetic work is in the first place imposed on the artist from within in response to some creative demand which in its origins has nothing in common with the difficulties peculiar to the aesthetic propensities of his age; it arises, rather, out of some rejection, in part or whole, of these propensities and nothing stands in the way of the resolution of this inner demand into a plurality (indefinite in number) of works of equal value.

–Jean-Paul Weber

I am not, and must not be, aware of my audience when I write my books. I must be wholly subjective, conscious only of the particular limiting cage of form of the…book into which I must shape and compress my creation….I write only out of myself but also for myself.

–Meindert DeJong

It is no good looking for models. We want anti-models.

–John Berryman

One does not write for children. One writes so that children can understand. Which means writing as clearly, vividly, and truthfully as possible. Adults might put up with occasional lapses; children are far less tolerant. They must never be bored; not for an instant. Words must live for them; so must people. That is what really matters, and it entails believing entirely in what one writes and having a real urgency to convince the reader that it is absolutely, utterly true.

–Leon Garfield

Writing aims to communicate, but if it does not hold the attention, it fails of its purpose and might as well not have been written. Unfortunately, monotony often exerts its deadly effect without either the author or the reader having any awareness of the fault. Yet the fault is quite readily corrected, if only we are aware of it.

Monotony can take several forms. I would consider, primarily, monotony in regard to sentence length and sentence structure. While the length of the sentence obviously will vary, the effect of a sentence depends more on its structure than on the mere number of words that it contains….

To correct monotony of structure, the writer must first of all become aware that it exists. From a recently published text I selected a random page and jotted down the first word in each of the 26 sentences. Eighteen of these began with the word ‘the,’ two with ‘these,’ and three with ‘this.’ In the remaining three sentences the initial word was ‘although’ once, ‘in’ once, and ‘its’ once. The reader may increase his sensitivity to bad writing by the simple procedure of noting the initial words of sentences, comparing various authors one with the other.

–Dr. Lester S. King

My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.

—William Faulkner

One cannot stretch a rubber band beyond its determined length….Padding often tends toward diffusion.

–Stanley Richards

Writers are interested in folk tales for the same reason that painters are interested in still-life arrangements: because they illustrate essential principles of storytelling. The writer who uses them has the technical problem of making them sufficiently plausible or credible to a sophisticated audience. When he succeeds, he produces, not realism, but a distortion of realism in the interests of structure.

–Northrop Frye

Two essential writing skills are involved (in technical writing): organizing one’s thoughts, then writing them into strong sentences. These skills can be applied in producing any kind of technical writing—memo, report, manual, proposal—and must be applied if the work is to excel.

–Hardy Hoover

The most difficult part of writing…(is) revising, the careful reworking of a story after the emotional explosion that produces the first draft. Writing in the heat of feeling (is) hard enough, but to return to the pages after the heat (has) cooled and see the words one thought diamonds and pearls become gimcracks and baubles is a somber and demoralizing experience.

–Harry Mark Petrakis

The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.

–John Steinbeck

A good writer always works at the impossible.

–John Steinbeck

Literature, as art, is not life ‘as is’ but life ‘as if.’ It does not, as Hamlet said, ‘hold, as it were, the mirror up to nature.’ Art does not conceive human experience as simple and direct. Too many seemingly irrelevant acts clutter our daily lives; too many activities occur which are too dull or too prosaic to make interesting literature. It is the writer, as artist, who points up the importance of an act, an experience, by his ordering of specific detail, thereby giving meaning and directness to experience. Art then is not a mirroring or an exact copy. It is not a snapshot of an experience, but an artistic ordering of details which communicates an artistic truth and an appearance of validity.

–J. A. Christensen

The contemporary novelist’s job is to take pieces of life and arrange them on paper. And the more direct their passage from street to paper, the more lifelike they should turn out….(The novelist) needs to make what is set down seem truly contemporary, to give the impression of things happening here and now, to force upon the reader a feeling of immediacy…the novelist must know how things happen—not how they are remembered in later years—and he must write them down that way.

–Dashiell Hammett

The material of fiction is experience. I can count four kinds….

The four kinds of experience are recollected, fantasized, invented, learned.

Learned experience is what we hear about from others, or get from research, and try to fit to our characters. It happened historically.

Invented experience is what we imagine for our characters with no reference to similar events in our own lives. It could happen.

Fantasized experience does start with an actual event but, for our characters, we give it a different outcome. It might well have happened, given a change or two of factors.

Recollected experience sounds simplest: it happened personally. For my first 310,000 words of fiction—three published novels and one not published–I managed to avoid it.

It is part of the style of a writer…that he favors one or two of these kinds of experience, and very few of us use them all with equal facility.

–Vance Bourjaily

The reward of writing is in the writing itself. It comes with finding the right word. The quest for a superb sentence is a groping for honesty, a search for the innermost self, a self-discipline, a generous giving out of one’s most intimate rhythms and meanings.

–John Hersey

To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over.

–John Hersey

The image of the artist holding a mirror up to nature leaves out of account this transformation, by selection and invention, of the otherwise meaningless jungle of actuality. His good eye, his good ear, demon-guided, decides fastidiously, intellectually and imaginatively what, alone among all the eyes and ears of the world, he shall see and hear in the green wilderness. What saves him from the banality of seeing and hearing what everybody else has always seen and heard is his God-given infirmities. They bestow on him his own obstinate vision, which is his self in action, making these new shapes of life.

–Sean O’Faolain

Lines, verses, even stanzas come to me at odd moments—perhaps the best when I’m swimming. Swimming frees the mind. There’s something about the rhythm of swimming—or running—the body is occupied, the mind is free. Lines come to me, too, in sleeping-waking moments.

The only conscious thing about writing poetry is the veto of some of these lines. It’s veto, veto, veto.

–Robert Penn Warren

The utmost a writer can hope is that there may survive of his work a fraction good enough to be drawn upon later, to uphold or to embellish some ancient truth restated or some old delight reborn.

–Rudyard Kipling

He who writes prose builds his temple to Fame in rubble; he who writes verses builds it in granite.

–Bulwer-Lytton

Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.

–Mark Twain

Every writer is a man with one deaf ear and one blind eye, who is possessed by a demon and unteachable by anybody but himself; a man who only half hears and half sees the world about him because for half his time he is absorbedly listening at the keyhole to his own Demon, examining with fascination his primordial Shadow. From this inner absorption comes his ruthlessness; his egoism; his readiness to make use of anybody, even his dearest and nearest, to serve his pen; his insistence on reshaping everything that he thus half sees and half hears in accord with his inner self; and his endless curiosity mingled now with sympathy, now with an almost blind hatred for other writers, who are, meantime, also eavesdropping on their own Demons and Shadows.

–Sean O’Faolain

You can make yourself a more imaginative writer by being constantly analytical, critical and appreciative while reading.

–John Stahr

If those who’ve grown accustomed to making their living by putting words on paper are fearful that the electronics age is sounding a death knell to that art perhaps they can be comforted a bit by the thought that even the best of speeches and commentaries that come into our consciousness via the ear have been ‘put on paper’ first.

–John Stahr

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. It isn’t so much his mirror as it is the distillation, the essence, or what is strongest and purest in his nature, whether that be gentleness or anger, serenity or torment, light or dark. This makes it deeper than the surface likeness of a mirror and that much more truthful.

–Tennessee Williams

In the writing of every book or poem or play there are two crucial moments. One comes when the author puts down the first few words, and the other when he starts the last page. The tone of the concluding sentences is even more important than the beginning for it will surely help to determine his readers’ judgment of the whole, and sometimes these words are among those which remain most clearly in their memory.

–Gilbert Highet

The process of composition is, in one degree or another, a movement toward meaning. The writer (like any artist) is not a carpenter who builds the chicken-coop according to a blue-print. If the carpenter has a blue-print he knows exactly what kind of chicken-coop will be forthcoming. But the writer, no matter how clear his idea or strong his intuition of the projected work, can never know what it will ‘be’ or ‘mean’ until the last word is in place—for every word, every image, every rhythm participates in the ‘being,’ and the ‘being’ is, ultimately, the ‘meaning.’ And the reader is made to share in this process.

–Robert Penn Warren

Writing isn’t hard; no harder than ditch-digging.

–Patrick Dennis

I don’t believe you can write about anything, or in any fashion, even the fantastic, without drawing deeply on your own experience.

–Wallace Stegner

The novelist has nothing in common with the journalist in his relationship to material. He is seeking something more important to him than reality. In the creation of character he may borrow from the people around him an attribute, a mannerism or a turn of phrase; but the character will not take wing, or give him any satisfaction, until he has animated it with some element, however obscure, of his own personality.

–John le Carre

A writer needs to know the strength of Simple words, the effectiveness of few words, the power of the unsaid word.

–Norma R. Youngberg

The first responsibility of the creative writer is to his language and to his technique, because only through these can the creative impulse itself find its realization. His second responsibility is to his own freedom to use his language as he must. He must be free to rebel, and in a profoundly basic sense every real writer is a rebel.

–Mark Schorer

Why do we write? Leaving aside the personal compulsions, and to start with the obvious, I’d say that any novelist must have a point of view which he feels he must put forward, and I suppose the problems of any novel will usually be the current problems of the novelist himself.

–Mary Stewart

The most frequent deficiency is the failure of the writer to organize his material logically. The editors of The Reader’s Digest have an expressive term for this fault; they say the article ‘doesn’t march.’ Instead, it hops from one phase of the subject to another and then, confusingly, back again to a previous sequence, and the transitions are bad or non-existent. As a result, the story doesn’t make much sense.

–Ben Hibbs

No two writers tell a story in exactly the same way, because their styles are different….two writers may have the same idea, but their writing will depend on their personalities, their knowledge, their feelings, their past experiences….All of these elements contribute to what we call style.

–Edward H. Jones, Jr.

Anybody who has in him one sentence that can mean something to somebody else should write it down.

–Rod Steiger

Much more than confession or catharsis, creative writing often constitutes a kind of self-analysis. When the writer dredges up the contents of his unconscious and transmutes them into literature, he is not restricted to getting it off his chest. He may begin to see his deepest conflicts in perspective, to work through and resolve his fundamental problems. Even though it is not his conscious intention, his writing may serve the end of personal development.

–Harvey Mindess

A novel is a prodigious experience for the writer. It is a possessing embryo which consumes the imagination and drains the mind. But it also nourishes and replenishes even as it seeks the materials for its own needs. Thus it becomes a process of growth and change for the novelist himself. And he hates to let it go, not only because of the painful joy of creative work, with its continuity and uninterrupted purpose, but because he feels what he has done can be made better and he does not want it ever to get beyond reach.

–Norman Cousins

If you write purely and your style’s good enough, you can establish a communion between yourself and the reader that can be found in no other art. And this communion can continue for hours, weeks, years.

–Norman Mailer

A book that is worth writing, that you really care about, is only partly made. You may be able to make all the parts hold neatly and strongly together, as a carpenter does a good job on a box; but from the very beginning—perhaps even before you think of writing a story at all—the story must grow. An idea grows in your mind as a tree grows from a seed. The idea of the story is a seed, and it grows with the slowness of natural growth.

–Philippa Pearce

The idea of a story springs from your experience, from what you have seen and heard and done and felt and thought, going back for weeks, months perhaps yearns perhaps even to the day you were born. So you would often find great difficulty in saying exactly where an idea sprang from; it is much easier to mark its growth—its gaining in strength and in size and its branching out.

–Philippa Pearce

At least two experiences are shared by every serious writer. The first is the yearning or determination to write his heart out in one big book, a book that would fulfill itself and himself. The second is the dread of finality—as represented not only by his difficulty in knowing when a book is finished, but by his reluctance to part with it even after he has managed to end it.

–Norman Cousins

Fiction differs from fact…in that it is an ‘imaginative fashioning, whether with or without intent to deceive.’ It is life as it ought to be. It is not enough for the writer to recount what actually happened. He will probably use actuality as the springboard, but from then on his imagination must guide him to a logical conclusion–not the anti-climax of too much reality.

–Katharine C. Turner

I advise everyone who asks about the career of writing to get himself all the books he can carry before he buys a typewriter. Library cards are more important than pencils. Read everything, I say. Good books, bad books, hard books, easy books, underground books, popular books, square books, hip books—never stop reading and you will become a fortiori a writer.

–Harry Golden

Let a man dig with passion into a subject he knows something about and you become his companion, his partisan, on the instant. The subject doesn’t matter: The writer may be mad about oysters, or skindiving, or gorillas in their natural state, or perhaps even thermodynamics. So long as he knuckles down to the one, two, threes, the actual mechanics of dealing with a pursuit you thought you couldn’t care less about, you care.

–Walter Kerr

Every man’s profession, or pleasure, becomes irresistibly inviting the minute it’s made concrete, detailed, explicit. The human mind leaps at the opportunity to function freshly, in alien terrain, when it is given fundamentals to chew on—and whenever the stage takes advantage of this far from idle curiosity, it magnetizes an audience into a pop-eyed little group virtually holding its breath over the dissecting table.

–Walter Kerr

Do not write a novel unless your head is bursting with its birth pains. If your mind is crammed with a host of aggravating characters who find themselves in conflict either with each other or with you, the novel is ripe and you will not find relief until you get it on paper.

–Jesse Stuart

You stand among people at a party where a man wants to talk. You listen. Perhaps it’s not very good. You keep on listening, and then you take out a notebook and jot down something to remember.

When all the stories get inside, your head-resembles one of those IBM machines which assembles facts and figures, sorts them out, and returns them to you added, multiplied, divided, and subtracted. Your private IBM machine assembles characters, and in much the same way delivers itself of a novel. The characters you have met in different places become acquainted and develop into participants. Your individual stories get together and form the big story. Characters and story then join and become a book aching to be born.

–Jesse Stuart

An entertainer who merely confuses and bores can hardly expect to receive applause. Serious novelists, I am aware, don’t want to be thought of as entertainers. But they will either amuse their patrons or be dismissed. After all, if King Lear’s jester hadn’t been funny, he would not have been allowed to deliver all those wise remarks.

–Cecil Hemley

It seems to me that the novel can still be saved if the novelists want to save it. To do so, however, will require a certain humility upon the part of the writer. The first thing he must do is to acquire respect for his audience….The really great artists of the past were always able to adapt themselves to their audiences and create their masterpieces within the limitations set by the times.

–Cecil Hemley

To write a page-turner that matters beyond the simple story is certainly the ultimate goal of realistic writers.

–Susan Shreve

Children have little patience with digression from the matters at hand. I have learned a lot about structure from the high expectations of an audience of children.

–Susan Shreve            

If the characters aren’t warm and vivid, nothing else will work. If they are, the story will take care of itself.

–Anton Myrer

If you want to be treated seriously as a writer, you’ve got to put something of yourself, some flavor of personal emotion, into what you write.

–Julian Symons

Writers are so interested in messages they’ve forgotten how to tell a story.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

I’d rather fail by trying to do something new, something unheard of, than repeat myself for an entire career.

–James Dickey

I assume that readers are burdened, harassed and furiously distracted. Some of the greatest forces in American life are directed upon them. In plain words, everyone competes for their attention: politicians, journalists, people with something to sell. My strongest wish is not to waste their time or impose upon them.

–Saul Bellow

When the characters are speaking, and I allow them to speak in their own rhythms and nuances and their own voices, they seem to find the right words.

–Joyce Carol Oates

The goal of writing is to keep a beleaguered line of understanding which has movement from breaking down and becoming a hole into which we sink decoratively to rest.

–William Carlos Williams

When an artist starts out on a work of art, he has set himself some definite artistic problems that he is out to solve. He selects his characters, his time and his place, and then finds the particular and special circumstances which can allow the developments he desires to occur naturally, developing, so to say, without any violence on the artist’s part in order to compel the desired issue, developing logically and naturally from the combination and interaction of the forces the artist has set into play. The world the artist creates for this purpose may be entirely unreal…but there is one absolute demand we are entitled to make: This world in itself and as long as it lasts must be plausible to the reader or to the spectator.

–Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t revise much when I write fiction; it usually works or it doesn’t the first time through.

–John Sayles

I read everything I write out loud before I do the final typing, because my ear is a lot better than my eye.

–John Sayles

You know that fiction, prose rather, is possibly the roughest trade of all in writing. You do not have the reference, the old important reference. You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true. You have to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and also have it seem normal and so that it can become a part of the experience of the person who reads it. Obviously, this is impossible and that is probably why it is considered to be valuable when you are able to do it. But it is impossible to hire out or contract to be able to do it, as to hire out to be an alchemist.

–Ernest Hemingway

You write with energy at the beginning of life, with the experiences you are living. You put them down on paper immediately without going through an intermediary stage….Then when you are 50 you have learned how to write, you don’t have that energy anymore, but you have achieved a technique, you have learned how to write in your head before you put it on paper.

–Carlos Fuentes

When writers of fiction deal with themes, have ideas, write about matters of life and death, they should never forget that the most important thing is to partake of life with relish, to reduce, compress, and distill it, and between the covers of a book, with compassion and with truth, to fashion out of words and life something durable that did not exist before.

–Burke Davis III

The primary job of a writer is to be a good storyteller; tell it with humor, tell it with rousing fun and tell it with romance.

–Marilyn K. Dickerson

My desire to write stems at least partially from a need to make order from chaos and to seek a meaning lurking in the constant onslaught of daily experience.

–Carole Morgan

I write because I love to read. I love the research that goes  into good historical novels. I love taking something quite  intangible, like an idea, and giving it shape and color, choosing its voice and the way it moves, creating a personality that both loves and hates, and then sitting at my typewriter and watching what happens to it.

–Wendy Lozano

There are two basic tensions in biography. One occurs when you’re taking someone whom you don’t know, from a strange century or a strange place, and you’re trying to make him familiar and recognizable. You do that by putting the person in the context of the familiar, shared life we all know: the social life, the life of getting ahead in the world and making a living, and so on. So in one way you’re trying to make the person you’re writing about comprehensible in terms of your own experience. But on the other hand what you’re trying to do at the very same time is to make that person, especially if he or she is a highly creative person, seem unique, even mysterious and spooky. So you’ve got to manage these two challenges simultaneously.

–Justin Kaplan

Once in a while, your hand will write a sentence that seems so true you do not know where it came from.

–Norman Mailer

If you are a writer, you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework…you can still be writing, because you have that space.

–Joyce Carol Oates

Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me.

–Neil Simon

I like being alone in a room. It’s almost a form of meditation—an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with ‘I’ve got to get another play.’

–Neil Simon

When I go to work in the morning I read the newspaper first. I don’t have the slightest idea of what I’m going to do. I’m in this meditative mood. It’s like being on a high board, looking down to a cold, chilly pool. Then I give myself a little push. The water isn’t as cold as I thought.

–Neil Simon

I don’t think anyone gets writer’s block. I think fear takes over.

–Neil Simon

The novelist’s main concern is with character….He must take liberties with his subject, plunge off into the void, in order to satisfy his own creative needs.

–William Styron

Every novelist has something in common with a spy: he watches, he overhears, he seeks motives and analyzes character, and in his attempt to serve literature he is unscrupulous.

–Graham Greene

I write by ear, always with difficulty and seldom with any exact notion of what is taking place under the hood.

–E. B. White

I don’t consciously draw on people or settings from my personal experience. When I do, my imagination stops working, and it’s dull when I put it down on paper.

–Stephen R. Donaldson

I go my own way, do the best I can, writing mainly to please myself. But it is on the assumption that there is an audience out there somewhere, made up of people pretty much like myself, or at least of people who think and feel like me.

–Edward Abbey

A writer writes as a painter paints—because he or she has to. Most need very little encouragement where discipline is concerned.

–Joan Kahn

I start out with an idea, either something that has happened or something in the ‘what-if’ category. Sometimes ideas come, like a log from the bottom of a river.

–Andre Dubus

Outlines are artificial, because you are saying that the story has to run a certain way. When you outline, your story is dead. Writers never know how their stories will end. There comes a moment of discovery, when you know how things are going to go.

–Andre Dubus

A writer should discover something when he writes, and so should the person who is reading his work.

–Andre Dubus

In nonfiction writing…you must go beyond merely describing what your subject or topic is—you must decide what your attitude toward it is, and further, what specifically you have to say about it that hasn’t already been said.

–Martin Russ

In my drive to write, there was the great dream of glory, of being a first-rate writer. I didn’t want money and fame. I only wanted to say what I thought was important….If I had not set my sights on being great, I would not even have been good today. No one promised me anything. There was never any assurance of my talent nor that anyone would read one line that I would write. There was nothing that I could have for the asking. I had to earn it.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Beginners sometimes ask me how a novel is written, the answer to which is: any way at all. One knows only when it is finished, and then if one is at all serious, he will never do it the same way again.

–Thomas Berger

I think fine old movies are great for a writer to look at and ponder over. They’re basic story technique, which applies to any fiction: quick and sure characterization, hang out a story line, stay tight to it, and keep out of the way. Those movies packed in the fans because the writers knew how to grab, entertain, excite—and how to keep things moving. I’ve learned from them and know I can learn a lot more.

–Robert Twohy

The realm of the writer eludes even the swiftest and the most responsive camera lens…the rapport between a reader and the page in which he has chosen to interest himself is one of those mysterious and powerful forces that keeps the world from flying to pieces.

–John Cheever

Through long apprenticeship, I learned about sentences and  paragraphs. The only talent I have is that if I described a chair in a paragraph, I think I could make the reader stay to the end of that paragraph.

–James A. Michener

I have a terrific compulsion to communicate. I’m very careful about the construction of a narrative….I’m never easy until the structure falls into place. That is a matter of art–something I learned from music and painting and good literature.

–James A. Michener

Freedom in writing comes from following rules. The rules of verse form—fourteen for the sonnet, a measured five for the cinquain, etc.—offer challenges that nudge expression into being, that free the writer to look for, find, and express a subject in an individual and unique way.

–Riley Hughes

The secret of great prose style is the sound, echoing in the back of the reader’s mind. Clarity is a virtue; but sound and  association fix overtones of emotion and grace into the written word as a hurricane drives straws into a wall.

–Willard R. Espy

Good writers are monotonous, like good composers. Their truth is self-repeating….They keep trying to perfect their understanding of the one problem they were born to understand.

–Alberto Moravia

What the best storytellers know…is where to begin.

–Karla Kuskin

I would say that I like to have a certain amount of time alone every day. I don’t take any communication, no telephone calls. Just solitude. There’s a need. And solitude is not just because you’ve got a job on your hands. Solitude is blankness that makes accidents happen.

–Robert Penn Warren

The writer…not only reaches deeply into the hearts of men, but he also illuminates their minds and liberates their spirits. The writer does not offer solutions. This is not his role. But he offers men courage by revealing to them dimensions they had not known were theirs.

–Kay Boyle

I write five or six character ideas, and study four or five of the processes that combined to build a nation–religion, industry, cultural trends—and follow them through each era; then I weave the elements together as though I were making a basket. They say my books are educative, but that’s not my purpose. I’m just doing exactly what I want to do: to reveal the impact of people on history, and vice versa.

–James A. Michener

Besides poverty, poetry offers you a kind of purity. Since you usually can expect no earthly reward—money, fame, the things other artists get—if you write poetry, you have to do it for love.

–Roger Bergman

I think symbolism happens of its own self, flowing out of  something so deeply buried in your consciousness and past  experience that you’re not even aware of any symbols; and I think that’s true of most writers. I’m certainly not aware of them until I see them later on. They just come of themselves. So you don’t say, ‘I’m going to have the flowering Judas tree stand for betrayal,’ though, of course, it does when you look back on it.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Correspondence courses, writers’ schools, etc., are probably  useful but all the authors I know were self-taught. There is no substitute for living.

–Arthur C. Clarke

Writing is not a full-time occupation.

–Ernest Hemingway

All fictional personages are to some extent created from the recollection or observation of living people by the author, for otherwise people in novels and short stories would have slight resemblance to human beings.

–Erskine Caldwell

All the characters one needs for a lifetime of novels are sitting quietly hunched over their beers waiting for someone to care enough about their lives to ask.

–Michael Jahn

Everybody has talent, if they dig away at it. I believe writers shouldn’t think of themselves as too important, or special. Obviously, there are geniuses, but most of us writers have got to look and listen very carefully and, with tremendous care, make our object.

–Nell Dunn

I think a writer writes more out of what he doesn’t intend than from what he does.

–David Plante

It happens sometimes that a writer begins with a short story and turns it into a novel. But it happens sometimes that when I read a novel I say to myself how good it would be if it were a short story.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

In writing about serious themes, one has to deal with those  moments of juncture where there is conflict. This is perhaps the tragedy of being a writer—that one deals with people at moments of conflict and crisis.

–Joyce Carol Oates

I am conscious of certain unwritten rules when I write for  children. I think of a single story, not several as I tend to with adult books, a story whose events affect primarily the hero, just one hero. And as a result of these events, the hero changes. Grows up, really. This is not substantially different from the considerations I have in writing an adult book. I simply think of a book for children in terms of a single point of view and issue and resolution.

–Susan Shreve

There are three points of view from which a writer can be  considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three-storyteller, teacher, enchanter—but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.

–Vladimir Nabokov

Everything we write is autobiographical, in a sense….The writer lives all the lives she writes about, and that may be the reason we write at all—to live more than one life.

–Lee Smith

It is always a mistake to extract fictional ideas and attempt to turn them into a nonfiction statement. If I have to make a statement I would hope I would not have to write a novel to do it. In most good fiction, instructions on behavior are of the simplest kind: Try to be kind and try to be good.

–John Irving

In a conflict between style and grammar, style usually wins, and properly so. Grammar rules describe the normal, the expected. For the most part, you should try to write normally and acceptably. But if you need the unexpected for special effect—a forceful jolt to your readers, a sudden twist—break the usual patterns. The ‘mistake’ will call attention to the point you wish to emphasize; if it is deliberate and effective, it’s not a mistake at all.

–Jane Walpole

We are living in an era of particularly well-crafted creative  work, whether fiction or poetry. More good work is being done by more gifted writers than ever before.

–Joyce Carol Oates

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal….The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.

–May Sarton

A regimen is absolutely crucial to a writer of fiction. Much of a writer’s inspiration derives from this: You write—and find you have something to say.

–Wright Morris

As any journalist knows, the trick is to give the reader the  impression that all knowledge on a given subject is at your  fingertips.

–Joseph Epstein

You’re supposed to look into other hearts to write….If you look only into your own heart, chances are that you’ll write only one book.

–Leslie Epstein

A freelance writer (possesses) both his freedom and a lance. He knows the reason he doesn’t write short stories as good as Chekhov’s is simply that he doesn’t write so well: Not that he lives in the wrong century or society, not that his politics or education are wrong. The limits placed on him are solely within himself, and so he knows that, as long as he lives in decent health, a chance exists that he may break past those old limits to new capacities, that a book will seize his imagination that nobody on earth has yet conceived of, and that his tongue will finally be free to speak freely, as never before.

–Edward Hoagland

Those of us who choose to tell stories…are, before we are  anything else, entertainers. Our task is to take people out of themselves for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, to take that reader to places that he has never been, in the company of people he will never meet.

–Pete Hamill

A biographer is a storyteller…who may not invent his facts but who is allowed to imagine his form.

–Leon Edel

The writer seeks and then must deal with empty time, in which conscious activity has to be related to writing, limited, so the subconscious can finish doing what it is doing and reveal the nature of the next few lines.

–Kit Reed

I worked on (my memoirs) while I was riding the bus. When I went to the Brooklyn Museum, I wrote on the subway. In the library on 40th Street off Fifth Avenue. In all the cities when I was on the road. In London when I filmed ‘Nasty Habits.’ I never knew how I would pull it all together. It was a mess. Note pads. I used different pens, different colored ink for each section so I’d know where I was. I had a purple pen to write one, a shocking pink for another.

–Anne Jackson

In the imaginative effort that lies behind a good story, there is no difference between writing for children and for adults.

–Paula Fox

If you were a carpenter, it would be no good making a chair, the seat of which was five feet up from the floor. It wouldn’t be what anyone wanted to sit on. It is no good saying that you think the chair looks handsome that way. If you want to write a book, study what sizes books are, and write within the limits of that size. If you want to write a certain type of short story for a certain type of magazine you have to make it the length, and it has to be the type of story, that is printed in that magazine. If you like to write for yourself only, that is a different matter—you can make it any length, and write it in any way you wish; but then you will probably have to be content with the pleasure alone of having written it. It’s no good starting out by thinking one is a heaven-born genius—some people are, but very few. No, one is a tradesman—a tradesman in a good honest trade. You must learn the technical skills, and then, within that trade, you can apply your own creative ideas; but you must submit to the discipline of form.

–Agatha Christie

Novels, because they don’t cost as much to produce as films, permit a great variety of experimentation. In the last ten or twenty years, American novelists alone have produced more in the way of innovation and inspiration than ever before in the history of literature.

–Joseph Heller

Pictures in the writer’s mind and the emotions he feels are transformed through his arm and hand into black marks on white paper. The marks, which mean nothing in themselves, are then converted by the eye of the reader into pictures in his own mind and a stimulus for his emotions. Very much the same emotions and pictures, if the black marks are in the right arrangement, although each person’s interpretation of the same book is slightly different.

–Monica Dickens

Opening oneself up to all experiences is the essence of writing. Tapping that deep feeling and not being afraid to say what you feel. For me, even a car accident and being stranded…is a subject for a poem….The opening of the mind to all experience is really finding the poet inside of you.

–Sandra Hockman

Fiction is a kind of deception, a sleight of hand and mind. The silks come out of the sleeve, the enameled box opens to disclose a dove, the pea appears under the right shell (or in the middle of the right word). If the writer does his job well enough, if his perceptions are defined with enough precision and fitted well enough together so that the seams don t show, the illusion is complete. The reader enters a separate reality.

–Donald Zochert

The story must come first. (Children) must want to turn the page. And as you tell them that good story, never be afraid that anything will be too hard for them, because nothing is.

–Madeleine L’Engle

I think every writer wants to answer the questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? What is the world about? What sense can I make of everything? And I feel you begin to answer these questions when you write what you want to write. If you’re lucky, it also sells….You have to believe in what you’re writing.

–Anne Roiphe

I think most writers will agree that writing gets harder instead of easier. We tend to bite off ever bigger mouthfuls. As a result, writing becomes more complex and challenging.

–Alvin Toffler

I began writing my first novel in little notebooks on the train….And then I started making a little bit of money out of (my writing). I also found it obsessive. I found while sitting at my desk that I thought of very little else apart from my book and I quickly knew that I was giving to writing the best part of my life, that the ordinary routine that I was living was really just there to support it.

–David Cornwell

I try to have a couple of books and a TV show in progress simultaneously. I write in a cork-lined room and have two books pinned to the wall at all times. When I hit a snag on one, I go on to another.

–Theodor Seuss Geisel

Good talk in a novel is a pleasure rather like a fresh breeze blowing across the terrace of a charming outdoor cafe. I certainly don’t mean to depreciate it. On the other hand, good talk is a rather ephemeral joy, occurring somewhere below the level of art. Brilliant talk, in which characters turn themselves inside out or achieve a kind of apotheosis, is something else again. There are writers who can give you a pretty clear idea of the human predicament by means of a page or two of dialogue.

–Anatole Broyard

Journalism is very good training, because you are forced to write every day. Even though you were writing journalese, even though you were writing in cliches a lot of the time, it was great discipline.

–Leon Edel

I get up around nine and, after a glass of hot water mixed with herbs, try to work immediately while I’m still near to my dreams and intuitiveness, before I’ve had to think whether to put on a blue frock or a green, or go out and buy tomatoes. When I’m caught up in the spell of a story, I think it becomes my happiest time. I want to induce a trance-like situation, but very lucid. I write out loud. I say the words. Very often I’ll get up from the table because the telephone is ringing, and I can’t find it.

–Edna O’Brien

One mark of an unsure writer is that he seems to tire quickly of the word say, and to feel that he must turn to a synonym: ‘I’m going for a walk,’ said Tom. ‘So am I,’ averred Dick. ‘You can come with me, then,’ rejoined Tom. ‘Okay,’ Dick stated. It isn’t always that the words are misused, but rather that they become conspicuous by their very variety, their needless variety.

–Theodore M. Bernstein

Most writers enjoy only two brief periods of happiness. First, when what seems a glorious idea comes flashing into mind, and secondly, when a last page has been written and you have not yet had time to consider how much better it all ought to have been.

–J. B. Priestley

I refuse to write (a short story) unless it has a good strong plot. I also take so long to complete them because with the first draft I invariably find things have gone wrong everywhere and I need at least three weeks just to get the first page right. Hemingway taught me to keep rewriting. He said you just keep on doing it until it’s as near perfect as possible.

–Roald Dahl

The writer of fiction, at his/her best, is a true artist. The novel is the culmination of his art. It cannot die as long as the need for self-expression lives. That need is universal. The artist reflects his/her time and transcends it. He works with his own experiences, emotions, visions in order to plumb the depth of his humanity, causing his reader to exclaim: ‘this is how it truly is, this is life.’

–Silva Tennenbaum

A writer must be a strangely divided creature. First he works with blind enthusiasm—then casts a cold, cold eye on what the enthusiasm brought forth. The cold and critical eye is just as necessary and just as much a part of writing as the enthusiasm.

–R. V. Cassill

In the fiction of young men and women, emotions are at war with the way things are. In the fiction of older men and women, emotions have been brought to a truce. Inner negotiation stabilizes the drain of energy. Wanting more yields to taking less.

–Webster Scott

You get to be a writer by getting ready. Create a rich, immediate, usable past that compels you to write.

–William Saroyan

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.

–C. S. Lewis

The writer of fiction is quite as serious, quite as conscientious, and quite as whole-heartedly a worker toward truth as the laboratory bacteriologist. Don’t commit the elementary and unjustifiable mistake of thinking that he does anything by chance or for the sake of fashion or applause or sensation or scandal. Don’t, above all, think that he is ever unaware of what he is doing, or does anything idly. If he is a serious artist…the every scene he imagines and every word he writes it with is a deliberate step toward a deliberate end. It is, too, the choice of his skill, of his mastery.

–Bernard De Vote

I wish to honor…the freelance writer. To lay claim to that status, he or she must genuinely earn his keep through writing. He must have no institutional connection with university, newspaper, foundation, or other organization that furnishes him a regular paycheck and a pension upon retirement. Groupless, he pays higher rates for insurance than the employed. He has no fringe benefits and no company secretary to type his letters and make his airline reservations. No union represents him to management and tides him over in hard times. Even the IRS makes him wait two years before he can deduct moving costs, for the self-employed must be watched carefully. The freelance writer accepts these inconveniences in order to work unswayed by the conventions and subtle influence of any institution. Having myself succumbed to the beckoning of a university position after three years on my own, I would like to express my admiration for the independence of spirit that keeps most freelance writers afloat and uninstitutionalized in our midst. We must not let the breed perish.

–Roger Shattuck

To tell others what he sees, feels, and thinks about himself and the world, the writer makes a world of words to inform readers about his discoveries ‘out there’ and his inner responses to these discoveries. That world of words is a representation of his observations, feelings, and thoughts, and it is through that world of words alone that readers understand what the writer knows. It is also through the world of words that readers test the writer’s perceptions against their own experience in the world.

–Robert Bain and Dennis Donovan

In the expression ‘good writing’ or ‘good style’ the word ‘good’ has usually meant ‘beautiful’ or ‘proficient’—like a good Rembrandt or a good kind of soap. In our time it has come to mean honest as opposed to fake. Bad writing happens when the writer lies to himself, to others, or to both…Bad writing may be proficient; it may persuade us to buy a poor car or vote for an imbecile, but it is bad because it is tricky, false in its enthusiasm, and falsely motivated. It appeals to a part of us that wants to deceive itself.

–Donald Hall

From Homer to the present, the need to tell it like it is is a line of descent of both fiction and nonfiction, the skeptics among the listeners being the first to recognize that fiction is a form of artful lying….The major problem of craft is how ‘to take…a reader in.’ How to make fiction, that is, true-to-life.

–Wright Morris

By the phrase ‘contemporary narrative’…I mean the most difficult, disciplined painstaking form of the craft of storytelling–where the imagination must deal with facts as they come, raw and bleeding and unsorted, with episodes which the master must weave together to tell us of the action the way it really was. In this art form the story is made splendid by the writer’s own understanding of men, of how their actions fit together when they were happening.

–Theodore H. White

Writing eight hundred or so pages of sentences will teach a young writer a great deal about English prose, but if it’s all towards one novel, he will learn considerably less about making characters, managing narrative pace, working subplots against main plots—that sort of thing—than he will be attempting a number of narrative pieces.

–John Barth

It makes good sense to have published a few things here and there in magazines just to have some credentials with which to approach a book publisher.

–John Barth

It seems that the very nature of our work is the work of picking up rocks and looking at the life that’s hidden….In doing that, we illuminate what has not been, illuminated and spread the light around a little bit.

–Grace Paley

The job of a writer is that of a gravedigger, to dig up what normal people have buried. People spend their time burying pain and love.

–Mary Hood

Writing is a matter of craft and know-how yes, but also a matter of tenacious faith. And closely related to faith—perhaps rising from it—are all those virtues of courage, hope, steadfastness of intention, caritas—love for the word, for the characters, for the process, the journey itself.

— Unknown

I am an obsessive rewriter, doing one draft and then another and another, usually five. In a way, I have nothing to say, but a great deal to add.

–Gore Vidal

The whole (creative) process is a mystery, in all the arts….You may have all the technique in the world, but you can’t strike that spark without some mysterious extra blessing—and none of us knows what that blessing really is. Not even the writers who talk the most can explain it at all.

Who knows where the ideas come from?

Who knows what happens in that shadowy part of the mind…where the creative imagination hides? Who knows even where the words come from, the right rhythm and meaning and music all at once? Those of us who make books out of the words and ideas have less of an answer than anyone. All we know is that marvelous feeling that comes, sometimes, like a break of sunshine in a cloud-grey sky, when through all the research and concentration and slog—suddenly you are writing, fluently and fast, with every sense at high pitch and yet in a state almost like trance. Suddenly, for a time, the door is open, the magic is working; a channel exists between the page and that shadowy cave in the mind.

–Susan Cooper

The ‘task’ of my novels is to give the reader a jolt which could lead to a recognition, to a judgment, a new attitude. Hence I try to make my prose as unobtrusive as possible, the language direct and easy, to facilitate the reader’s entry into the arena where the shock is to take place. The reader is to be moved from the waiting room into the examination room, so to speak. Once you are there, a shock: you are mortal, you’re vulnerable, you’re not protected—yet, you survive. It should be a joyful feeling, the awareness of being alive. At least you now have the knowledge—which is better than the assumption of strength—and the peace and promise of the ‘happy ending’—all, quite likely, not true.

–Jerzy Kosinski

A writer is a person who writes. You don’t wait to write until you have something to write about. As long as you’re of normal intelligence and all your senses are functioning…you have all the material which you need. You don’t think before you write. Writing is thinking because it’s the arrangement of words, and words are the only possible medium of thought.

–John Braine

You must never wait for inspiration before you write. It isn’t that inspiration doesn’t exist, but it comes only with writing. I’ve never met any writer who waited for inspiration.

–John Braine

None of us springs full blown from the head of Zeus. We’re all a part of the flow of a river of life. If you know the past you can fit in and flow along with the river.

That’s true of writing and painting. And not just the arts. A good stone mason has to know how earlier stone masons worked in order to be good at his craft.

–S. J. Perelman

I’ve always thought of lyric writing as a craft rather than an art. It’s so small…the average lyric has maybe 60 to 80 words, so each word counts for a great deal. Now, any novelist or short story writer takes as much care as he can with each individual word, but they are not as important as in a lyric, not even as important to a playwright because each lyric line is practically a scene in itself. If there are 56 lines in a song, this is like 12 scenes in a play, and if one word is off, it’s like an entire section of the scene.

–Stephen Sondheim

I have never plotted anything on paper. I do my plotting in my head as I go along, and usually I do it wrong and have to do it all over again. I know there are writers who plot their stories in great detail before they begin to write them, but I am not one of that group. With me plots are not made; they grow. And if they refuse to grow, you throw the stuff away and start over again.

–Raymond Chandler

In a short story you’re always writing toward an ending; you’re always closing a short story off. With a novel you’re right in the water and you swim with it.

–Elizabeth Cullinan

Writing is a pleasure, of course. At the inception of each novel or story, the first flash of the work in its entirety gives the writer a wonderful exhilaration. And it is in that burst of enthusiasm and hope that the writer sets to work. But from then on, that is precisely what it is: work. And somehow, through the grueling days and weeks and months, the writer must hold to that original conception. And it is the dim memory of that first idea which does carry the writer through—that and the occasional bursts of good writing and the pleasure of watching the people in his or her story spring to life. Finally, when the writer has finished and knows that every effort has been bent to the realization of that original ideal, the writer may be said to be truly happy.

–William C. Knott

To depict someone’s appearance is not necessarily to describe the person. It is when exterior details are linked to his behavior and his inner life that we begin to know a man. And sometimes we do not need to have a very clear visual picture drawn for us at all, because it is what a person does that reveals him.

–James D. Houston

Try not to become so interested in fancy phrases and dramatic language that you begin to write…flowery passages so obviously artificial, insincere, and roundabout that they annoy the reader….

Euphemisms are part of flowery language. Today we call the undertaker a ‘mortician’… ‘a grief therapist.’ The former janitor or custodian is now ‘a disposal engineer!’

–William Folprecht

I can’t make characters out of nothing. I take someone, start writing about him, and then things get out of hand. The original character gets lost somewhere. You know the old math puzzle: take a number, add something to it, multiply it by something, subtract, divide by something else and so on. That’s what I do when I write fiction, although I often forget what the original number was.

–Lore Segal

I discovered a long time ago that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity. As a reporter, I was a flop, because I always came back laden not with facts about the case, but with a mind full of the little difficulties and amusements.

–E. B. White

No writer who’s any good at all would sit down and put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and start typing a play unless he knew what he was writing about. But at the same time, writing has got to be an act of discovery. Finding out things about what one is writing about.

–Edward Albee

I realize how very old-fashioned I am as a dramatist to be so concerned with classic form but this does not embarrass me, since I feel that the absence of form is nearly always, if not always, as dissatisfying to an audience as it is to me.

–Tennessee Williams

I type with my back to the window—always have. Can’t afford to be distracted all the time by looking out the window.

–Hal Borland

I find if I put plain paper in the machine, all ready for the final copy, I’ll do it better than if I’m using yellow paper for a draft. You expect more of yourself then.

–Hal Borland

In a really good novel, the reader is seduced into having a dream—the novel’s story—more real than the room he’s reading in. The moment the writer accidentally makes the reader wake up—by some technique that too clearly calls attention to itself, or by some obvious lie (like oversimplified characterization), or by intrusive preachiness, the novel goes sour.

–John Gardner

If what I’m writing does not matter, deeply, to me, why should it matter to a reader?

–Michael J. Arlen

The novelist must become deeply involved in the lives of the characters of his or her novel. This involvement does not end during ‘off’ hours: his creations are inevitably with him twenty-four hours a day. They become an integral part of his or her life as long as the story is being written, and this involvement/identification begins well before the actual words are put onto paper and lasts well beyond the point at which the actual writing is finished.

–Howard Greenfield

Writing for children does not always, or even usually, require the author to take a child’s-eye view. The mark of the tenth-rate story for children is often a creaking attempt to get down to child level, like an uncle on hands and knees playing games on the carpet. It is ineffectual and undignified. Children, on the whole, prefer adults to behave as adults, and to talk to them as adults talk. Yet the story of family life, which can be weighed by the child against his own experience in a way that the fairy tale or adventure story cannot, does require of its author a lively sense of what it is like to be a child in a family.

–Eleanor Estes

Tell your story as succinctly as you can, then cut it by a third. If you think it cannot be done, take a novel you enjoyed and compare it page by page with the Condensed Books version. That will show you it can be done, and often to advantage.

–Frederick Forsyth

Storytelling is a matter of genetic hunger. All the world’s not a stage for sensitive natures mooning about intent. Things do happen. There are efforts made. There are successes and failures. The ultimate thing is what people do, not what they think they do.

–Robert Crichton

People who are not writers probably think that writers write to tell a story, or to deliver a message or something like that. Not true. The impulse is altogether different. It is an attempt to capture on paper those curious moments when the world seems suddenly transparent, when smoke hangs immobile in the sky, when some homely smell (like soap or toothpaste or even a sealed cedar closet full of mothballs) suddenly delivers a cascade of forgotten memories from childhood.

–Erica Jong

Any novelist gets a great deal of himself into all of his characters, although he usually starts by trying to describe something else and does get a great deal of other people mixed into these characters. Perhaps to say that he ends up describing himself would be an over-simplification. The blood and nerves of the characters have to come from the writer’s emotions and frustrations. My system has always been to try to do it objectively.

–John Dos Passes

The art of letters, though highly developed grammatically, is still in its infancy as a technical speech notation: for example, there are fifty ways of saying Yes, and five Hundred of saying No, but only one way of writing them down.

–George Bernard Shaw

To be not only a best-seller in America but to be really beloved, a novelist must assert that all American men are tall, handsome, rich, honest, and powerful at golf! that all country towns are filled with neighbors who do nothing from day to day save go about being kind to one another; that although American girls may be wild, they change always into perfect wives and mothers; and that, geographically, American is composed solely of New York, which is inhabited entirely by millionaires of the West, which keeps unchanged all the boisterous heroism of 1870; and of the South, where every one lives on a plantation perpetually glossy with moonlight and scented with magnolias.

–Sinclair Lewis

Man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he, alone among creatures, has an inexhaustible voice but because he has a soul, a spirit, capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s duty is to write about these things.

–William Faulkner

The genuine creator creates something that has a life of its own, something that can exist and function without him….With the noncreative it is the other way around: in whatever they do, they arrange things so that they themselves become indispensable.

–Eric Hoffer

Everyone’s got to be different. You can’t copy anybody and end up with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. And without feeling, whatever you do amounts to nothing.

–Billie Holiday

In the creative state a man is taken out of himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious, and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. He mixes this thing with his normal experiences, and out of this mixture he makes a work of art.

–E. M. Forster

Talent is that which is in a man’s power. Genius is that in whose power a man is.

–James Russell Lowell

I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.

–Anne Frank

There is no iron that can enter the human heart with such stupefying effect as a period, placed at the right moment.

–Isaac Babel

The imagination must be fed constantly by external nature….The most imaginative men always study the hardest, and are the most thirsty for new knowledge.

–John Ruskin

Everyone is a thief in his own craft.

–Dutch Proverb

There is at bottom only one problem in the world and this is its name. How does one break through? How does one get into the open? How does one burst the cocoon and become a butterfly?

–Thomas Mann

The young artist has to observe in his own way and keep it an absolute secret from those around him until he can work it into his own books.

–Sir Robert Sitwell

I hope you take things easy. I failed because I worked too hard. I let myself be driven by that foul witch, an uneasy conscience, which is only another name for Fear—who is the demon of all life, and the great source of almost all its crimes and criminals. Since I came to New York I have taken things easily, never worked at any thing a moment longer than I was interested in it that is the secret—never interest yourself in anything you don’t care about. This is not the rule for conduct, but it’s the rule for arts, and for artists in their work.

–J. B. Yeats

Joy is but the sign that creative emotion is fulfilling its purpose.

–Charles Du Bos

Editors are unaccountable in their judgments.

–George E. Woodberry

On the whole, I have found editors friendly and pleasant, but unpredictable and uncertain and occasionally embarrassing in their desperation. So seldom do they get what they think they want that they tend to become incoherent In their insistent repetition of their needs. A writer does well to listen to them, but not too often, and not for too long.

–Jerome Weidman

An editor would classify ‘What we want is humor’ as a piece of cooperation on his part. It seems to him a perfect division of labor. After all, nothing remains for the author to do except to write.

–Heywood Broun

All over-expression, whether by journalists, poetic novelists, or clergymen, is bad for the language, bad for the mind; and by over-expression I mean the use of words running beyond the sincere feeling of writer or speaker or beyond what the event will sanely carry.

–John Galsworthy

Only a person with a Best Seller mind can write Best Sellers; and only someone with a mind like Shelley’s can write Prometheus Unbound. The deliberate forger has little chance with his contemporaries and none at all with posterity.

–Aldous Huxley

The artistic sense of perfection in work is another much-to-be-desired quality to be cultivated. No matter how trifling the matter on hand, do it with a feeling that it demands the best that is in you, and when done look it over with a critical eye, not sparing a strict judgment of yourself.

–Sir William Osler

I’m like a beachcomber walking along the shore of invention, picking up things and wondering what kinds of structures they could make. I want it to be an interesting structure, not a ramshackle, beachy thing. The imagination is like the sea, full of things you can’t see but can possibly harvest and use.

–Peter Dickinson

I believe the crucial thing for a writer is the ability to make up coherent worlds.

–Peter Dickinson

First to see, then to cause others to see exactly what the writer saw—that is the object of all writing.

–Riley Hughes

The strokes that are needed to define a three hundred page novel are much broader than those required to create a solid piece of art in ten to twelve pages. The strokes in the short story must be more delicate—there are fewer bristles in the brush. A novel requires skill with a house-siding brush while the short story is more like a water color, in which each stroke must be accomplished skillfully and definitively in a small amount of time.

–Shannon Ravenel

There are only two ways to learn to write—read, write.

–Mark Medoff

If you don’t have to write, by all means go into other work; the frustration and rejection are not worth enduring unless one is unequivocally committed.

–Mark Medoff

I have very, very little to start with. The way I start is maybe with a phrase that just rings in my ear, maybe a sort of idiotic phrase that stays with me, or maybe a very simple image, or a sort of feeling, and maybe in the process of writing, the phrase or the image or the feeling disappears, or gives way, and you’re not left at the end with the thing that instigated it.

–Deborah Eisenberg

Most writing consists of siphoning out useless pre-story matter, cutting and cutting and cutting, what seems to be endless rewriting, and what is entailed in all that is patience, and waiting, and false starts and dead ends, and really, in a way, nerve.

–Deborah Eisenberg

I cannot write without the controlling rhythm of poetry. I’ve tried writing novels and they’re terrible. There’s no movement in them.

–Louis Simpson

A gift for revision may be a developmental stage that comes along somewhat later, in one’s mid-20’s, say; most people may not be particularly good at it, or even interested in it, until then.

–Nora Ephron

Word processors make it possible for a writer to change the sentences that clearly need changing without having to retype the rest, but I believe that you can’t always tell whether a sentence needs work until it rises up in revolt against your fingers as you retype it.

–Nora Ephron

As long as you’re revising, the project isn’t dead. And by the same token, neither are you.

–Nora Ephron

I have never written for any other reason than to earn a living. I am a public entertainer who sees his first duty as the need to entertain himself.

–Richard Condon

A novelist must arouse the emotion of a reader—whether it’s laughter or tears or tension….If I can scare my reader and keep him turning the pages, I have succeeded in my craft.

–Stephen King

Good biographers combine the arts of the novelist, the detective work of the historian, and the insights of the psychologist.

–Jean Strouse

If there is one thing better than the thrill of looking forward, it is the exhilaration that follows the finishing of a long and exacting piece of work.

–Alec Waugh

I am not sure that there ought not to be a second version of every essay, in which the writer could say some of the things he intended to say when he sat down to write the first one.

–Robert Lynd

The problem in art is a problem of translation. Bad authors are those who write with reference to an inner context which the reader cannot know.

–Albert Camus

He is the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart.

–Washington Irving

What is conceived well is expressed clearly,

And the words to say it with arrive with ease.

–Nicolas Boileau

Every man speaks and writes with intent to be understood; and it can seldom happen but he that understands himself might convey his notions to another, if, content to be understood, he did not seek to be admired.

–Samuel Johnson

Clarity is the politeness of the men of letters.

–Jules Renard

Where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worries and only half the royalties.

–Agatha Christie

We all draw a little and compose a little, and none of us have any idea of time or money.

–Charles Dickens

Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may.

–W. S. Landor

Imagination is the eye of the soul.

–Joubert

We are, in truth, more than half what we are by imitation. The great point is to choose good models and to study them with care.

–Lord Chesterfield

Imitation is suicide.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a difference between imitating a good man and counterfeiting him.

–Benjamin Franklin

No man was ever great by imitation.

–Samuel Johnson

I have never met an author who admitted that people did not buy his book because it was dull.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Fiction is not a dream. Nor is it guess work. It is imagining based on facts, and the facts must be accurate or the work of imagining will not stand up.

–Margaret Culkin Banning

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

Plots are no more exhausted than men are. Every man is a new creation, and combinations are simply endless.

–Charles Dudley Warner

Inventors and men of genius have almost always been regarded as fools at the beginning (and very often at the end) of their careers.

–Dostoevsky

Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the subject is new.

—Blaise Pascal

Divine fires do not blaze each day, but an artist functions in their afterglow hoping for their recurrence.

–Ned Rorem

Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.

–Igor Stravinsky

The intellectuals’ chief cause of anguish are one another’s works.

–Jacques Barzun

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

Beware of the man of one book.

–St. Thomas Aquinas

He is great who is what he is from nature and who never reminds us of others.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing is said now that has not been said before.

–Terence

If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will by cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition.

–Charles Caleb Colton

Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

–Lionel Trilling

The job of the novelist and the playwright is to entertain… and to entertain and to convince you need more than clarity. You need eloquence. You need flair. You need the whole gamut of words and sentence structures—the involved and the complex as well as the bare bones simple.

–Melvin J. Grayson

Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no on else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will by yourself.

–Alan Alda

If you would create something, you must be something.

–Goethe

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.

  –John Irving

A writer’s life is his crucible. First you draw on your own experience. When you have drained your own experience or have stopped experiencing in quantity, you must draw on the experience of others through observation and research. Research is vital.

–Paddy Chayefsky

Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If it works, copy it.

–Tony Schwartz

I would recommend against the adoption of any one style of prose, regardless of what that style might be. We must resist the blandishments of those who argue for the light touch or humor or humility or totally disarming candor. Each style has its place and time but none is right for every place and time….William Faulkner…wrote his World War I fiction in staccato sentences. Later, when he was writing the Yoknapatawpha County books, he employed a more languorous style more in keeping with that setting.

–Melvin J. Grayson

It is not strange that remembered ideas should often take advantage of the crowd of thoughts and smuggle themselves in as original.—Honest thinkers are always stealing unconsciously from each other.—Our minds are full of waifs and estrays which we think our own.—Innocent plagiarism turns up everywhere.

–Oliver Wendell Holmes

When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Lander replies, ‘Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.’

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take the whole range of imaginative literature, and we are all wholesale borrowers. In every matter that relates to invention, to use, or beauty or form, we are borrowers.

–Wendell Phillips

The only reward to be expected for the cultivation of literature is contempt if one fails and hatred if one succeeds.

–Voltaire

The life of writing men has always been…a bitter business. It is notoriously accompanied, for those who write well, by poverty  and contempt; or by fatuity and wealth for those who write ill.

–Hilaire Belloc

Long sentences in a short composition are like large rooms in a little house.

–Shenstone

If with water you fill up your glasses,

You’ll never write anything wise;

For wine is horse of Parnassus,

Which hurries a bard to the skies.

–Thomas Moore

It is one thing to purloin finely-tempered steel, and another to take a pound of literary old iron, and convert it in the furnace of one’s mind into a hundred watchsprings, worth each a thousand times as much as the iron. When genius borrows, it borrows grandly, giving to the borrowed matter, a life and beauty it lacked before.

–Unknown

Clear writers, like clear fountains, do not seem so deep as they are; the turbid look the most profound.

–Lander

There’s no wound deeper than a pen can give,

It makes men living dead, and dead men live.

–John Taylor

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

—E. B. White

It is a fact that few novelists enjoy the creative labour, though most enjoy thinking about the creative labour.

–Arnold Bennett

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

–Winston Churchill

Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.

–Jules Renard

You must remember that a writer is a simple-minded person to begin with and go on that basis. He’s not a great mind, he’s not a great thinker, he’s not a great philosopher, he’s a storyteller.

–Erskine Caldwell

Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.

–Pablo Picasso

The man of letters loves not only to be read but to be seen. Happy to be by himself, he would be happier still if people knew that he was happy to be by himself, working in solitude at night under his lamp.

–Remy de Gourmont

Mostly we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

I never could understand how two men can write a book together; to me that’s like three people getting together to have a baby.

—Evelyn Waugh

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.

–Samuel Johnson

A writer’s problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes, but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and, having found out what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.

–Ernest Hemingway

There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it.

–Morley Callaghan

If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last line, my last paragraphs, my last page first.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Writing every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty…like a dry shell on the beach, waiting for the tide to come in again.

–Daphne du Maurier

Literary success of any enduring kind is made by refusing to do what publishers want, by refusing to write what the public wants, by refusing to accept any popular standard, by refusing to write anything to order.

–Lafcadio Hearn

Great editors do not discover nor produce great authors; great authors create and produce great publishers.

  –John Farrar

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged….I had poems which were rewritten so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.

–Erica Jong

I have not wasted my life trifling with literary fools in taverns as Jonson did then he should have been shaking England with the thunder of his spirit.

–George Bernard Shaw

For a dyed-in-the-wool author nothing is as dead as a book once it is written….She is rather like a cat whose kittens have grown-up. While they were a-growing she was passionately interested in them but now they seem hardly to belong to her—and probably she is involved with another batch of kittens as I am involved with other writing.

–Rumer Godden

I am a born novelist, for the things I imagine are more vital and vivid to me than the things I remember.

–Ellen Glasgow

Anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.

—A. A. Milne

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.

–Irvin S. Cobb

A man really writes for an audience of about ten persons. Of course, if others like it, that is clear gain. But if those ten are satisfied, he is content.

–Alfred North

Whitehead

My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.

–John D. MacDonald

Anything that is written to please the Author is worthless.

–Blaise Pascal

When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him. The reviews, the stacks in Brentano’s, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf.

–John Updike

Writing is one of the few professions left where you take all the responsibility for what you do. It’s really dangerous and ultimately destroys you as a writer if you start thinking about responses to your work or what your audience needs.

–Erica Jong

Writers, if they are worthy of that jealous designation, do not write for other writers. They write to give reality to experience.

–Achibald Macleish

In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratifications, is a curious anticlimax.

–Alfred Kazin

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.

–Marianne Moore

In stating as fully as I could how things really were, it was often very difficult and I wrote awkwardly and the awkwardness is what they called my style. All mistakes and awkwardness are easy to see, and they called it style.

–Ernest Hemingway

I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever  published. My pencils outlast their erasures.

–Vladimir Nabokov

To write simply is as difficult as to be good.

–W. Somerset Maugham

The sinister thing about writing is that it starts off seeming so easy and ends up being so hard….As an editor over many years, I met hundreds of writers, and I don’t think I ever met one for whom writing wasn’t a misery. But writing does not cause misery, it is born of misery.

–L. Rust Hills

Most writers are in a state of gloom a good deal of the time; they need perpetual reassurance.

–John Hall Wheelock

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.

–Georges Simenon

I am convinced that all writers are optimists whether they concede the point or not….How otherwise could any human being sit down to a pile of blank sheets and decide to write, say two hundred thousand words on a given theme?

–Thomas Costain

Whatever our theme in writing, it is old and tried. Whatever our place, it has been visited by the stranger, it will never be new again. It is only the vision that can be new; but that is enough.

–Eudora Welty

I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.

–Henry David Thoreau

This is what I find most encouraging about the writing trades: They allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.

–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

A part of every successful writer is, and must be, amoral. Detached. Unfeeling. As nonjudgmental as a tape recorder or camera. It is this capacity to stare at pain or ugliness without flinching, at beauty without swooning, at flattery and truth without succumbing to the lure of either, which provides the mortar, the observable details, to strengthen a story and make it a cohesive unit. This capacity I call the writer’s eye.

–Randall Silvis

The writer’s eye is not merely one sense, but every power of observation the writer possessed. It not only sees, but also smells, tastes, feels and hears. It also senses which details will paint the brightest picture, which will hint at an unseen quality, which will allow the reader to see beneath the surface of a character to the ice and fire of emotion within.

–Randall Silvis

I have learned that when I am willing to give myself away in a book, readers will respond by giving themselves away as well, and the book that I labored over so long becomes in our mutual giving something far richer and more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

–Katherine Paterson

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. If your answer is yes, build your life around that necessity.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

I find writing very hard work. I think of every word that goes down. People write to say they loved a book so well they read it in three hours. I say, ‘Good God, all those months of work consumed in three hours!’ It’s a disappointment it goes so quickly.

–Dick Francis

Some people are natural writers, it all goes straight onto the paper. I’m not. My books may read as if they’re written easily, and I hope they do, but in fact it’s nothing for me to rewrite something 15 or 16 times.

–Charles Simmons

Playwriting is an irrational act. A curious trade in which your days are spent making up things that no one ever said to be spoken by people who don’t exist for an audience that may not come. The most personal thoughts, arrived at in terrible privacy, are interpreted by strangers for a group of other strangers.

–Herb Gardner

Keep the action moving so fast that the reader never has time to stop and think, ‘This is impossible.’

–Alistair MacLean

I write to entertain and amuse. It’s very relaxing. It’s like building the Eiffel Tower from matchsticks. There’s nothing else you can do in the whole world but that. It takes your mind off everything else you’re in the middle of doing.

–Andrew P. O’Rourke

Writing 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

Wearing down seven #2 pencils is a good day’s work.

–Ernest Hemingway

Once in a great while lightning strikes, and occasionally it strikes early in the writer’s life. Sometimes it comes later, after years of work. And sometimes, most often, it never happens at all….But it will never, never happen to those who don’t work hard at it and who don’t consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in their lives, right up there next to breath, and food, and shelter, and love, and God.

–Raymond Carver

With every long thing I write, there still comes a point where I have this horrible hollow feeling. I think, is this interesting to anyone but me? But then I figure, well, as long as it’s burningly interesting to me, I may be on the right track. When it starts boring me, that’s when to worry.

–Gail Godwin

A novelist’s job is to make fables from his own life. His tools are his wit, his eyes and ears, and the marks upon his own soul.

–John le Carre

Nothing has been said that has not already been said.

–Terence

The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.

–Anaïs Nin

A writer’s mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head.

–Ethel Wilson

The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and…no other task is of any consequence.

–Cyril Connolly

There is no way of being a creative writer in America without being a loser.

–Nelson Algren

Our society, like decadent Rome, has turned into an amusement society, with writers chief among the court jesters—not so much above the clatter as part of it.

–Saul Bellow

Many people who want to be writers don’t really want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print.

–James Michener

Good writers are monotonous, like good composers. Their truth is self-repeating…They keep trying to perfect their understanding of the one problem they were born to understand.

–Alberto Moravia

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

A great writer creates a world of his own and his readers are proud to live in it. A lesser writer may entice them in for a moment, but soon he will watch them filing out. –Cyril Connolly

If, as Dr. Johnson said, a man who is not married is only half a man, so a man who is very much married is only half a writer.

–Cyril Connolly

A writer has nothing to say after the age of forty; if he is clever he knows how to hide it.

–Georges Simenon

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

–Ernest Hemingway

Writing is a struggle against silence.

–Carlos Fuentes

Writing is making sense of life.

–Nadine Gordimer

Writing is one of the few professions left where you take all the responsibility for what you do. It’s really dangerous and ultimately destroys you as a writer if you start thinking about responses to your work or what your audience needs.

–Erica Jong

The great art of writing is the art of making people real to themselves with words.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

For me, writing is the only thing that passes the three tests of metier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening.

–Gloria Steinem

All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.

–E. B. White

Incessant scribbling is death to thought.

–Thomas Carlyle

Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write.

–Norman Mailer

Writers, if they are worthy of that jealous designation, do not write for other writers. They write to give reality to experience.

–Archibald MacLeish

Why had I become a writer in the first place? Because I wasn’t fit for society; I didn’t fit into the system.

–Brian Aldiss

I write books to find out about things.

–Rebecca West

I started writing because of a terribly feeling of powerlessness: I felt I was drifting and obscure, and I rebelled against that. I didn’t see what I could do to change my condition. I wanted to control rather than be controlled, to ordain rather than be ordained, and to relegate rather than be relegated.

–Anita Bruckner

There are many reasons why novelists write, but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.

–John Fowles

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk.

–H. L. Mencken

I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write.

–Barbara Tuchman

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.

–Françoise Sagan

The writer’s intention hasn’t anything to do with what he achieves. The intent to earn money or the intent to be famous or the intent to be great doesn’t matter in the end. Just what comes out.

–Lillian Hellman

What I am trying to achieve is a voice sitting by a fireplace telling you a story on a winter’s evening.

–Truman Capote

A good writer always works at the impossible.

–John Steinbeck

I am trying—in a good cause–to crowd people out of their own minds and occupy their space. I want them to stop being themselves for the moment, I want them to stop thinking, and I want to occupy their heads. I want to use language and I want the language to reverberate and I want to use the white spaces between the lines.

–Robert Stone

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

–Anaïs Nin

Easy reading is damned hard writing.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne

In literature the ambition of a novice is to acquire the literary language; the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it.

–George Bernard Shaw

A novelist is the only writer who can make a name without a style, which is only one more reason for not bothering with the novel.

–Robert Frost

The novelist is, above all, the historian of conscience.

–Frederic Raphael

The complete novelist would come into the world with a catalog of qualities something like this. He would own the concentration of a Trappist monk, the organizational ability of a Prussian field marshal, the insight into human relations of a Viennese psychiatrist, the discipline of a man who prints the Lord’s prayer on the head of a pin, the exquisite sense of timing of an Olympic gymnast, and by the way, a natural instinct and flair for exceptional use of language.

–Leon Uris

A writer needs three things, experience, observation and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.

–William Faulkner

Real seriousness in regard to writing is one of the two absolute necessities. The other, unfortunately, is talent.

–Ernest Hemingway

An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.

–Irwin Shaw

The essential condition to become a creator in the artistic domain, particularly in the novel, is to be able to enter into the skin of people.

–Georges Simenon

All you need is a room without any particular interruptions.

–John Dos Passos

I need noise and interruptions and irritation: irritation and discomfort are a great starter. The loneliness of doing it any other way would kill me.

–Anita Brookner

The actual process of writing…demands complete, noiseless privacy, without even music; a baby howling two blocks away will drive me nuts.

–William Styron

I like a room with a view, preferably a long view. I dislike looking out on gardens. I prefer looking at the sea, or ships, or anything which has a vista to it.

–Norman Mailer

The ideal view for daily writing, hour on hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible.

–Edna Ferber

Writing a novel, especially a long novel, is an immense act of ego. You’re not only asking people to pursue your vision, you’re also asking them to pay to do so—and to applaud.

–William Gaddis

There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all the virtues are of no avail.

–Aldous Huxley

Talent is a matter of quantity: talent doesn’t write one page, it writes three hundred.

–Jules Renard

A writer shouldn’t be engaged with other writers, or with people who make books, or even with people who read them. The farther away you get from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources. I mean, a writer doesn’t really live, he observes.

–Nelson Algren

Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because it gives you perspective. Immediately after you’ve seen something you can give a photographic description of it and make it accurate. That’s good practices but it isn’t creative writing.

–Ernest Hemingway

Writing is a wholetime job: no professional writer can afford only to write when he feels like it.

–W. Somerset Maugham

You can’t want to be a writer, you have to be one.

–Paul Theroux

A writer’s material is what he cares about.

–John Gardner

Every writer has certain subjects that they write about again and again, and most people’s books are just variations on certain themes.

–Christopher Isherwood

I think one writes and rewrites the same book. I lead a character from book to book, I continue along with the same ideas. Only the angle of vision, the method, the lighting, change.

–Truman Capote

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

In all my writing I tell the story of my life, over and over again.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.

–H. L. Mencken

Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing: it’s about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustrations that it creates.

–Mordecai Richler

You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved.

–Tracy Kidder

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

–Truman Capote

All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter…a marble-topped bedroom washstand table made a good place; the dining-room table between meals was also suitable.

–Agatha Christie

My schedule is flexible, but I am rather particular about my instruments: lined Bristol cards and well sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers.

–Vladimir Nabokov

Pencils must be round. A hexagonal pencil cuts my fingers after a long day.

–John Steinbeck

Like a lot of what happens in novels, inspiration is a sort of spontaneous combustion—the oily rags of the head and heart.

–Stanley Elkin

I’ve always disliked words like; inspiration. Writing is probably like a scientist thinking about some scientific problem, or an engineer about an engineering problem.

–Doris Lessing

When I sit at my table to write, I never know what it’s going to be till I’m under way. I trust in inspiration, which sometimes comes and sometimes doesn’t. But I don’t sit back waiting for it. I work every day.

–Alberto Moravia

I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how it’s going to end. I usually make detailed outlines: how many chapters it will be and so forth.

–John Barth

The last thing we decide in writing a book is what to put first.

–Blaise Pascal

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.

–Josh Billings

A sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself.

–Don Marquis

Truth and reason are common to all and no more belong to him that spoke them heretofore than unto him that shall speak them hereafter.

–Montaigne

I do borrow from other writers, shamelessly! I can only say in my defense, like the woman brought before the judge on a charge of kleptomania, ‘I do steal; but, Your Honor, only from the very best stores.’

–Thornton Wilder

Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers. I can write up to 18 hours a day. Typing 90 words a minute, I’ve done better than 50 pages a day. Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn’t look up—well, maybe once.

–Isaac Asimov

You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter.

–Bernard Malamud

I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.’ She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph.

–James Thurber

When I stop (working), the rest of the day is posthumous. I’m only really alive when I’m working.

–Tennessee Williams

Of course I base my characters partly on the people I know—one can’t escape it—but fictional characters are oversimplified; they’re much less complex than the people one knows.

–Aldous Huxley

As much as I can give of myself I give of myself. There’s no reason why not. And when I have to hide something, I let the character speak.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

That trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills. My characters are galley slaves.

–Vladimir Nabokov

Words are an albatross to a writer—heavy, hopeless, fateful things. One writes to make words mean something new.

–Joy Williams

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.

–Catherine Drinker Bowen

A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator.

–John Steinbeck

Style is effectiveness of assertion.

–George Bernard Shaw

Style is everything and nothing. It is not that, as is commonly supposed, you get your content and soup it up with style; style is absolutely embedded in the way you perceive.

–Martin Amis

One doesn’t consider style, because style is.

–Robert Stone

There is such an animal as a nonstylist, only they’re not writers—they’re typists.

–Truman Capote

Style has no fixed laws; it is changed by the usage of the people, never the same for any length of time.

–Seneca

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.

–Henry David Thoreau

You don’t know what it is to stay a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word…Ah! I certainly know the agonies of style.

–Gustave Flaubert

An author arrives at a good style when his language performs what is required of it without shyness.

–Cyril Connolly

Clear prose indicates the absence of thought.

–Marshall McLuhan

Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’

–Mark Twain

I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon.

–Truman Capote

A story can be wrecked by a faulty rhythm in a sentence—especially if it occurs toward the end—or a mistake in paragraphing, even punctuation.

–Truman Capote

I am well aware that an addiction to silk underwear does not necessarily imply that one’s feet are dirty. None the less, style, like sheer silk, too often hides eczema.

–Albert Camus

Loneliness is your companion for life. If you don’t want to be lonely, you get into TV.

–William Styron

I find writing very nervous work. I’m always in a dither when starting a novel—that’s the worst time. It’s like going to the dentist, because you make a kind of appointment with yourself.

–Kingsley Amis

Writing is the diametric opposite of having fun. All of life, as far as I’m concerned, is an excuse not to write. I just write when fear overtakes me. It causes paralytic terror. It’s really scary just getting to the desk—we’re talking now five hours. My mouth gets dry, my heart beats fast. I react psychologically the way other people react when the plane loses an engine.

–Fran Lebowitz

When I feel difficulty coming on, I switch to another book I’m writing. When I get back to the problem, my unconscious has solved it.

–Isaac Asimov

Writers are notorious for using any reason to keep from working: over-researching, retyping, going to meetings, waxing the floors—anything.

–Gloria Steinem

Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.

–Anthony Trollope

I’m a commercial writer, not an ‘author.’ Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.

–Mickey Spillane

If you have one strong idea, you can’t help repeating it and embroidering it. Sometimes I think that authors should write one book and then be put in a gas chamber.

–John P. Marquand

The pattern of the thing precedes the thing. I fill in the gaps of the crossword at any spot I happen to choose. These bits I write on index cards until the novel is done.

–Vladimir Nabokov

I work four hours a day and then usually early in the evening I read over what I’ve written during the day and I do a lot of changing and shifting around. See, I write in longhand and I do two versions of whatever I’m doing. I write first on yellow paper and then I write on white paper and then when I finally have it more or less settled the way I want, then I type it. When I’m typing it, that’s when I do my final rewrite. I almost never change a word after that.

–Truman Capote

I rise at first light and I start by rereading and editing everything I have written to the point I left off. That way I go through a book I’m writing several hundred times. Most writers slough off the toughest but most important part of their trade—editing their stuff, honing it and honing it until it gets an edge like a bullfighter’s killing sword. One time my son Patrick brought me a story and asked me to edit it for him. I went over it carefully and changed one word. ‘But, Papa,’ he said, ‘you’ve only changed one word.’ I said: ‘If it’s the right word, that’s a lot.’

–Ernest Hemingway

I revise the manuscript till I can’t read it any longer, then I get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it’s retyped again. Then there’s a third typing, which is the final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye. –Robert Graves

Some authors type their works, but I cannot do that. Writing is tied up with the hand, almost with a special nerve.

–Graham Greene

I always work on two things at a time. When one goes flat, I run to the other.

–Stephen Birmingham

I write slowly because I write badly. I have to rewrite everything many, many times just to achieve mediocrity.

–William Gass

In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratifications, is a curious anticlimax.

–Alfred Kazin

The rules seem to be these: if you have written a successful novel, everyone invites you to write short stories. If you have written some good short stories, everyone wants you to write a novel. But nobody wants anything until you have already proved yourself by being published somewhere else.

–James Michener

If you do not write for publication, there is little point in writing at all.

–George Bernard Shaw

Great editors do not discover nor produce great authors; great authors create and produce great publishers.

–John Farrar

I don’t see how you can write anything of value if you don’t offend someone.

–Marvin Harris

Money to a writer is time to write.

–Frank Herbert

Poetry has never brought me in enough money to buy shoestrings.

–William Wordsworth

The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.

–S. J. Perelman

I’ve only spent about ten per cent of my energies on writing. The other ninety per cent went to keeping my head above water.

–Katherine Anne Porter

Even if I could not earn a penny from my writing, I would earn my livelihood at something else and continue to write at night.

–Irving Wallace

Writing…is practically the only activity a person can do that is not competitive.

–Paul Theroux

The best ideas are common property.

–Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Why use a tub of words to express a spoonful of thought?

–Unknown

Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease

–Peter Abelard

The readers and the hearers like my books,

But yet some writers cannot them digest;

But what care I? for when I make a feast

I would my guests should praise it, not the cooks.

–Sir John Harington

We can say nothing but what hath been said. Our poets steal from Homer….Our story-dressers do as much; he that comes last is commonly best.

–Robert Burton

Authors have established it as a kind of rule, that a man ought to be dull sometimes; as the most severe reader makes allowances for many rests and nodding places in a voluminous writer.

–Joseph Addison

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,

As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

–Alexander Pope

Next o’er his books his eyes begin to roll,

In pleasing memory of all he stole.

–Alexander Pope

Style is the dress of thoughts.

–Philip Dormer Stanhope

The next thing most like living one’s life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.

–Benjamin Franklin

Nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him.

–Samuel Johnson

Writing, when properly managed…is but a different name for  conversation.

–Laurence Sterne

A pen is certainly an excellent instrument to fix a man’s attention and to inflame his ambition.

–John Adams

Create, artist! Do not talk!

–Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Language gradually varies, and with it fade away the writing of authors who have flourished their allotted time.

–Washington Irving

There rise authors now and then, who seem proof against the mutability of language, because they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature.

–Washington Irving

One sign of the born writer is his gift for finding (or sometimes inventing) authentically interesting language.

–John Gardner

A first-rate writer…respects writing too much to be tricky.

–Virginia Woolf

The whole game has become one of covering pages with ink, and if literature has become an industry we’re lost…We have to create literary birth control.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

A story must be exceptional enough to justify its telling. We story-tellers are all Ancient Mariners, and none of us is justified in stopping Wedding Guests (in other words, the hurrying public), unless he has something more unusual to relate than the ordinary experiences of every average man and woman.

–Thomas Hardy

I leave out the parts that people skip.

–Elmore Leonard

Write a novel if you must, but think of money as an unlikely accident. Get your reward out of writing it, and try to be content with that.

–Pearl Buck

On the brink of my first novel’s publication I no longer feel I’m standing in the shallows of an ocean. I’m standing on the edge of a ravine, holding a pebble, ready to toss it down and see if moments later, I hear a tiny plink! Chances are, as with all who stand on ravine edges, tossing pebbles, I’ll hear nothing. But if I do, what sound could be more thrilling?

–Roy Hoffman

The most original authors…are not so because they advance what is new, but because they put what they have to say as if it had never been said before.

–Johann van Goethe

The man is most original who can adapt from the greatest number of sources.

–Thomas Carlyle

Every compulsion is put on writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile.

–Sinclair Lewis

Everyone thinks they can be a writer. Most people don’t understand what’s involved. The real writers persevere. The ones that don’t, either don’t have enough fortitude and they probably wouldn’t succeed anyway, or they fall in love with the glamour of writing as opposed to the writing of writing.

–Peter McWilliams

First drafts are learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge or enhance an idea, or reform it.

–Bernard Malamud

I’ve done as many as eighty drafts of one poem…it can take me three years to finish a poem.

–Carolyn Forche

I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

–Ernest Hemingway

A really great novel is made with a knife and not a pen. A novelist must have the intestinal fortitude to cut out even the most brilliant passage so long as it doesn’t advance the story.

–Frank Yerby

I know it’s finished when I can no longer stand working on it.

–Bernard Malamud

If a writer’s ego ever wilts, he is ruined. It is the only thing that can sustain him through those lonely months while he is trying to piece together a book out of one recalcitrant word after another. Every morning he has to persuade himself, all over again, that putting words on paper is the most important thing in the world that he has something to say which thousands of people not only will listen to, but pay for…Only an egomaniac can believe these things, for they defy all the evidence.

–John Fischer

Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.

–Jules Renard

The writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time.

–Charles Caleb Colton

The life of a writer is usually one of permanent insecurity.

–James T. Farrell

I never write—indeed, am physically incapable of writing—anything I don’t think will be paid for.

–Truman Capote

I believe the saddest news one has to give any young writer just setting out is that very few good writers are able to support themselves by their writing.

–Peter Taylor

Since writing is the worst part of being a writer this can be a very depressing experience.

–James Atlas

I’m only really alive when I’m writing.

–Tennessee Williams

It’s queer for a live human animal, endowed with intelligence, to spend waking hours of a very mortal life cooped up in a room, not talking to anybody, just scribbling words on a page.

–John Barth

The writer in America doesn’t enjoy a very exalted position; he’s really a third-rate citizen.

–James Michener

The novelist in America…is positively regarded as a kind of freak unless he retreats to the university or hits the jackpot in the mass media.

–Howard Swados

Everybody can write; writers can’t do anything else.

–Mignon McLaughlin

A writer is in the end not his books, but his myth—and that myth is in the keeping of others.

–V. S. Naipaul

The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.

–William Faulkner

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it’s like drilling rock and blasting it out with charges.

–Ernest Hemingway

A good writer is one who produces books that people read…so if I’m selling millions, I’m good.

–Jacqueline Susann

Every writer wants to be loved. He wants people, millions and millions and millions of people to read his book and say, ‘You are marvelous. I love you.’

–Evan Hunter

I do not think that most writers write for money alone. Good ones write mainly to please themselves and hope at the same time to please as many other people as possible.

–Merle Miller

Dismissing Dr. Johnson’s assertion that ‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,’ it is safe to say that most writers aren’t in it for the wages, fringe benefits, or short hours. There are much easier ways to make a buck and few better ways to stay poor. No. Lurking in the shadows behind every writer is the relentless spirit of the zealot. The act of writing is an act of faith; someone will be read and perhaps be changed.

–Kenneth C. Davis

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.

–Leo Rosten

The impulse to create beauty is rather rare in literary men…Far ahead of it comes the yearning to make money. And after the yearning to make money comes the yearning to make a noise.

–H. L. Mencken

Recognition is everything you write for; it’s much more than the money. You want your books to be valued. It’s a basic aspiration of the serious writer.

–William Kennedy

There are many reasons why novelists write—but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.

–John Fowles

Don’t let pretentious literary talk fool you into believing that writers just write for themselves. Writing for yourself alone is creative masturbation. We do write to please ourselves, but basically we write to be read. Writing is not only a means of self-expression and catharsis, it is also a compulsive form of egotistical and infantile exhibitionism.

–Irving Wallace

Of the many people who contribute to the making of a book, from the sweeper at the printing plant, to the publisher in a paneled office, the worst paid, on any basis you care to name is the writer.

–James Lincoln Collier

The vast majority of novelists are still involved in an essentially uneconomical activity.

–James Monaco

Who profits from all this writing activity? The manufacturers of typewriters and typing paper, of course. And the U. S. Post Office.

–William Targ

He writes nothing whose readings are not read.

–Martial

I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person, and write to that one.

–John Steinbeck

Writers who concentrate on pleasing all the time don’t have much ultimate impact. One of the functions of an author is to arouse.

–William Styron

I don’t want to be studied in English classes; I want to be read.

–Tim O’Brien

To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies—the man who searches painfully for the perfect word, and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said—there is in writing the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.

–Henry Louis Mencken

Really the writer doesn’t want success….He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall—Kilroy was here—that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see.

–William Faulkner

I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story. –Ernest Hemingway

A writer is like a bean plant—he has his little day, and then gets stringy.

–Elwyn Brooks White

I continue to work with the materials I have, the materials I am made of. With feelings, beings, books, events, and battles, I am omnivorous. I would like to swallow the whole earth. I would like to drink the whole sea.

–Pablo Neruda

When Shakespeare is charged with debts to his authors, Lander replies, ‘Yet he was more original than his originals. He breathed upon dead bodies and brought them into life.’

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand!…To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.

–Herman Melville

Style…is a peculiar recasting and heightening, under a certain condition of spiritual excitement, of what a man has to say, in such a manner as to add dignity and distinction to it.

  –Matthew Arnold

It is not of so much consequence what you say, as how you say it. Memorable sentences are memorable on account of some single irradiating word.

–Alexander Smith

The difference is slight, to the influence of an author, whether he is read by five hundred readers, or by five hundred thousand; if he can select the five hundred, he reaches the five hundred thousand.

–Henry Brooks Adams

The advantage, the luxury, as well as the torment and responsibility of the novelist, is that there is no limit to what he may attempt as an executant—no limit to his possible experiments, efforts, discoveries, successes.

–Henry James

Of all my verse, like not a single line;

But like my title, for it is not mine.

Up That title from a better man I stole:

Ah, how much better, had I stol’n the whole!

–Robert Louis Stevenson

Innumerable are the men and women now writing for bread, who have not the least chance of finding in such work a permanent livelihood. They took to writing because they knew not what else to do, or because the literary calling tempted them by its independence and its dazzling prizes. They will hang on to the squalid profession, their earnings eked out by begging and borrowing, until it is too late for them to do anything else—and what then. With a lifetime of dread experience behind me, I say that he who encourages any young man or woman to look for his living to ‘literature,’ commits no less than a crime.

–George Gissing

Although I am able to criticize wordiness and overabundance in others, I am not able practically to criticize it in myself. The business of selection and revision is simply hell for me—my efforts to cut out 50,000 words may sometimes result in my adding 75,000.

–Thomas Wolfe

Autobiographies ought to begin with Chapter Two.

–Elery Sedgwick

Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.

–Robert Frost

Talking is a hydrant in the yard and writing is a faucet upstairs in the house. Opening the first takes all the pressure off the second.

–Robert Frost

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.

–Carl Gustav Jung

With the cost of book production ever on the rise, fewer risks can be taken; the quiet writer must defer to the shocking and outrageous.

–Nona Balakian

Academic prestige goes to those who can write in a dense style, difficult to understand, on a topic of little or no practical value.

–William O’Toole

Do you realize what would happen if Moses were alive today? He’d go up to Mount Sinai, come back with the Ten Commandments, and spend the next eight years trying to get published.

–Robert Orben

The odds against an unknown writer getting a manuscript published by simply sending it directly to a publishing house are astronomical.

–Edwin McDowell

It is virtually impossible for an unknown author to break into print through the U.S. mails with what is known in the trade as an ‘over the transom’ manuscript.

–Time

An author should try to get an agent to represent him. Selling a manuscript cold is the toughest way I know to get published. It can be done, but the odds are against the writer.

–William Targ

It’s harder for a new writer to get an agent than a publisher.

–Roger Straus

Publishers are always on the lookout for a good book. This is something to keep in mind no matter how discouraging the prospect of finding a publisher is, no matter how many rejection slips you get, and no matter how overwhelming the odds seem.

–Richard Balkin

I firmly believe that no really good, worthwhile book is going to go unpublished in this country…Even a house owned by the most profit-oriented bottom-line conglomerate has a literary image to protect; they want to publish books they can be proud of.

–Barbara Bannon

Something of real quality will be recognized somewhere, sooner or later.

–Mimi Jones

I can’t emphasize too strongly the importance of being absolutely relentless about submissions. Once you’ve got a story to the point where you think it’s worth submitting, you must submit it and submit it and submit it until someone somewhere breaks down and buys it.

–Lawrence Block

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

—Edgar Rich

Burroughs

The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.

–Alain Robbe-Grillet

Some people tell me they’d like to write for ‘extra money.’ I tell them: Sell your body instead. Writing makes big demands on you.

–Erma Bombeck

Writer’s block is a misnomer and can be compared with turning off a faucet. Like the ability to write, faucets can develop problems when they’re seldom used. You get all this rust in the pipes. When you turn on the faucet, a lot of rust comes out.

–Susan Neville

So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

A sick man that gets talking about himself, a woman that gets talking about her baby, and an author that begins reading out of his own book, never know when to stop.

–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Narcissus never wrote well.

–Edward Dahlberg

It is proof of high culture to say the greatest matters in the simplest way.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The style is the man himself.

–Georges Buffon

The great writer finds style as the mystic finds God, in his own soul.

–Havelock Ellis

Style is the dress of thoughts; and let them be ever so just. If your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage.

–Lord Chesterfield

I might say that what amateurs call a style is usually only the unavoidable awkwardness in first trying to make something that has not heretofore been made.

–Ernest Hemingway

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

–Samuel Johnson

A period is to let the writer know he has finished his thought and he should stop there if he will only take the hint.

–Art Linkletter

A good style should show no sign of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Mere elegance of language can produce at best but an empty renown.

–Petrarch

Many writers profess great exactness in punctuation, who never yet made a point.

–George Dennison Prentice

Style is a magic wand, and turns everything to gold that it touches.

–Logan Pearsall Smith

Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.

–Jonathan Swift

Style, like the human body, is specially beautiful when the veins are not prominent and the bones cannot be counted.

–Tacitus

A man’s style is intrinsic and private with him like his voice or his gesture, partly a matter of inheritance, partly of cultivation. It is more than a pattern of expression. It is the  pattern of the soul.

–Maurice Valency

The most subtle, the strongest and deepest art—supreme art—is the one that does not at first allow itself to be recognized.

–Andre Gide

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it.

–Ernest Hemingway

Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page: it writes three hundred.

–Jules Renard

Most thinkers write badly, because they communicate not only their thoughts, but also the thinking of them.

–Nietzsche

Writers write for themselves and not for their readers. Art has nothing to do with communication between person and person, only with communication between different parts of a person’s mind.

–Rebecca West

Dialogue in fiction…should be reserved for the culminating  moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving towards the watcher on the shore.

–Edith Wharton

No man ever yet became great by imitation.

–Samuel Johnson

A great interpreter of life ought not himself to need interpretation.

–John Morley

Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.

–James F. Stephen

He has left off reading altogether, to the great improvement of his originality.

–Charles Lamb

Whatever has been well said by anyone is mine.

–Seneca

Amongst so many borrowed things, I am glad if I can steal one, disguising and altering it for some new service.

–Montaigne

I am but a gatherer and disposer of other men’s stuff.

–Sir Henry Wotton

We can say nothing but what hath been said….Our poets steal from Homer….Our storydressers do as much; he that comes last is commonly best.

–Robert Burton

Borrowing, if it be not bettered by the borrower, is accounted plagiary.

–John Milton

Steal! And egad, serve your best thoughts as gypsies do stolen children, disfigure them to make ’em pass for their own.

–Richard Brinsley Sheridan

All that can be said is, that two people happened to hit on the same thought—and Shakespeare made use of it first, that’s all.

–Richard Brinsley Sheridan

It has come to be practically a sort of rule in literature, that a man, having once shown himself capable of original writing, is entitled thenceforth to steal from the writing of others at discretion.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on what subjects he may. He carries with him, for thousands of years, a portion of his times.

–Walter Savage

Landor

It is not necessary to live, but to carve our names beyond that point, this is necessary.

–Gabriele d’Annunzio

Literature happens to be the only occupation in which wages are not given in proportion to the goodness of the work done.

–Froude

Such superiority do the pursuits of literature possess above every other occupation, that even he who attains but a mediocrity in them, merits the pre-eminence above those who excel the most in the common and vulgar professions.

–Hume

It is almost impossible for any one who reads much, and reflects a good deal, to be able, on every occasion, to determine whether a thought was another’s or his own. I have several times quoted sentences out of my own writings, in aid of my own arguments, in conversation, thinking that I was supporting them by some better authority.

–Laurence Sterne

Those writers who lie on the watch for novelty can have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation.

–Samuel Johnson

Nothing is sillier than this charge of plagiarism. There is no sixth commandment in art. The poet dare help himself wherever he lists—wherever he finds material suited to his work. He may even appropriate entire columns with their carved capitals, if the temple he thus supports be a beautiful one. Goethe understood this very well, and so did Shakespeare before him.

–Heine

Literature is full of coincidences, which some love to believe are plagiarisms. There are thoughts always abroad in the air which it takes more wit to avoid than to hit upon.

–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Borrowed thoughts, like borrowed money, only show the poverty of the borrower.

–Lady Blessington

I have only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that ties them together.

–Montaigne

A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.

–Aristotle

Often a purple patch or two is stuck on a serious work to give it a touch of color.

–Horace

The chief virtue of a style is perspicuity, and nothing so vicious in it as to need an interpreter. Words borrowed of antiquity do lend a kind of majesty to style, and are not without their delight sometimes. For they have the authority of years, and out of their intermission do win themselves a kind of grace-like newness. But the eldest of the present, and newest of the past language, is the best.

–Ben Jonson

A strict and succinct style is that, where you can take away nothing without loss, and that loss to be manifest.

–Ben Jonson

Style! Style! why, all writers will tell you that it is the very thing which can least of all be changed. A man’s style is nearly as much a part of him as his physiognomy, his figure, the throbbing of his pulse—in short, as any part of his being which is at least subjected to the action of the will.

–Fenelon

A vile conceit in pompous words expressed

Is like a clown in regal purple dressed.

–Alexander Pope

All styles are good, except the tiresome.

–Voltaire

The chief stimulus of good style is to possess a full, rich, complex matter to grapple with.

–Walter Pater

Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.

–Francis Bacon

No author is so poor that he cannot be of some service, if only as a witness of his time.

–Fauchet

No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.

–Cervantes

Next to doing things that deserve to be written, nothing gets a man more credit, or gives him more pleasure than to write things that deserve to be read.

–Chesterfield

There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.

–Colton

Writers are the main landmarks of the past.

–Edward

Bulwer-Lytton

Writers write because they can’t help themselves….I’m not happy when I’m writing, but I’m miserable when I’m not.

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

The work of a writer is only a kind of optical instrument he offers the reader in order to permit him to discern in himself something he might never have seen without this book.

–Marcel Proust

It is hard to say what interests a child in a book. They can become fascinated by the strangest things….But in general it is probably safe to assume that a successful child’s book has many of the same elements as a successful adult book: gripping plot, interesting characters, a bit of surprise, and most important, competent writing.

–Sandra Schmidt

One is not a writer for having chosen to say certain things, but for having chosen to say them in a certain way. And, to be sure, the style makes the value of the prose.

–Jean-Paul Sartre

Each author’s quest and contribution is to say in his own way what life has said to him.

–John Mason Brown

Writing for children consists three parts of living, one part of writing. To give light to children, we must be involved in life—not shun it, nor be afraid of it, nor think we have experienced it by watching from the sidelines. We must be always seeking for truth about life, assured that we shall always be finding, but never finding all. In quietness we must search for such truth as life has to say to us. Only thus do we row reverent and teachable. Only the reverent and teachable can light they way for children.

A child’s book should be loved by its author, mulled over, slept over, rewritten, perhaps many times, so that the child reading it will know that he has come on experienced, not borrowed, truth; on wisdom, not on mere cleverness; on insight and beauty.

–Rebecca Caudill

If a writer’s style is really good, it will hang in the reader’s memory and continue to bring wonder to the mind. Style is the product of a craftsman alive to experience and to the possibilities and the obstinacies in the material he works. It is a labor of love, and like love it can bring pleasure an satisfaction.

–Sheridan Baker

Avoid depicting the hero’s state of mind; you ought to try to make it clear from the hero’s actions. It is not necessary to portray many characters. The centre of gravity should be in two persons: him and her.

–Anton Chekhov

Artistic creation, instead of removing us from the drama of our time, is one of the means we are given of bringing it closer. Totalitarian regimes are well aware of this, since they consider us their first enemies. Isn’t it obvious that everything that destroys art aims to strengthen ideologies that make men unhappy? Artists are the only people who have never harmed the world.

–Albert Camus

A playwright who writes about things that he is not connected with, or to, is not a creative writer. He may be a very skilled writer, and it may be on a very high level of craft, but he’s not going to be what I call an artist, a poet.

–Clifford Odets

We nowadays use the term creative arts, or a creative person, very loosely….In the sense that I’m using the word, he’s just a craftsman, like a carpenter. He has so many hammers, so many nails, so much dimension to fill, and he can do it with enormous skill. But the creative writer always starts with a state of being.  He doesn’t start with something outside of himself. He starts with something inside himself, with a sense of unease, depression, or elation, and only gradually finds some kind of form for what I’m calling that ‘state of being.’

–Clifford Odets

The form is always dictated by the material; there can be nothing ready-made about it. It will use certain dramatic laws because, after all, you have to relate this material to an audience, and a form is the quickest way to get your content to as audience. That’s all form is. Form is viability.

–Clifford Odets

Writing for me was and is an assertion of identity. I never feel so much myself, with a great sense of relief and release, as when I stop somewhere in the midst of the daily chaos with pencil and paper. As I grew older I learned to work on top of the dining room table, despite radios blaring, telephones ringing, and people coming, going, talking loudly. It tremendously sharpened my powers of concentration, this exercise in shutting out the world. But it was a great strain on the nervous system.

–Ruth Whitman

If you take enough time to try to write poetry, and you’re serious about it, you build up an enormous linguistic skill. The poor human creature, the poet, cannot help thinking that, in a culture that rewards written things as it does the works of certain novelists, it might be possible for him to subsidize his poetry-writing out of the proceeds of a successful novel.

–James Dickey

Novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones, for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement….I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is.

–John Fowles

You might say plot is the skeleton of a book, character development its flesh and blood, and style, its heart. Each part must make sense in terms of the whole. A good plot gives the story shape and structurally moves the action along.

–Elizabeth Gordon

Four basic ingredients for an effective novel: inspirational characters, a real-life experience on which to base the plot, a personal problem for the characters, and an ending in which the characters gain an insight about life.

–Paul Zindel

The book as a whole sees the mind and the world as inextricably fitted twin puzzles. The mind fits the world and shapes it as a river fits and shapes its own banks.

–Annie Dillard

All the authors I know were self-taught.

–Arthur C. Clarke

There is no substitute for living; as Hemingway wisely remarked, ‘Writing is not a full-time occupation.’

–Arthur C. Clarke

Plot is hard. And beginnings. I love to do ends, and I love revision. Once I’ve got a good solid story foundation, revision is just so much fun, like rearranging furniture.

–Carolyn Chute

If you write a poem to persuade others to believe or not to believe or to act in such and such a way, if you’re trying to convert them to a political cause, you’re using poetry as a tool, and poetry resents being so employed. What one tries to do always is to convey the intensity and the truth of one’s passions and one’s thoughts. Some will listen and perhaps it will be of help to them in changing their own lives and their own hearts, but the poem cannot deliberately set itself out to do that.

–Stanley Kunitz

Writers must be free not only to please but to displease. Isn’t that in the Constitution? We have to feel free to displease sometimes.

–Brian W. Aldiss

I do a lot of rewriting while I’m writing. I get up early, and when I finish four or five hours of writing, I take a little rest. I look at it in the afternoon, and if I don’t throw up, I do some more revising. It’s a constant process.

  –Robert Ludlum

Creating the effect of spontaneity in writing is one of the most difficult and artificial things you can do. Writing is artificial by its very nature—you’re taking sounds and converting them into symbols on a page. To make that transference from one sense to another and reinvest the words with vigor and rhythm and spontaneity is quite a feat.

–Tom Wolfe

Writing, or any form of artistic endeavor, is not just expression, it’s communication. When a writer stops being truly interested in communicating something, and is only aiming a expressing something, well, they can express themselves by going out to the street corner and hollering.

–Raymond Carver

I went neurotically through the whole gamut of contortions to avoid the writing: oversleeping day after day, going through an elaborate ritual of writing out on a slip of paper at night ‘I will not oversleep.’ Then morning would come, the alarm would go off, and I’d think to myself that this note-writing business was silly—a symptom, in fact, of my need for more sleep. Finally, I’d get up and say to myself that I’d sit down to write just as soon as I read the paper. Around 2:00 P.M., when I still hadn’t written a word, I’d set the alarm for a half hour later and tell myself it was okay to do anything I wanted for the next half hour….

Sometimes I would actually begin writing. And when it was going well I can remember literally jumping up and down with excitement, thinking to myself how easy it was. Then the next day the battle would start all over.

–Dick Cavett

A safe rule is, the first wording is always the best.

–Dick Cavett

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

I am rather particular about my instruments: lined Bristol cards and well-sharpened, not-too-hard pencils capped with erasers.

–Vladimir Nabokov

All I need is a steady table and a typewriter.

–Agatha Christie

I  believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

–Truman Capote

Novelists are better off than playwrights. You can’t boo a bad book. Or if you do you run the risk of being regarded as eccentric.

–Peter Ustinov

The novelist is a shaman who is offering his experience for the use of the rest of the tribe.

–Russell Hoban

Few novelists enjoy the creative labor, though most enjoy thinking about the creative labor.

–Arnold Bennett

They can’t yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him.

–Ernest Hemingway

I never decided to be a writer; I never decided to have brown eyes.

–Steve Allen

When words are scarce, they’re seldom spent in vain.

–Shakespeare

Style, after all, rather than thought, is the immortal thing.

–Alexander Smith

It is style alone by which posterity will judge of a great work, for no author can have nothing truly his own but his style.

–Isaac Disraeli

A man’s style is his mind’s voice.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The style of an author should be the image of his mind, but the choice and command of language is the fruit of exercise.

—Edward Gibbon

Form is the Golden Vase where in Thought, that fleeting essence, is preserved to Posterity.

–Anatole France

To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence

To fame—to copy faults, is want of sense.

–Charles Churchill

Next o’er his books his eyes began to roll,

In pleasing memory of all he stole;

How here he sipp’d, how there he plunder’d snug,

And suck’d all o’er like an industrious bug.

 –Alexander Pope

What is originality? It is being one’s self, and reporting accurately what we see and are.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Originality, I fear, is too often only undetected and frequently unconscious plagiarism.

–Dean W. R. Inge

There are very few precocious writers. There are precocious poets, precocious mathematicians…but literature is so dependent on experience, as well as remarkable gifts, that a person isn’t likely to have seen enough until he or she is about thirty, and then begins to understand what love affairs are like, or how you respond to death, or whatever.

–Kurt Vonnegut

Being a writer is something like being a priest. You can’t make a go of it if you don’t have the calling, and if you have the calling, it keeps calling until you answer.

 –Steve Sohmer

(How to write a play.) You do a lot of writing to figure out what the play’s about and throw out three-quarters of it; then you write it again and look at it and find out what that play’s about and throw out three-quarters of it; then you write it again.

–David Mamet

I think there’s a story in this…you wait long enough and there’s a story in anything!

–Lady Elaine Fairchild, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood

I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.

–Toni Morrison

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.

–Benjamin Franklin

A successful book cannot afford to be more than ten percent new.

–Marshall McLuhan

One man is as good as another until he has written a book.

–Benjamin Jowett

You lost it if you talk about it.

–Ernest Hemingway

For a country to have a great writer is to have another government.

–Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Every man is a borrower and a mimic; life is theatrical and literature a quotation.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

When a man can observe himself suffering and is able, later, to describe what he’s gone through, it means he was born for literature.

–Edouard Bourdet

It has come to be practically a sort of rule in literature that a man, having once shown himself capable of original writing, is entitled thenceforth to steal from the writings of others at discretion.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent—which attitude certainly has a great deal to support it.

–James Baldwin

The story of your life is not your life, it’s your story.

–John Barth

Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators.

–Albert Camus

If a law were passed giving six months to every writer of a first book, only the good ones would do it.

–Bertrand Russell

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a whole book—what everyone else does not say in a whole book.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Find enough clever things to say, and you’re a Prime Minister; write them down and you’re a Shakespeare.

–George Bernard Shaw

The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn, and anybody is cheating who takes politics as a way out. All the outs are too easy, and the thing itself is too hard to do.

–Ernest Hemingway

The discipline of the writer is to be still and listen to what her subject has to tell her.

–Rachael Carson

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.

–Gore Vidal

There’s nothing so wonderful as having constructed something perfectly arbitrary, without any help from anybody else, out of pure delight and self delight, and then find that it turns out to be useful to a few others. You have it both ways, if you’re lucky: you do exactly what you want to do, and then it turns out that people are grateful to you for providing them with some sort of emotional machine.

–Richard Wilbur

We can say nothing but what has been said…Our poets steal from Homer.

–Robert Burton

I found it reassuring to read last week that S. J. Perelman once faithfully copied the style of Ring Lardner, since for years I have been trying to copy the style of Perelman.

–Pierre Berton

There be two kinds of writers, my son; to wit, those who write for money and get it, and those who write for money and don’t get it.

–T. W. H. Crosland

Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.

–Gustave Flaubert

At this time I had decided the only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.

–Russell Baker

Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. It’s the steaming reason for living. To not, to pin down, to build up, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s only a cactus.

–Enid Bagnold

I’m a character writer. I have to begin with people. I always know my characters, exactly what they look like, their birthdays, what they like for breakfast. It doesn’t matter if these things don’t appear in the book. I still have to know them.

–S. E. Hinton

The various media encourage young people to accept one of two simplistic approaches to the world—smug complacency or cynical despair. We, as writers for young people, must provide alternatives to these extreme approaches.

–P. J. Petersen

I would urge young writers not to be too much concerned with the vagaries of the marketplace. Not everyone can make a first-rate living as a writer, but a writer who is serious and responsible about his work and life, will probably find a way to earn a decent living, if he or she writes well.

–Bernard Malamud

I think that the glory of being a writer is that everything is relevant. I don’t do ‘research’; I’m just being all the time, and paying attention. That’s what a writer does, on the whole: pay attention to the world.

I am sort of all over the place. But what I want for essays is for them to be very condensed and very lively at the same time. Sometimes I think that what I’m doing is turning soup into bouillon cubes.

–Susan Sontag

Why I write…sheer egotism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.

–George Orwell

The crime novel at its best, and perhaps merely at its better, is a form of fiction like any other, and not some lesser order of escapist literature fit only to pass empty hours with. There are certainly other forms of the novel that are accepted into the mainstream by critics and not dammed off and made to flow alongside in separate channels. To cite a few: the academic novel…; the novel of the love affair…; and the macho-challenge novel. Why should they be accepted and the crime novel be rejected?

–Bruce Cook

Living with my own teenagers taught me that I must not write down to my readers; I must write up to them.

–Betsy Byars

In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself; to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratifications, is a curious anticlimax.

–Alfred Kazin

Writing a first draft is like ice fishing and building an igloo, as well as groping one’s way into a pitch-dark room or overhearing a faint conversation, or having prepared for the wrong exam or telling a joke whose punch line you’ve forgotten….Rewriting is a second, third, nth chance to make something come right, to fall graciously into place. One has to learn to respect the misgiving that says, This still doesn’t ring true, and to go back down into the mine again and to poke around for the missing ore.

–Ted Solotaroff

Revision is mostly turning loose the editor in one’s self, a caretaker who tinkers and straightens out and tidies up and has a steadier hand.

–Ted Solotaroff

Most of my stories, if not all of them, have some basis in real life. That is the kind of fiction I’m most interested in. I suppose that’s one reason I don’t have much respect for fiction that seems to be game playing.

–Raymond Carver

I believe with Horace that literature should instruct and entertain, which is what I try to do. I have a lot of fun exploring other cultures, learning fresh points of view, and I think my writing should be used to promote understanding between groups. Many of these so-called underclass kids wouldn’t drop out of school if they could read authors from their own background. That’s what saved me.

–Ishmael Reed

For me everything is dangerous, everything is tentative, nothing is certain. I think the writing of fiction involves enormous anxiety and enormous risk. And I want fiction always to situate us in the psychic and literal spot where life is most difficult, most dangerous, most beautiful.

–John Hawkes

I do find writing a very painful process—I think it’s the hardest work in the world. It’s like having arthritis; it’s a little pain every day, and you have to press on.

–Tom Wolfe

Most children under the age of ten will react creatively to the best works of a truly creative person, but too often adults sift their reactions to creative picture books to their own experience. And as an editor who stands between the creative artist and the creative child, I am constantly terrified that I will react as a dull adult.

–Ursula Nordstrom

Get used to the process of rejection. There are very few professional writers who have never had a rejection slip. Don’t let it bother you. All you have to do is sell your book to one person who’s in a position to buy it.

–Bill Pronzini

Writing a mystery involves fictional ‘real’ people caught in fictional ‘real-life’ situations. Mysteries have to be logical. You can’t play tricks on the readers. Every action of every character has to have a purpose.

–Douglas Kiker

I made a rule for myself that I would have to be brave, and if something was embarrassing—and I’m very easily embarrassed—so what, it had to be put down, I had to write it.

–Caroly Forché

(Write as though)…you are writing a letter to a dear friend….And this is a dear and close friend, real—or better—invented in your mind like a fixation. Write privately, not publicly; without fear or timidity, right to the end of the letter…so that your true friend will read it over and over, and then want more enchanting letters from you.

–Muriel Spark

Until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening.

–Edith Wharton

(A writer reads incessantly)…because words on a page, whether written by himself or by others, are the central obsession of his life.

–Paul Horgan

Clever plots satisfy authors more than readers.

–Ken Follett

I see myself primarily as an entertainer….sure the stories I’m interested in writing contain some of what I believe, what’s important to me. And if my readers decide to take a lesson from what I’ve written, that’s a bonus. But as long as they get caught up in the story and have a kind of adventure, I feel I’ve succeeded.

–Tom Clancy

Until we know the motives out of which people are acting, we don’t have people at all, only cipher, characters with names but no flesh and blood.

–Harry Crews

If a farmer can write about somebody killing somebody in a turnip patch and make it work, why not! You don’t have to be a judge or a lawyer with courtroom expertise to write a good mystery.

–Joan Kahn

If I want to convince, I write an essay; if I want to meditate, I write a poem.

–Carolyn Forché

If I’m writing about an ordered universe, I write an ordered novel. If I’m talking about a tension between order and disorder, I write a novel in which the form expresses that tension. But always I’m using the tool of language to dig a hole. Other people sometimes use the tool of language to chew on.

–John Gardner

I believe that you write best what you know about, from your own life experience. And of course as a writer, I am an observer: I watch, I think. But I don’t run out of the room at dinner parties to take notes about what I’ve just overheard.

–Dominick Dunne

The act of writing, after all, is an act of detachment and differentiation. It compensates you with the feeling of having transcended the given life, where your possibilities seemed to be no more than the sum of your predicaments.

–Seamus Heaney

Part of becoming a writer is the desire to have everything mean something.

–Louise Erdrich

A good mystery has to have an ending that surprises you, but one you know is unavoidable. It should make you rethink the plot and say to yourself: ‘Of course! Of course!’ A basic ingredient of mystery writing is the element of surprise.

–Douglas Kiker

What it comes down to, for a writer, is to discover for himself how he sees the world.

–Paul Horgan

I really am writing out of the little kid in myself…That doesn’t mean I don’t overlay that with demands for logic, order, grace and control that are necessary to write a book. But it’s a voice that I trust—I don’t say to myself, ‘Would a child really say this?’

–Judith Viorst

I believe the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can’t cross: that it’s to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish….A novel…to be good should seem, before one writes it, something unwriteable; but only visible; so that for nine months one lives in despair, and only when one has forgotten what one meant, does the book seem tolerable.

–Virginia Woolf

One quintessential attribute in every writer is that every writer seems to be a teacher….Whether a writer has stood at the podium or has sat behind the desk, each wants to instruct others…in his or her view, which would be, ‘This is the way the world is,’ when actually fiction is merely strings of words on pages that are metaphors for what, maybe, the world looks like to certain people who write about it.

–Larry Woiwode

Facts are essential to comedy. Recognizable facts and verifiable details give the appearance of reality you need to make comedy stand up….I don’t think there’s any kind of writing more serious than funny writing—nor more difficult or demanding of more dedication and work hours.

–Max Shulman

When I’m not writing I feel absolutely useless. So much of writing is a mystery. Sooner or later somebody asks, ‘Why did you become a writer?’ I really don’t know. It was a gift. If you’re a painter or a musician or a taxi driver you just do the best you can.

–Thomas Savage

Sometimes my characters are bitchy, unfaithful, cruel, ruthless. I’ve met these people in ordinary life. I love villains. Villains provide the plot points in a novel. When good people interact, it’s boring. Put a villain or villainess in and things happen.

–Judith Krantz

Most espionage fiction of recent years bears a conscious analogy to a chess game. There is no James Bond stuff. Instead, little pawns are pushed around by their masters, and the pawns do not even see the openings. They don’t move of their own volition; they are moved.

–Newgate Callendar

I’m one of the people who think best in the morning. I like to wake up ready to go and to know that during the whole day the phone wouldn’t ring, the doorbell wouldn’t ring—even with good news—and that nobody would drop in….A the end of the day, I’d have a drink, watch the evening news…and then I can do anything I want to.

–Eudora Welty

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.

–Marianne Moore

I wish I could write cheaply or popularly, because I need the money….I’m writing for rather highly educated people, and I think my writing is only going to appeal to people who have extreme sensitivity….People say, ‘Why don’t you just put a lot of sex into it?’ I don’t know how to do that; I don’t know how to go about it.

–Thomas Savage

I enjoy the emotional commitment of a novel. A nine-month commitment to characters. I laugh with them. I cry with them.

–Clive Barker

I think that every autobiography is fiction. We know that memory is absolutely inaccurate….The older we grow, the more we know that memory lies; we might even say that when a person tries most to be autobiographical, he or she lies the most.

–Larry Woiwode

People say writing is so tough. To me, it’s the most marvelous life in the world. I’m my own actor, director, stage manager. What a sense of power!

–Robert Ludlum

The creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

–Virginia Woolf

A writer has to become a voice. The identification with readers has to be a strong bond. No one is advertising positions for authors, novelists, or playwrights. It’s a job you have to do by yourself.

–Leon Uris

I write down everything everything, everything! Otherwise why should I write?

–Marie Konstantinovna

In spite of occasional moods of disgust, in spite of periods of laziness and exhaustion which break in upon my work, in spite of the more than modest way in which I live, I know that I have found fulfillment. I have an object in life, a task, a—let me be frank and say a passion. The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession.

–George Sand

The writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master—something that at times strangely wills and works for itself….If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you who almost as little deserve blame.

–Charlotte Brontë

Everything I have ever done is easier than research or writing.

–Fawn M. Brodie

One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.

–Cynthia Ozick

The way I work best is to be entirely alone. And during that period your characters are really the only people you can have a conversation with, because no one else is there, and the world you’re creating becomes a real world, and the rest, what is supposed to be the most solid and best known, is really only shadows. It’s a kind of heightened reality.

–Jeanette Winterson

I write because, exacting as it may be to do so, it is still more difficult to refrain, and because—however conscious of one’s limitations one may be—there is Always at the back of one’s mind an irrational hope that this next book will be different: it will be the rounded achievement, the complete fulfillment. It never has been: yet I am still writing.

–Iris Origo

Writing is like crabgrass: You have to keep weeding it. –Elyse Sommer

The best phrase, anecdote, ideas always come after publication.

–Elyse Sommer

Cure for writer’s block: write anything—a shopping list, a letter to a friend—and before you know it, you’ll be back on a creative high.

–Elyse Sommer

There’s no such thing as a satisfied writer.

–Elyse Sommer

To think of a story is much harder work than to write it…to think it over as you lie in bed, or walk about, or sit cozily over your fire, to turn it all in your thoughts, and make the things fit—that requires elbow-grease of the mind. The arrangement of the words is as though you were walking simply along a road. The arrangement of your story is as though you were carrying a sack of flour while you walked.

–Anthony Trollope

I do consider life a story—every life. Some lives are dull, some dramatic; some appeal, some do not. Yet once a biographer has collected the facts, it is not a matter of coaxing up a story; it is a question of perceiving the story line that is already there.

–Jean Fritz

Writers have one great strength. They can sit down and generate their own employment and determine their own fate to a great extent by the degree of their disciplines, their guts, and their talents.

–Fay Kanin

Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.

–Jessamyn West

Keep in mind that there’s no right way of writing. There’s only our way.

–Milton Lomask

A freelance writer is often tempted, for the sake of immediate financial gain, to turn out work that goes against every standard he has set himself. In the long run this is the greatest of follies, for it can cripple him permanently as the kind of writer he set out to be.

Remember that there are many roads to success in writing, and it is psychologically bad for a writer to praise the one of his choice and condemn many of the others.

–Frank Belknap Long

It’s hell on your body: There’s nothing physical about writing, and no one likes to sit still. And it’s hell on your soul. You need to isolate yourself from others, and no one likes to be alone for long stretches of time.

–Kurt Vonnegut

Writing…is too demanding, too hard, too painful to do for any other reason other than love. The question is why I love something that’s so demanding, hard and painful? Maybe because of all these things, I sure know I’ve done a day’s work when I get up from the typewriter.

–Judith Guest

Read.

Write.

Rewrite.

All three. Forever and ad nauseum. And then some more.

–Joe Gores

Write for fun.

Write to share ideas.

Write to share feelings.

–William Wharton

Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.

–Andre Dubus

Don’t stop because you’ve hit a block. Finish the page, even if you write nothing but your own name. The block will break if you don’t give in to it. Remember, writing is a physical habit as well as whatever you want to think it is—calling, avocation, talent, genius, art.

–Isabelle Holland

If I were a plumber, I’d be out five days a week laying pipe and fixing drains. I’m a writer, so five days a week (sometimes seven or eight) I lay words down on paper and try to fix them into stories.

–Jean Brody

I needed to find my way to write. I need about six hours of uninterrupted time in order to produce about two hours of writing, and when I accepted that and found the way to do it—then I was able to write.

–Robert B. Parker

Writing = ass in chair.

–Oliver Stone

Writing should be like breathing. You don’t think about breathing, you just do it. I write every day, including all holidays and weekends—for at least two hours a day.

–William F. Nolan

I decided early on that I was going to be a writer and that whether I succeeded or failed, I was still going to be a writer. That is, I decided that, for me, it would be preferable to be a failed writer or a minor writer—some sort of footnote in the history of American letters—than to leave the dream behind.

–Joe David Bellamy

Finish the thing before you start revising. If you’re working on chapter 3 and you discover that you have to go back and plant the butler in chapter 1, scribble a note to yourself and keep working on chapter 3. Otherwise, you run the risk of having 20 versions of Chapter 1—and nothing else at all.

–Marta Randall

I don’t know what I think until I see what I’ve said.

–E. M. Forster

Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.

–Katherine Anne Porter

A great writer is, so to speak, a second government in his country. And for that reason no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.

–Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.

–Erich Fromm

The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.

–S. J. Perelman

A writer is someone who always sells. An author is one who writes a book that makes a big splash.

–Mickey Spillane

The rules seem to be these: if you have written a successful novel, everyone invites you to write short stories. If you have written some good short stories, everyone wants you to write a novel. But nobody wants anything until you have already proved yourself by being published somewhere else.

–James Michener

Not yet published a writer lies in the womb…waiting for the privilege to breathe. Outside is the great, exhaling company of those who have expressed.

–Hortense Calisher

Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has had and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.

–Ernest Hemingway

Writing is a suspension of life in order to re-create life.

–John McPhee

The complete novelist would come into the world with a catalog of qualities something like this. He would own the concentration of a Trappist monk, the organizational ability of a Prussian field marshal, the insight into human relations of a Viennese psychiatrist, the discipline of a man who prints the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, the exquisite sense of timing of an Olympic gymnast, and by the way, a natural instinct and flair for exceptional use of language.

–Leon Uris

Before I start to write, I always treat myself to a nice dry martini. Just one, to give me the courage to get started. After that, I am on my own.

–E. B. White

I do borrow from other writers, shamelessly! I can only say in my defense, like the woman brought before the judge on a charge of kleptomania, ‘I do steal; but, Your Honor, only from the very best stores.’

–Thornton Wilder

Good writers are monotonous, like good composers. Their truth is self-repeating….They keep trying to perfect their understanding of the one problem they were born to understand.

–Alberto Moravia

The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and…no other task is of any consequence.

–Cyril Connolly

Clear prose indicates the absence of thought.

–Marshall McLuhan

When I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it’s because we are still able to recognize one.

–Flannery O’Connor

Whatever sentence will bear to be read twice, we may be sure was thought twice.

–Henry David Thoreau

Never write on a subject without first having read yourself full on it; and never read on a subject till you have thought yourself hungry on it.

–Jean Paul Richter

For me, the big chore is always the same—how to begin a sentence, how to continue it, how to complete it.

–Claude Simon

Anyone turning biographer commits himself to lies, to concealment, to hypocrisy, to flattery, to events hiding his own lack of understanding, for biographical truth is not to be had, and even if it were it couldn’t be used.

–Sigmund Freud

All autobiographies are lies. I do not mean unconscious, unintentional lies: I mean deliberate lies. No man is bad enough to tell the truth about himself during his lifetime, involving, as it must, the truth about his family and his friends and colleagues. And no man is good enough to tell the truth to posterity in a document which he suppresses until there is nobody left alive to contradict him.

–George Bernard Shaw

Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.

–Evelyn Waugh

Your comedy I’ve read, my friend,

And like the half you pilfer’d best;

But sure the piece you yet may mend:

Take courage, man! and steal the rest.

–Unknown

There are two literary maladies—writer’s cramp and swelled head. The worst of writer’s cramp is that it is never cured; the worst of swelled head is that it never kills.

–Coulson Kernahan

In other countries, art and literature are left to a lot of shabby bums living in attics and feeding on booze and spaghetti, but in America the successful writer or picture-painter is indistinguishable from any other decent business man.

–Sinclair Lewis

The literary world is made up of little confederacies, each looking upon its own members as the lights of the universe; and considering all others as mere transient meteors, doomed soon to fall and be forgotten, while its own luminaries are to shine steadily on to immortality.

–Washington Irving

Originality is the art of concealing your sources.

–Unknown

What a good thing Adam had—when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before.

–Mark Twain

I invent nothing. I rediscover.

–Auguste Rodin

There is nothing new under the sun.

–Ecclesiastes 1:9

Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.

–E. B. White

Self-expression is for babies and seals, where it can be charming. A writer’s business is to affect the reader.

–Vincent McHugh

There is but one art, to omit.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

Every writer, without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an injustice collector and a depressed person constantly haunted by fears of unproductivity.

–Edmund Bergler

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.

–Henry David Thoreau

They’re fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.

–Lillian Hellman

There are two kinds of writers—the great ones who can give you truths, and the lesser ones, who can only give you themselves.

–Clifton Fadiman

There is nothing more dangerous to the formation of a prose style than the endeavour to make it poetic.

–J. Middleton Murry

Writing has power, but its power has no vector. Writers can stir the mind, but they can’t direct it. Time changes things. God changes things, the dictators change things, but writers can’t change anything.

–Isaac Bashevis Singer

Anybody can find out if he is a writer. If he were a writer, when he tried to write of some particular day, he would find in the effort that he could recall exactly how the light fell and how the temperature felt, and all the quality of it. Most people cannot do it. If they can do it, they may never be successful in a pecuniary sense, but that ability is at the bottom of writing, I am sure.

–Maxwell Perkins

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

Leonardo da Vinci was an ambidextrous workaholic. He sketched with his right hand while he wrote with his left—simultaneously!

–Executive Speechwriter Newsletter

Talent isn’t enough. You need what Steinbeck called a blend of faith and arrogance. When you’re young, plain old poverty can be enough, along with an insatiable hunger for recognition. You have to have that feeling of ‘I’ll show them.’ If you don’t have it, don’t become a writer.

–Leon Uris

Writing is a difficult trade which must be learned slowly by reading great authors; by trying at the outset to imitate them; by daring to be original; by destroying one’s first productions; by comparing subsequent works to recognized masterpieces and, once more, by destroying them; by crossing out whole passages; by weeping from despair; by being more severe with oneself than even the critics will be. After ten years of such arduous activity, if one has talent, one may begin to write in an acceptable manner.

–Andre Maurois

I don’t think anyone starts doing creative work because they’re serving humanity. They want to get laid; they want to get money; they want to get attention.

–Richard Gere

No bird has ever uttered note

     That was not in some first bird’s throat;

Since Eden’s freshness and man’s fall

     No rose has been original.

–Thomas Bailey

Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.

–Thomas Wentworth Higginson Aldrich

Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.

–Nietzsche

Plagiarists have, at least, the merit of preservation.

–Benjamin Disraeli

A certain awkwardness marks the use of borrowed thoughts; but as soon as we have learned what to do with them, they become our own.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.

–Josh Billings

Every man is a borrower and a mimic, life is theatrical and literature a quotation.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

–Samuel Johnson

Publication is the male equivalent of childbirth.

–Richard Acland

The point of good writing is knowing when to stop.

–Lucy Maud Montgomery

What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it, dull to the contemporary who reads it, invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it!

–Dame Ellen Terry

Just as it is still in her close personal relationships that woman most naturally uses her human genius and her artistry in life, so it is still in the portrayal of those relationships that she perfects her most characteristic genius in writing.

–Elizabeth Drew

It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes. When I brood over these marvelous pleasures I have enjoyed, I would be tempted to offer God a prayer of thanks if I knew he could hear me. Praised may he be for not creating me a cotton merchant, a vaudevillian, or a wit.

–Gustave Flaubert

The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get to the office.

–Robert Frost

If you were a member of Jesse Jame’s band and people asked you what you were, you wouldn’t say, ‘Well, I’m a desperado.’ You’d say something like, ‘I work in banks,’ or ‘I’ve done some railroad work.’ It took me a long time just to say, ‘I’m a writer.’ It’s really embarrassing.

–Roy Blount, Jr.

It was reported that the great American author Sinclair Lewis was once asked to give a lecture on writing to a group of college students:

‘Looking out at this gathering,’ he said to the assembled students, ‘makes me want to know how many of you really and truly wish to become writers.’

Every hand in the room went up. Lewis looked at them for a moment and then folded his notes and put them away.

‘If that’s true,’ he said, ‘then the best advice I can give you is to go home and write.’

And he left the room.

–The Winner’s Circle

If it works, copy it.

–Tony Schwartz

Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address just over 130 years ago. Look at how his words compare:

Number of Words

Gettysburg Address-272

Bag of Lay’s Potato Chips-401

IRA Form 1040 EZ-418

Average USA Today cover story-1,200

–USA Today

Make it a point to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on.

–Thomas Edison

Writing is 1% illumination and 99% elimination.

–Louise Brooks

Dickens sat down and wrote everything straight off. Somerset Maugham would work over one of his stories for hours and hours. Neither of them could have been any better or any worse if one had been slower and the other faster….I write everything in my head, so that when I sit down to the typewriter it’s composed.

–Louise Brooks

All of us write because we have suffered some terrible humiliation and we’ve got to set the record straight and get even somehow.

–Louise Brooks

No author can create a character out of nothing. He must have a model to give him a starting point.

–Somerset Maugham

Scratch a novelist and you find a moralist.

–Budd Schulberg

The writer, if the work is difficult, feels alone and sometimes even abandoned. But…that which is named loneliness is probably more nearly ineffectiveness, a form of failure, or form of fear.

–William Saroyan

A professional writer is just an amateur who didn’t quit.

–Richard Bach

My speed depends on the state of my bank account.

–Mickey Spillane

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

–G. K. Chesterton

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

–T. S. Eliot

Authors are easy enough to get on with—if you are fond of children.

–Michael Joseph

Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.

–Oliver Herford

He who is most creative conceals his sources the best.

–Unknown

In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; a grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak.

–James Russell Lowell

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

–Jack London

For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.

–Nietzsche

If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.

–Henry David Thoreau

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.

–Raymond Inmon

I learned…that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.

–Brenda Ueland

There seems to be no physical handicap or chance of environment that can hold a real writer down, and there is no luck, no influence, no money that will keep a writer going when she is written out.

–Kathleen Norris

Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.

–Virginia Woolf

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

It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence.

–Isadora Duncan

Life can’t 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

Very young writers often do not revise at all. Like a hen looking at a chalk line, they are hypnotized by what they have written. ‘How can it be altered?’ they think. It has to be altered. You have to learn how.

–Dorothy Canfield Fisher

The one thing a writer has to have is a pencil and some paper. That’s enough, so long as she knows that she and she alone is in charge of that pencil, and responsible, she and she alone, for what it writes on that paper.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

What release to write so that one forgets oneself, forgets one’s companion, forgets where one is or what one is going to do next—to be drenched in sleep or in the sea. Pencils and pads are curling blue sheets alive with letters heaped upon the desk.

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But far better to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.

—Katherine Mansfield

When creative juices flow

Catch them with a pen

Cause if you don’t

You may find you can’t

Recapture them again.

–June Shanahan

The more sins you confess, the more books you will sell.

–Unknown

Writing a book is like scrubbing an elephant: there’s no good place to begin or end, and it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve already covered.

–Unknown

The best fame is a writer’s fame. It’s enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough to get you interrupted when you eat.

–Fran Lebowitz

With plays you only have to fill the center of the page. Novels take a tremendous amount of typing.

–Paul Rudnick

God gave you eyes,

plagiarize.

–Michael Lewis

I use the Palmer method, and pad on a music stand. I’m not interested in computers, though they’re less complex than the human brain—which I also try to use.

–Saul Bellow

The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between butter and yoghurt.

–Calvin Trillin

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters, and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.

–Virginia Woolf

Nighttime is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.

–Catherine O’Hara

To write is an entertainment I put on for myself.

–Jean Cocteau

Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page: it writes three hundred….The strong do not hesitate. They settle down, they sweat, they go on to the end. They exhaust the ink, they use up the paper. This is the only difference between men of talent and cowards who will never make a start. In literature, there are only oxen. The biggest ones are the geniuses—the ones who toil eighteen hours a day without tiring. Fame is a constant effort.

–Jules Renard

Only the mediocre writer is always at his best.

–J. D. McClatchy

Only intensity matters. Talent—you have it or you don’t.

–Jean Cocteau

To live in the world of creation—to get into it and stay in it—to frequent it and haunt it—to think intensely and fruitfully—to woo combinations and inspirations into being by a depth and continuity of attention and meditation—this is the only thing.

–Henry James

I am going to write because I cannot help it.

–Charlotte Brontë

Inspiration: the important thing in life is to have the right kind of frustration.

–Theodore Roethke

What’s the tingling across the scalp? It’s what I call the literary buzz, a little signal from the top of my head that there is some mystery here, some unrevealed linkage that will have to be explored with words.

–James D. Houston

What it gave us no pleasure to conceive or make…will give the world no pleasure to contemplate.

–Matthew Arnold

Very few writers claimed financial necessity as a reason for exercising their profession. Many admitted that they had no idea why they wrote. But the majority responded by implying that they were impelled to write by some inner force which would not be denied. The more scrupulous of these did not hesitate to admit that their principal satisfaction was in feeling that they were leaving a part of themselves behind—in other words, writing was felt to confer a certain minimal immortality. This would have been understandable earlier in the century when it was assumed that life on the planet would continue indefinitely. Now that the prognosis is doubtful, the desire to leave a trace behind seems absurd. Even if the human species manages to survive another hundred years, it’s unlikely that a book written in 1990 will mean much to anyone happening to open it in 2090, if indeed he is capable of reading at all.

–Paul Bowles

Writing is a process of killing off by increments that other self, the one who wanted to write.

–Bill Barich

Style should be like a transparent varnish…; it should spread completely over the colors, make them brighter, but not alter them.

–Stendhal

If the word arse appears in a sentence, even in a sublime sentence, the public will hear only that one word.

–Jules Renard

Writers have no real area of expertise. They are merely generalists with a highly inflamed sense of punctuation.

–Lorrie Moore

Essential characteristic of the really great novelist: a Christlike all-embracing compassion.

–Arnold Bennett

More astonishing to me than any technological achievement is the simple fact that a human hand holding a pencil or a brush can render in a few lines or washes of color a state of feeling, an insight, layers of history.

–Susan Griffin

Tolstoy to Rilke, who was pestering him about techniques in writing: ‘If you want to write, write!’

–Edward Abbey

Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered pot holder.

–Raymond Chandler

Two types of writers fall short: those who write well about unimportant things, and those who write badly about important things. Then there are the experimenters, who never get their bags unpacked, just try out techniques for when they’ll begin.

–Edward Hoagland

What a heavy oar the pen is and what a strong current ideas are to row in.

–Flaubert

Ultimately, as the evening breeze begins to blow over the darkening hills of the desert, you pick up your pen and start writing again, working like an old-fashioned watchmaker, with a magnifying glass in your eye and a pair of tweezers between your fingers; holding and inspecting an adjective against the light, changing a faulty adverb, tightening a loose verb, reshaping a worn-out idiom. This is the time when what you’re feeling inside you is far from political righteousness. It is, rather, a strange blend of rage and compassion; of intimacy with your characters, mingled with utter detachment. Like icy fire. And you write. You write, not as someone struggling for peace, but more like someone who begets peace and feels eager to share it with the reader; writing with a simple ethical imperative: Try to understand everything. Forgive some. And forget nothing.

–Amos Oz

Who would write, who had any better thing to do?

–Lord Byron

Work every day in the reading room at the British Museum….When I lay too late in the mornings (which was most often the case) I did not go to the Museum until after dinner….

…I made a stand against late rising by using an alarm clock and actually succeeded in getting up regularly at 8 every morning until the end of the year, when the clock broke and I began immediately to relapse. I got a new clock, but did not quite regain my punctuality, which by and by, made me so sleepy in the afternoon that I got into the habit of taking a nap in the Museum over my books.

–George Bernard Shaw

Racking my brains from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon trying to write two and a half lines.

–Stendhal

Hard days, lots of work, no money, too much silence. Nobody’s fault. You chose it.

–Bill Barich

I write in the dark, late at night….I walk about my rooms, sit at my table, and work against the night….I welcome the burning sensation on the surface of my eyeballs which begins at one or two A. M. I pull my shirtsleeves down as the room grows colder. I flex my fingers….I lower my head and swing it from side to side to restore the muscles of my neck. And then little or nothing is left of the demands of will to prevent the opening up of the skull. Images of feeling shake free of their origins to line up in the matrix of an idea which did not exist during the earlier part of the evening. This goes on until a limit has been reached, by which time I am without words and can barely make it into bed. I have succeeded in stamping out my mind. In the morning, the evidence of the page smells like a baby.

–Marvin Bell

Someone will always ask, ‘How long does it take you to write a novel?’ I hardly ever give them the real answer. ‘It depends,’ I will say. ‘A year. Sometimes three or four.’ The real answer, of course, is that it takes your entire life. I am forty-four, and it took me forty-four years to get this novel finished. You don’t mention this to too many people, because it can fill their hearts with sadness, looking at you and thinking , Jesus, forty-four years to come up with this? But it’s always the truest answer. You could not have written it any sooner. You write the book when its time has come, and you bring your lifetime to the task, however few or many years you have behind you.

–James D. Houston

The whole point of writing is to have something in your gut or in your soul or in your mind that’s burning to be written.

—Jerome Lawrence

If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest.

–Henry David Thoreau

Success in writing, versus painting, means that your work becomes cheaper, purchasable by anybody.

–Edward Hoagland

My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.

–Mark Twain

I suppose one has to be desperate, to be a successful writer. One has to reach a rock-bottom at which one can afford to let everything go hang. One has got to damn the public, chance one’s living, say what one thinks, and be oneself. Then something may come out.

–T. H. White

When a writer tells you that he’s never written anything for money, it means that the livelihood is already provided.

–Tom Jenks

Once the baby starts to move and you are physically conscious of what you are creating you can no longer create in another line, at least not to your best capacity;….it is really what keeps me from writing. I know it will not be the best writing. The best writing is going into that child.

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A poet told me that when her little boys were small she used to put her typewriter in the playpen and sit there and work while they tore up the house around her. Of course, she is an exceptionally energetic and resourceful person.

–Ellen Gilchrist

Instead of separating myself from pressure to write, I find myself inwardly screaming, frustrated because I’m not superwoman: the perfect mother, perfect lover, perfect poet. I’m afraid I’m going to fail at all these, or have a nervous breakdown, or beat my child, or continue in some mundane existence, hating myself for no longer writing.

–Marie-Elise

Real honest work will find its level in time, when the rubbish falls away and is forgotten.

–Beatrix Potter

I think there are four great motives for writing…(1) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc…(2) Aesthetic enthusiasm…(3) Historical impulse. Desire…to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. (4) Political purpose…Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s ideas of the kind of society that they should strive after.

–George Orwell

I write because I want more than one life; I insist on a wider selection. It’s greed plain and simple. When my characters join the circus, I’m joining the circus. Although I’m happily married, I spent a great deal of time mentally living with incompatible husbands.

–Anne Tyler

One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph and once I get it, the rest comes out very easily. In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone.

–Gabriel García Márquez

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

–Anton Chekhov

To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.

–Aristotle

A writer should never write about the extraordinary. That is for the journalist.

–James Joyce

The greatest thing in style is to have a command of metaphor.

–Aristotle

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

–E. L. Doctorow

We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection…We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth.

–Anaïs Nin

I think of an author as somebody who goes into the marketplace and puts down his rug and says ‘I will tell you a story,’ and then he passes the hat.

–Robertson Davies

All my writings may be considered tasks imposed from within; their source was a fateful compulsion. What I wrote were things that assailed me from within myself. I permitted the spirit that moved me to speak out.

–C. G. Jung

It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which has been the glory of his past.

–William Faulkner

When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad things you did do—that’s a memoir.

–Will Rogers

A man’s true autobiography is almost an impossibility…man is bound to lie about himself.

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Autobiography is an unrivaled vehicle for telling the truth about other people.

–Thomas Carlyle

Biography is a form by which little people take revenge on big people.

–Edmund White

I had my first experience of the depression and sense of nothingness that comes when a piece of work is done. The satisfaction is in the act itself.

–V. S. Pritchett

Publication is the auction

Of the mind of man.

–Emily Dickinson

Best-sellers are about murder, money, revenge, ambition, and sex, sex, sex. So are literary novels. But best-selling authors give you more per page: there are five murders, three world financial crises, two bankruptcies and a civil war in A Dangerous Fortune. There is more drama in it that a literary author will deal with in a lifetime of work.

–Ken Follett

I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.

–Albert Einstein

The man of genius is he and he alone who finds such joy in his art that he will work at it come hell or high water.

–Stendhal

There is a sort of man who pays no attention to his good actions, but is tormented by his bad ones. This is the type that most often writes about himself.

–W. Somerset Maugham

I am a man, and alive…for this reason I am a novelist. And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog.

–D. H. Lawrence

Art…should simplify. That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole.

–Willa Cather

Style: A simple way of saying complicated things.

–Jean Cocteau

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts, and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.

–Goethe

The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into the mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have.

–John Locke

To be a woman and a writer

is double mischief, for

the world will slight her

who slights ‘the servile house,’

and who would rather

make odes than beds.

–Dilys Laing

Words have weight, sound and appearance; it is only by considering these that you can write a sentence that is good to look at and good to listen to.

–W. Somerset Maugham

The nobility of our calling will always be rooted in two commitments difficult to observe: refusal to lie about what we know, and resistance to oppression.

–Albert Camus

Thoughts fly and words go on foot. Therein lies all the drama of a writer.

–Julien Green

For me two things are equally intolerable: to know that children are dying of hunger is one, and the other: that a writer may be prevented from writing.

–Yves Berger

Great authors are admirable in this respect: in every generation they make for disagreement. Through them we become aware of our differences.

–André Gide

There are two classes of authors: the one writes the history of their times, the other their biography.

–Thoreau

A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.

–William Faulkner

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.

–Truman Capote

Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice.

–Cyril Connolly

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.

–E. L. Doctorow

Writing is the manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe.

–John Gregory Dunne

Writing is a difficult trade which must be learned slowly by reading great authors; by trying at the outset to imitate them; by daring them to be original; and by destroying one’s first productions.

–André Maurois

Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.

–Jules Renard

Take eloquence and wring its neck.

–Paul Verlaine

This letter is long because I didn’t have time to write a short one.

–Pascal

It is one test of a fully developed writer that he reminds us of no one but himself.

–Melvin Maddocks

i never think at all when i write

nobody can do two things at the same time

and do them both well.

–Don Marquis

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

To write it, it took three months; to conceive it—three minutes; to collect the data in it—all my life.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Concentration is inspiration. You must be completely overtaken by your work and your subject. Only then do all your influences and experience come up to the surface.

–César Chávez

The struggle of every person who writes, of every true writer is primarily against the demon of that which resists being put into words. It is a struggle that spreads like an oil stain. Often, to surrender to the difficulty is to triumph, because the best text can sometimes be the one that allows words to have their own liberty.

–Luisa Valenzuela

Through language I was free. I could respond, escape, indulge, embrace or reject earth or the cosmos. I was launched on an endless journey without boundaries or rules, in which I could salvage the floating fragments of my past, or be born anew in the spontaneous ignition of understanding some heretofore concealed aspect of myself.

–Jimmy Santiago Baca

I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. Then you will see what medicine they make, and where and when to apply them. That is the work. The only work.

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The way the Indians say ‘seeing’ is how close you can come to the way things really are, the way a deer sees a rock, or the way a frog sees water; we call that ‘seeing.’ Every human being has that seeing in them, and someone who gets up and writes every day, all he or she is trying to do is to get close to his or her seeing capabilities. 

–Dagoberto Gilb

With a stub pencil I whittled sharp with my teeth, I propped a Red Chief notebook on my knees and wrote my first words. From that moment, a hunger for poetry possessed me. 

–Jimmy Santiago Baca

Picking out images from my soul’s eye, fishing for the right words to recreate the images. Words are blades of grass pushing past the obstacles, sprouting on the page; the spirit of the words moving in the body is as concrete as flesh and as palpable; the hunger to create is as substantial as fingers and hand. 

–Gloria Anzaldúa

To write, to be a writer, I have to trust and believe in myself as a speaker, as a voice for the images. I have to believe that I can communicate with images and words and that I can do it well. A lack of belief in my creative self is a lack of belief in my total self and vice versa—I cannot separate my writing from any part of my life. It is all one. 

–Gloria Anzaldúa

Unfortunately, no one has yet found a way to make most scholarly texts interesting enough to entice laymen to read them—unless they are assigned by teachers with the power to inflict punishment. So it is left to the historical novelist and other nonacademic writers to popularize the complex issues of academia. 

–Playthell Benjamin

Poe…was perhaps the first great nonstop literary drinker of the American nineteenth century. He made the indulgences of Coleridge and De Quincey seem like a bit of mischief in the kitchen with the cooking sherry.

–James Thurber

Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.

–Oscar Wilde

To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.

–P. G. Wodehouse

There’s no greater bliss in life than when the plumber eventually comes to unblock your drains. No writer can give that sort of pleasure.

–Victoria Glendinning

Among all kinds of writing, there is none in which authors are more apt to miscarry than in works of humour, as there is none in which they are more ambitious to excel.

–Joseph Addison

Lyrically passionate writing should always be resisted, especially by the writer. A real idea slows you down, by demanding that you make yourself as plain as possible.

–Clive James

A novelist must preserve a childlike belief in the importance of things which common sense considers of no great consequence.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Any writer worth is salt knows that only a small proportion of literature does more than partly compensate people for the damage they have suffered in learning to read.

–Rebecca West

A phrase is born into the world both good and bad at the same time. The secret lies in a slight, an almost invisible twist. The lever should rest in your hand, getting warm, to you can only turn it once, not twice. 

–Isaac Babel

You will have written exceptionally well if, by skillful arrangement of your words, you have made an ordinary one seem original. 

–Horace

Of every four words I write, I strike out three. 

–Nicholas Boileau

I do not deal in happiness. I deal in meaning.

–Richard Wright

Writing well is the same thing as thinking well.

–Charles Johnson

I continue to create because writing is a labor of love and also an act of defiance, a way to light a candle in a gale wind.

–Alice Childress

If I could be cloned, I’d like to be three people. One would stay at the desk writing; one would be a public writer, the one who goes around making speeches and being personable; the third would be a normal human being. A writer cannot be all these things at one time.

–Alex Haley

I used to say that I learned to write by listening to people talk. I still feel that the best of my writing comes from having heard rather than having read.

–Gayle Jones

What I do is write about what I see and what I feel and what I know in the hope that it will help the people who read it see more and feel more and know more.

–Pearl Cleage

Most writers that ‘make it’ in this country have to become literary and physical prostitutes in one form or another.

–Haki Madhubuti

Black people need to work on their speaking and writing skills to avoid the pitfalls of exploitation, exclusion, and economic illiteracy. Knowing the language of power and finance is gaining clout, not selling out. 

–Gerrard McClendon

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. . . . Habit is persistence in practice. 

–Octavia E. Butler

An average English word is four letters and a half.  By hard, honest labor I’ve dug all the large words out of my vocabulary and shaved them down till the average is three and a half letters… I never write metropolis for seven cents because I can get the same money for city. I never write policeman, because I can get the same money for cop. 

–Mark Twain

Authors are judged by strange capricious rules

The great ones are thought mad, the small ones fools.

–Alexander Pope

I do think. . . the mighty stir made about scribbling and scribes, by themselves and others—a sign of effeminacy, degeneracy, and weakness. Who would write, who did any thing better to do?

–Lord Byron

I know no person so perfectly disagreeable and even dangerous as an author. 

–William IV

He never leaves off. . .and he always has two packages of manuscript in his desk, besides the one he’s working on, and the one that’s being published. 

–Rose Trollope

Every author really wants to have letters printed in the papers. Unable to make the grade, he drops down a rung of the latter and writes novels. 

–P. G.  Wodehouse

Anyone could write a novel given six weeks, pen, paper, and no telephone or wife. 

–Evelyn Waugh

No plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate. 

–Learned Hand

I became a writer in the same way that a woman becomes a prostitute. First I did it to please myself, then I did to please my friends, and finally I did it for money. 

–Ferenc Molnar

The art of writing, like the art of love, runs all the way from a kind of routine hard to distinguish from piling bricks to a kind of frenzy closely related to delirium tremens. 

–H. L. Mencken

There are three reasons for becoming a writer. The first is that you need the money; the second, that you have something to say that you think the world should know; and the third is that you can’t think what to do with the long winter evenings. 

–Quentin Crisp

If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing. 

–Kingsley Amis

Writing, I explained, was mainly an attempt to out-argue one’s past; to present events in such a light that battles lost in life were either won on paper or held to a draw. 

–Jules Feiffer

Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again. 

–André Gide

Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it. 

–Alfred North Whitehead

The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.

–Ernest Newman

It is not at all likely that anyone ever had a totally original idea. He may put together old ideas into a new combination, but the elements which made up the new combination were mostly acquired from other people. Without many borrowed ideas there would be no inventions, new movements or anything else that is classed as new.

–Dr. George Grier

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

–John Muir

Darwin could work only half an hour at a time; but in many diligent half-hours he laid anew the foundations of philosophy.

–H. Kellogg

One couldn’t carry on life comfortably without a little  blindness to the fact that everything has been said better than we can put it ourselves.

–George Eliot

Many contemporary authors drink more than they write.

–Gorki

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.

–Irvin S. Cobb

The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.

–E. B. White

A man makes his reputation not by what he writes, but by what others write about him.

–Unknown

It’s not a college degree that makes a writer. The great thing is to have a story to tell.

–Polly Adler

He liked those literary cooks

Who skim the cream of others’ books;

And ruin half an author’s graces

By plucking bon mots from their places.

–Hannah More

Any copy is a bad copy.

–Gertrude Stein

The primary function of a novel is to tell a story, and a story that makes sense to reasonable people.

–Ivy Compton-Burnett

I do all my writing in bed; everybody knows I do my best work there.

–Mae West

Learn as much by writing as by reading.

–Lord Acton

I sometimes doubt that a writer should refine or improve his workroom by so much as a dictionary; one thing leads to another and the first thing you know he has a stuffed chair and is fast asleep in it.

–E. B. White

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.

–Russel Lynes

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

‘If I knew, I’d go there.’

–Tom Stoppard

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

‘There’s a warehouse called Ideas Are Us.’

–Terry Pratchett

Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk.

–Unknown

Damn those who have made my remarks before me!

–Aelius Donatus

I do borrow from other writers, shamelessly! I can only say in my defense, like the woman brought before the judge on a charge of kleptomania, ‘I do steal; but, Your Honor, only from the very best stores.’

–Thornton Wilder

If a third of all the novelists and maybe two-thirds of all the poets now writing dropped dead suddenly the loss to literature would not be great.

–Charles Osborne

It would be no loss to the world if most of the writers now writing had been strangled at birth.

–Rebecca West

I never understand anything until I have written about it.

–Horace Walpole

An editor should have a pimp for a brother, so he’d have someone to look up to.

–Gene Fowler

Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.

–Rod Serling

Damn the subjunctive!—it brings all our writers to shame.

–Mark Twain

I would prefer a phrase that was easy and unaffected to a phrase that was grammatical.

–Somerset Maugham

The subjunctive mood is in its death throes, and the best thing to do is to put it out of its misery.

–Somerset Maugham

A grammarian is one who thinks it is more important to write correctly than to write well.

–Unknown

I like to be the midwife of confused and painful ideas which are struggling to reach the light of day.

–Bernard Berenson

To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.

–Picasso

Women make us poets, children make us philosophers.

–Malcolm de Chazal

Inspiration is a trick that poets have invented to give themselves importance.

–Jean Anouilh

I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is; I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it.

—William Faulkner

Half my lifetime I have earned my living by selling words, and I hope thoughts.

–Winston Churchill

Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.

–Gide

Literature is an odd occupation; the less you write, the better it must be.

–Jules Renard

There is nothing like literature: I lose a cow, I write about her death, and my writing pays me enough to buy another cow.

–Jules Renard

I can’t understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.

–Fred Allen

The novelist is dead in the man who has become aware of the triviality of human affairs.

–Somerset Maugham

A novelist must preserve a childlike belief in the importance of things which common sense considers of no great consequence.

–Somerset Maugham

The only sure way to make money with a pen is to raise hogs.

–Unknown

Every playwright should try acting, just as every judge should spend some weeks in jail to find out what he is handing out to others.

–E. M. Remarque

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.

–Samuel Johnson

The hand of the writer should never be concerned with the eye of the reader.

–Jules Renard

I can’t write five words but that I change seven.

–Dorothy Parker

In America, I had two secretaries: one for autographs, the other for locks of hair; within six months one had died of writer’s cramp, the other was completely bald.

–Oscar Wilde

Style is the mind skating circles round itself as it moves forward.

–Robert Frost

The greatest possible mint of style is to make the words absolutely disappear into the thought.

–Hawthorne

We are surprised and delighted when we come upon a natural style, for instead of an author we find a man.

–BlaisePascal

There is such an animal as a nonstylist, only they’re not writers—they’re typists.

–Truman Capote

Read carefully what the first critics don’t like about your work, then cultivate it: it’s the only thing that’s individual and worth keeping.

–Jean Cocteau

Style is to the book what a smile is to the look.

–Ivan Panin

Talent is a matter of quantity: talent doesn’t write one page, it writes three hundred.

–Jules Renard

Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again.

–Goethe

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.

–Richard Harding Davis

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.

–H. G. Wells

It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.

–T. S. Eliot

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

–William Faulkner

The original style is not the style which never borrows of any one, but that which no other person is capable of reproducing.

–François René de Chateaubriand

Art results not when there is nothing that can be added, but when there is nothing that can be taken away.

–James O. Collins

Next to the writer of real estate advertisements, the autobiographer is the most suspect of prose artists.

–Donal Henahan

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Every man of genius sees the world at a different angle from his fellows.

–Havelock Ellis

English authors write better than Americans—and Irish authors write better than anybody.

–Dorothy Parker

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 is better to be good than to be original.

–Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

A period is a stop sign. A semicolon is a rolling stop sign; a comma is merely an amber light.

–Andrew J. Offutt

The comma is…the most ingenious device ever invented to mimic the human voice rhythms, improve the writing of writers, or help readers to read, while often dividing the teaching of teachers into squabbling groups of comma here advocates, comma there nay-sayers, and some with a cool comme ci, comme ça attitude about the whole bloody business.

–Delbert Jones

When we are very young, we tend to regard the ability to use a colon much as a budding pianist regards the ability to play with crossed hands.

–Eric Partridge

The South has produced writers as the Dark Ages produced saints.

–Alfred Kazin

Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.

–Anthony Hope Hawkins

The difference between writing a story and simply relating past events is that a story, in order to be acceptable, must have shape and meaning. It is the old idea that art is the bringing of order out of chaos.

–Katherine Paterson

No form of art repeats or imitates successfully all that can be said by another; the writer conveys his experience of life along a channel of communication closed to painter, mathematician, musician, film-maker.

–Storm Jameson

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.

–Virginia Woolf

Some censuring Readers will scornfully say, why hath this Lady writ her own Life? since none cares to know whose daughter she was or whose wife she is, or how she was bred, or what fortunes she had, or how she lived, or what humor or disposition she was of? I answer that it is true, that ’tis to no purpose to the Readers, but it is to the Authoress, because I write it for my own sake, not theirs.

–Margaret Cavendish

My bed is my best friend….I type in it, telephone in it, think in it, and stare at the wall from it. Some morning, a long time from now, I hope I will be found peacefully dead in it, lying in a narrow but cozy space between old manuscripts, lost books, empty teacups, misplaced nightgowns, and unsharpened pencils.

–Jane O’Reilly

Nobody should be authorized to describe the dissolution of a man, still less to do so for money or sensationalism. In the name of human dignity, there should be a prohibition against baring the private lives of others.

–Mary Hemingway

I started writing with two talents; 1) An ease with words (which came from a lifelong habit of reading), 2) An ease with dialogue (which came from being born into a family of talkers). Everything else I acquired the hard way—I learned it.

–Betsy Byars

The ballpoint pen has been the biggest single factor in the decline of Western Civilization. It makes the written word cheap, fast, and totally without character.

–E. L. Konigsburg

Inside this pencil

couch words that have

never been written

never been spoken

never been thought

they’re hiding.

–W. S. Merwin

A trite word is an overused word which has lost its identity like an old coat in a second-hand shop. The familiar grows dull and we no longer see, hear, or taste it.

–Anaïs Nin

I write the kinds of books I would have liked to read when young.

–Judy Blume

I am a writer perhaps because I am not a talker.

–Gwendolyn Brooks

Writing is like anything—baseball, playing, piano playing, sewing, hammering nails. The more you work at it, the better you get. But it seems to take a longer time to get better at writing than hammering nails.

–Betsy Byars

It was a lot easier to write what I thought or felt than to say it out loud. I could write things I’d never say to someone’s face.

–Karen Cushman

Writers ‘get started’ the day they are born. The minds they bring into the world with them are the amazing machines their stories will come out of, and the more they feed into it, the richer those stories will be.

–Lois Duncan

A writer needs three things: experience, observation, and imagination.

–William Faulkner

The Indian needs no writing. Words that are true sink deep into his heart where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if the white man loses his paper, he is helpless.

–Four Guns

I am a believer in regular work, and I never wait for inspiration.

–Jack London

I don’t do any of the so-called fun things in life. Writing is what I do, for me that is where it is—where the vacation is, the fun is, the danger, the excitement—all of that is in my work.

–Toni Morrison

There ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I’d knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it, and ain’t agoing to no more.

–Mark Twain

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.

–Enrique Jardiel Poncela

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.

–John Erskine

Originality is simply a fresher pair of eyes.

–Woodrow Wilson

The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyrs.

–Muhammad

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.

–Leo Burnett

Easy writing makes hard reading.

–Ernest Hemingway

Writing to me is a voyage, an odyssey, a discovery.

–Gabriel Fielding

There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.

–Louis Brandeis

The intellectual life is about feelings. It’s a state of being active with your consciousness responding to your environment.

–Susan Sontag

Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist. You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.

–Hunter S. Thompson

Good writing should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting.

–Winston S. Churchill

Don’t think! Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things, you simply must do them.

–Ray Bradbury

All the changes in the world, for good of evil, were first brought about by words.

–Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Writing is learned by imitation. I learned to write mainly by reading writers who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do.

–William Zinsser

More than 90 percent of mid-career professionals recently cited the ‘need to write effectively’ as a skill ‘of great importance’ in their day-to-day work….The reward of disciplined writing is the most valuable job attribute of all: a mind equipped to think.

–Bob Kerrey

American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts the power of language and communication in their proper place in the classroom. Writing is how students connect the dots in their knowledge.

–Bob Kerrey

Writing is the litmus paper of thought…the very center of schooling.

–Ted Sizer

Writing aids in cognitive development to such an extent that the upper reaches of Bloom’s taxonomy could not be reached without the use of some form of writing.

–Bonnie Kuhrt and Pamela Farris

Anyone can put words on paper, but until one receives the approbation of publication, one is not an author.

–Dan L. Miller

There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.

— Josh Billings

I’m a writer. I write checks. Mostly fiction.

–Wendy Liebman

The pen is mightier than the sword and considerably easier to write with.

–Marty Feldman

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

–Unknown

To write a diary every day is like returning to one’s own vomit.

–Enoch Powell

Do you realize the illicit sensuous delight I get from picking my nose? I always have, ever since I was a child—there are so many subtle variations of sensation. A delicate, pointed-nailed fifth finger can catch under dry scabs and flakes of mucous in the nostril and draw them out to be looked at, crumbled between fingers, and flicked to the floor in minute crusts. Or a heavier, determined forefinger can reach up and smear down-and-out the soft, resilient, elastic greenish-yellow smallish blobs of mucous, roll them round and jelly-like between thumb and fore finger, and spread them on the under surface of a desk or chair where they will harden into organic crusts. How many desks and chairs have I thus secretively befouled since childhood? Or sometimes there will be blood mingled with the mucous: in dry brown scabs, or bright sudden wet red on the finger that scraped too rudely the nasal membranes….It is absorbing to look with new sudden eyes on the old worn habits: to see a sudden luxurious and pestilential ‘snot-green sea,’ and shiver with the shock of recognition.

–Sylvia Plath

Visualize, emotionalize, afterwards. Beginning writers work from the sense impressions, forget cold realistic organization. First get the cold objective plot scene set. Rigid. Then write the damn thing after lying on the couch and visualizing, whipping it to white heat, to life again, the life of the art, the form no longer formless without frame of reference.

–Sylvia Plath

I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. On, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.

–Sylvia Plath

If you can’t think outside yourself, you can’t write.

–Sylvia Plath

Wrote one good poem….Began another big one, more abstract, written from the bathtub.

–Sylvia Plath

If  I am not writing…my imagination stops, blocks up, chokes me, until all reading mocks me (others wrote it, I didn’t).

–Sylvia Plath

All joy for me…depends on the central need of my nature: to be articulate, to hammer out the great surges of experience jammed, dammed, crammed in me over the …years.

–Sylvia Plath

My life, I feel, will not be lived until there are books and stories which relive it perpetually in time.

–Sylvia Plath

Got a queer and most overpowering urge today to write, or typewrite, my whole novel on the pink , stiff, lovely-textured Smith memorandum pads of 100 sheets each: a fetish: somehow, seeing a hunk of that pink paper, different from all the endless reams of white bond, my task seems finite, special, rose-cast.

–Sylvia Plath

What if our work isn’t good enough? We get rejections. Isn’t this the world’s telling us we shouldn’t bother to be writers? How can we know if we work now hard and develop ourselves we will be more than mediocre? Isn’t this the world’s revenge on us for sticking our neck out? We can never know until we’ve worked, written. We have no guarantee we’ll get a Writer’s Degree. Weren’t the mothers and businessmen right after all? Shouldn’t we have avoided these disquieting questions and taken steady jobs and secured a good future for the kiddies?

Not unless we want to be bitter all our lives. Not unless we want to feel wistfully: What a writer I might have been, if only. If only I’d had the guts to try and work and shoulder the insecurity all that trial and work implied.

–Sylvia Plath

Writing is a religious act: it is an ordering, a reforming, a relearning and reloving of people and the world as they are and as they might be. A shaping which does not pass away like a day of typing or a day of teaching. The writing lasts: it goes about on its own in the world. People read it: react to it as to a person, a philosophy, a religion, a flower: They like it, or do not. It helps them, or it does not. It feels to intensify living: you give more, probe, ask, look, learn, and shape this: you get more: monsters, answers, color and form, knowledge. You do it for itself first. If it brings in money, how nice. You do not do it first for money. Money isn’t why you sit down at the typewriter. Not that you don’t want it. It is only too lovely when a profession pays for your bread and butter. With writing, it is maybe, maybe not. How to live with such insecurity? With what is worst, the occasional lack or loss of faith in the writing itself. How to live with these things? The worst thing, worse than all of them, would be to live with not writing. So how to live with the lesser devils and keep them lesser?

–Sylvia Plath

I felt if I didn’t write nobody would accept me as a human being. Writing, then, was a substitute for myself: if you don’t love me, love my writing & love me for my writing.

–Sylvia Plath

Writing is a way of ordering and reordering the chaos of experience.

–Sylvia Plath

Writing is used as a proof of my identity.

–Sylvia Plath

What I fear most, I think, is the death of the imagination…. If I sit still and don’t do anything, the world goes on beating like a slack drum, without meaning. We must be moving, working, making dreams to run toward; the poverty of life without dreams is too horrible to imagine.

— Sylvia Plath

I like nonsense—it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope… and that enables you to laugh at all of life’s realities.

–Dr. Seuss

But the greatest thing of all is to be a master of the metaphor. It is the only thing which cannot be taught by others; and it is also a sign of original genius, because a good metaphor implies the intuitive perception of similarity in dissimilar things.

–Aristotle

I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

–Ernest Hemingway

Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland, than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.

–Stephen Leacock

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it. What another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself—and thus make yourself indispensable.

–Andre Gide

Too many people think they are being creative when they are just being different.

–Unknown

A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.

–Frank Capra

In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; a grass blade’s no easier to make than an oak.

–James Russell Lowell

Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.

–Steve Martin

I’d rather be a success at something I love than a success at something I hate.

–George Burns

Imagination is being able to think of things that haven’t been on TV yet.

–Henry Beard

I only write when I’m inspired, so I make sure I’m inspired every day at 9 a.m.

–William Faulkner

The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t write.

–Sol Sacks

It isn’t what happens to people on a page—it’s what happens to a reader in his heart and mind.

–Gordon Lish

No one ever sold anybody anything by boring them to death.

–David Ogilvy

The whole thing is, you’ve got to make them care about somebody.

–Frank Capra

If you read your work out loud, it helps to know what’s bad.

–Garrison Keillor

Good dialogue illuminates what people are not saying.

–Robert Towne

If you want to give up, then perhaps you should give up. The real writer doesn’t consider that an option.

–Marianne Williamson

With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs.

–James Thurber

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.

–Christopher Isherwood

Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.

–Fran Lebowitz

Talent in cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

–Stephen King

When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’

–Stephen King

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.

–Mel Brooks

The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.

–Robert Benchley

With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists the small trumpet of your defiance.

—Norman Mailer

Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.

—Norman Mailer

What we call creative work, ought not to be called work at all, because it isn’t. I imagine that Thomas Edison never did a day’s work in his last fifty years.

—Stephen Leacock

The world is but canvas to our imagination.

–Henry David Thoreau

Lots of writers have thrown away a rotten manuscript or two, but Neil Simon has destroyed 20 to 25 completed screenplays. ‘If I don’t like them now, I’m not going to like them in 10 years,’ he says.

–Doug Elfman

Neil Simon writes longhand. He talks out loud when he writes. And he rewrites play dozens of times.

–Doug Elfman

I’m constantly rewriting. I would love to rewrite the sentence I just said.

—Neil Simon

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.

–E. B. White

Writing is hard work and bad for the health.

–E. B. White

Love your calling with passion. It is the meaning of life.

–Auguste Rodin

I would argue that a student equipped with strong skills in word processing will more rapidly develop and improve their writing fluency and ability to consume and interpret the writing of others. In other words, what we think of as a ‘digital’ literacy ends up really being a mechanism for enhancing students’ abilities in a ‘traditional’ literacy.

–William J. Kelly

Bookmaking is shooting craps…with the white boys…downtown on the stock exchange…is betting a dime you can win…a hundred… Making books is shooting craps…with God…is wandering into a casino where you don’t even know the language…let alone the rules of the game…And that’s proper…that’s as it should be…If you wanted to be safe…you would have walked into the Post Office…or taken a graduate degree in Educational Administration…If you want to share a vision…or tell the truth…you pick up…your pen…And take your chances…This is not…after all…tennis…where sets can be measured by points…or football…where games run on time… or baseball…where innings structure the play…It is life…open-ended…And once the play has begun…the book made…time…is the only judge.

–Nikki Giovanni

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

–Agnes de Mille

Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.

–Roy L. Smith

Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.

–A. A. Milne

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

–Linus Pauling

No great genius ever existed without some touch of madness.

–Seneca

Struggle always comes before success. For most artists, when they have arrived at what the public and critics term success…all the pain and struggle—all the strife and anxiety that preceded—is forgotten.

–Jascha Heifetz

Writing is not simply a way for students to demonstrate what they know. It is a way to help them understand what they know. At its best, writing is learning.

–National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges 2003

Writing today is not a frill for the few, but an essential skill for the many.

–National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges 2003

Imagination is the highest kite we fly.

–Lauren Bacall

Talent is like a faucet, while it is open, one must write.

—Jean Anouilh

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

—Douglas Adams

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

–Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am an artist—I am here to live out loud.

–Emile Zola

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too.

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe ! out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd

waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the

hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde

Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the

ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is

taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be

in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and

you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is

bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by

istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh

and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt !

–Unknown

If you’re going to write fiction, you’d better never, ever let your mind go beyond about 16 years old.

–Bernard Malamud

Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzgerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. Every writer, by the way he uses the language, reveals something of his spirit, his habits, his capacities, his bias.

–William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White

All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.

–William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White

The write is a rewriter, or he is no proper writer at all….The rewriter is not the man who revises for clarity and force in a message once chosen complete, seeking to clothe it decently. When that is undertaken and well executed, we learn with sorrow that he has not only laid the garment of his thought out handsomely but has laid out the body too….The rewriter is as one who packs his thought for a long journey. Having packed the garment, he does not merely straighten out the folds and close the paragraph. Instead, he unpacks completely and repacks again. And again; and again and again. Each time he tucks just one more thought into this or that pocket. When he quits, there are more of them than of words. So many labors of love on a single sentence.

–Martin Joos

From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.

—Isaac Asimov

I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.

—Charles Kuralt

I could tell you which writer’s rhythms I am imitating. It’s not exactly plagiarism, it’s falling in love with good language and trying to imitate it.

—Charles Kuralt

Respect the masterpiece. It is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.

—Frank Lloyd Wright

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’

—Erma Bombeck

Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

–William Safire

I have never seen a piece of writing, political or nonpolitical, that doesn’t have a slant. It slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.

–E. B. White

The most important thing, at least in my humble opinion, is to use characters and thoughts that are lifelike. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. All of my stories are actual experiences that I have come across during my travels. My characters are facsimiles of actual people I’ve known….Many people ask me how I manage to get that final little twist in my stories. I always tell them that the unusual is the ordinary rather than the unexpected.

–O. Henry

The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

—Oscar Wilde

I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

–Carson McCullers

Nothing is worth writing if not of the first intensity.

–Ezra Pound

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.

–Virginia Woolf

Listening to the music can take me back emotionally. It really helped me to feel what I was writing and really get the whole story onto the page.

–Anne Soffee

Music makes me feel less isolated from the more physically active world outside my door. Music helps focus my thoughts and aids in getting into a good writing groove.

-Mark Harris

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.

–Robert Frost

The writer of stories must please or he is nothing.

–Anthony Trollope

The surest aid to the writing of a book was a piece of cobbler’s wax on my chair. I certainly believe in the cobbler’s wax much more than the inspiration.

–Anthony Trollope

The language used should be as…efficient a conductor of the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader as is the electric spark which passes from one battery to another.

–Anthony Trollope

If I can teach politicians that they can do their business better by truth than by falsehood, then I do a great service; but it is done to a limited number of persons. But if I can make young men and women believe that truth in love will make them happy, then, if my writings be popular, I shall have a very large class of pupils.

–Anthony Trollope

I write (and read) to vicariously live lots of lives. Many things make it exciting, not the least of which is finding out what happens. I cannot outline, and my first draft feels like tossing a lifeline over the Grand Canyon, then hanging on for dear life. Plus, there’s the joy  of trying to make something inside my head wind up inside someone else’s head. When it works—that’s true magic!

—Gillian Roberts

I write in a room filled with books, tchotchkes and family snapshots. Over the desk, a poster of Georgia O’Keeffe at 90, wrinkled and fierce, shames me out of my sloth. A chair has a heating pad on it as incentive for the cat to keep me company. For first drafts, four to five hours and a minimum of five pages and then my brain is fried. During revision, I work longer hours.

My ideal routine is: exercise, make tea, write five pages, have lunch, take care of e-mail, etc., then curl up with (somebody else’s) good book. Five days in a row. Real life almost never works out that way, but I keep hoping anyway.

–Gillian Roberts

Study the writers’ magazines and pound the hell out of the typewriter.

–Erle Stanley

Gardner

The new writer should observe, listen, look…and then write. Nothing begets better writing than the simple process of writing.

–Rod Serling

The beginning writer needs talent, application and aspirin. If he wants to write just to make money, he is not a writer.

–James Thurber

Beware of advice—even this.

–Carl Sandburg

Writers are made, for anybody who isn’t illiterate can write; but geniuses of the writing art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born.

–Jack Kerouac

Poetry is the establishment of a metaphorical link between white butterfly wings and the scraps of torn-up love letters.

–Carl Sandburg

A man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others.

–Jean-Paul Sartre

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

–Albert Einstein

All creative lives are miserable things. Your creative powers are declining, the things that you do best are harder to do. What greater misery can there be ?

–Jack Dunphy

All good books have one thing in common—they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will feel that all that happened, happened to you and that it belongs to you forever: the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, the wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, then you’re a writer.

–Ernest Hemingway

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.

–George Lois

I wrote a few children’s books … not on purpose.

–Steven Wright

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

–Virginia Woolf

An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.

–Bill Bernbach

Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.

–Howard Nemerov

Originality is the art of concealing your source.

–Franklin P. Jones

With me it is a matter of almost instinctive belief that when any … man speaks, he lies-and most especially when he writes.

–Stendhal

It’s noble to want to confess, but if the results are just damage and pain, that’s not noble. It’s selfish.

–Carol Green

Whoever does not love his work cannot hope that it will please others.

–Unknown

A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.

–John le Carre

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

–Arthur

Schopenhauer

Becoming a great novelist means to tell as much of the truth as one can bear, and then a little more.

–James Baldwin

Fiction writing and the reading of it, and book buying, have always been the activities of a tiny minority of people, even in the most-literate societies. Herman Melville died in utter obscurity. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books were either out of print or not selling when he died. Paul Bowles was able to live and write (and smoke dope) only because he wrote for Holiday, the great old travel magazine.

–Paul Theroux

Japan, Germany, and India seem to me to have serious writers, readers, and book buyers, but the Netherlands has struck me as the most robust literary culture in the world.

–Paul Theroux

In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction—and perhaps the reading of it—must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled. I think there is only one way to write fiction—alone in a room, without interruption or any distraction. Have I just described the average younger person’s room? I don’t think so. But the average younger person is multitasking. The rare, unusual, solitary, passionate younger person is writing a poem or a story.

–Paul Theroux

Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? ‘She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,’ etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.

–Paul Theroux

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.

–Samuel Johnson

Writers, and particularly female writers, have to fight for the conditions they need to work.

–Doris Lessing

Jonathan Franzen claims such affectations as writing in an ear-muff-and-blindfold-equipped sensory-deprivation chamber.

–Jennie Yabroff

Thoughts in music and language often depend on the quality of the pen and paper.

–A Friend of Nietzsche

Which brings us to the white page. Mallarmé spoke of the uncertainty with which we face a clean sheet of paper and try, in vain, to record our thoughts on it with some precision. As long as we were feeding paper into a typewriter, this anxiety was still present to our minds, and was revealed in the pointillism of Wite-Out, or even in the dapple of letters that were darker, pressed in confidence, as opposed to the lighter ones, pressed more hesitantly. A page produced on a manual typewriter was like a record of the torture of thought. With the P.C., the situation is altogether different. The screen, a kind of indeterminate space, does not seem violable in the same way as the page.  And, because what we write on it is so effortlessly and undetectably erasable, the final text buries the evidence of our struggle, asserting that what we said was what we thought all along. Wershler-Henry suggests that the P.C.—with some help from Derrida and Baudrillard—ushered us into a world in which the difference between true and false is no longer cause for doubt or grief; falsity is taken for granted. I don’t know if he was thinking about the spurious perfection of the computer-generated page, but it would be a useful example.

–Joan Acocella

Those stay-at-home mothers—like AARP members, they’ve got time to type.

–Linda Hirshman

Don’t we all know them, those defiant, dreadlocked young lovelies with their useless degrees in studio art, experimental fiction, modern dance, and gender studies, lactose-intolerant and unemployable?

–Linda Hirshman

Edmond Rostand was forced to write Cyrano de Bergerac in his bathtub, because it was the only place where his endless callers would leave him in peace.

–Michael Larsen

All my major works have been written in prison…I would recommend prison not only to aspiring writers, but aspiring politicians, too.

–Jawaharal Nehru

The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book.

–Mickey Spillane

I write the first draft to get the meaning, the second draft to put in everything I left out, the third draft to take out what doesn’t belong, and the fourth draft to make it sound like I just thought of it.

–Margery Allingham

A preface, being the entrance of a book, should invite by its beauty.

–Disraeli

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.

–Oscar Wilde

Many men can write better in a mask than for themselves.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

First drafts are usually stupid. If you shoot off your mouth with your first draft—that is, if you say what you think before you’ve had a chance to think—your stupidity shines forth for all to hear. But, if you write your first draft—of a letter, a memo, a description of some transcendental experience that comes to you while jogging—then you fall on your face in absolute privacy. You get the chance to change it all around. It is harder to put your foot in your mouth when you have your pen in your hand.

–William Safire

Composition is a discipline; it forces us to think. If you want to ‘get in touch with your feelings,’ fine—talk to yourself, we all do. But, if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order; give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down and then cut out the confusing parts.

–William Safire

One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible.

–Winston Churchill

Americans make an inordinate fuss about correct grammar, while Englishmen believe that correct English is what good writers write.

–Bertrand Russell

A writer asked a critic:

‘Did you read my last book?’

The critic replied:

‘I certainly hope so.’

–Michael Larsen

Since I’ve started freelancing full-time, I’ve made quite a few sales…my house, my car, my furniture.

–Michael Larsen

The depth of your writing is a function of how absorbent you are. Writers must first inhale the world, and then exhale it in writing. Art, it has been said, is the discharge of experience, and the more deeply informed you are by your receptivity, by your life’s experiences, the richer your writing. Imagine your body as a prism that the light of experience flows through and emerges as art. The more of the world you ‘inspire’ (literally ‘breathe in’), the more you are capable of inspiring the world.

–Gregg Levoy

Writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too.

–E. B. White

A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard—by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off. He will imitate his elders as every good writer has since the world began—even an original, even a Rimbaud—but the hunger and the pants pocket will be his own. Some of his apples will make him sick, but it will be his sickness. Others will shape his hand for life—because he picked them.

–Archibald Macleish

My writing is malodorous slop rife with mistake and misstep, a stew that I desperately try to stir into decent shape before the clock runs out.

–Neil Steinberg

Sometimes creativity is a compulsion, not an ambition.

–Ed Norton

To improve the Youth in Composition, they may now, besides continuing to write Letters, begin to write little Essays in Prose, and sometimes in verse, not to make them Poets, but for this Reason, that nothing acquaints a Lad so speedily with Variety of Expression, as the Necessity of finding such Words and Phrases as will suit with the Measure, Sound, and Rhime of Verse, and at the same time well express the Sentiment.

–Benjamin Franklin

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.

–Mel Brooks

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

–Joan Didion

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.

–Steven Wright

True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.

–Edith Wharton

It is impossible to read for pleasure from something to which you are both father and mother, born in such travail that the writer despises the thing that enslaved him.

–Jim Bishop

I think that being able to make people laugh and write a book that’s funny makes the information go down a lot easier and it makes it a lot more fun to read, easier to understand, and often stronger. –Al Franken

Most novels take me five months to write. If I’m four months in and only two thirds of the way through, there’s a problem. The writing becomes more challenging. You begin to dread the process of going to work. The words come very hard, if at all. You work for hours, and you eke out only a few pages. Finally, in the last days, you’re not writing anything at all. You’re sitting at the keyboard for six hours—and nothing! You’re writing, but deleting everything you write.

–Nicholas Sparks

First drafts are like a giant block of ice. Waiting a drip-at-at-time for enough to melt to fill a glass. Some days are warmer than others.

–On Twitter @romancandle band

Put aside what you’ve been taught and ignore all filters. Only the crazy ideas are worth chasing.

–On Twitter @RACINE

Tea & biscuits. List. Tea. Tidy up. Stare at list. Tea. Write. Supper. Cry. Read someone else. Moan. Tea. Write. Sleep deep.

–On Twitter @shonamain

Desire something that doesn’t exist. Work until it does. Refine. Refine. Refine. Repeat.

–On Twitter @CatChew

Dreams often drive my first drafts—ideas come through them—then lack of sleep drives the rest.

–On Twitter @NettieHartsock

1. Be in the grip of a devastating crush 

2. 10pm run 

3. Pot of coffee 

4. Song on repeat 

5.  Work until dawn.

–On Twitter @amykate75

The dirty little secret of the media industry is that content aggregators, not content creators, have long been the overwhelming source of value creation.

–Jonathan A. Knee

The experience of writing a failed novel is painful! It’s a terrible period of time that I never wish to revisit. But these novels taught me a few things. I have to know how the characters meet. I have to know what’s driving the story. I have to understand the conflict and how the story will end. If I don’t know those four things, I don’t start a novel anymore.

–Nicholas Sparks

Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.

–Larry Page

(When production begins on a screenplay) all your schemes about making a masterpiece are reduced to ‘I’ll prostitute myself any way I have to, to survive this catastrophe.’

–Woody Allen

When a writer loves her MacBook very, very much, she sometimes applies her fingers to the keys and creates pretend people. And after a lengthy development process—plus adequate financial backing—these people sometimes come to life!

–Diablo Cody

Just as humans are created from elaborate matrices of ancestral traits, fictional characters, too, resemble the people who create them. Even stock romantic-comedy heroines (who are written and rewritten in Hollywood boardrooms for maximum ‘likability’) carry traces of DNA from the hands that craft them. Even at our most inventive, we are what we write.

–Diablo Cody

I don’t like neat. If you get too neat, you spend the whole time sharpening pencils and you don’t write.

–Garry Marshall

Fear isn’t what drives creative people. It’s more trust, and hope, and the challenge of doing something you haven’t done before. It’s not fear so much as it’s confidence.

–Steven Spielberg

With the second pair of children I had, I made plenty of time for them. When I’m writing in my music room and they come barging into the room the way kids do, I put the pencil down and ask them what they’d like to do. I walk them to school. We make music together, read together, go to the park. I understand now how quickly children grow up, and I’ve written so much music in my life, it doesn’t matter. What I know now is the time that we have to be with the people closest to us is never enough.

–Philip Glass

On the one hand, writing can be solitary work. But the other part requires engagement with other artists. I write lines for actors to speak, or scenes that will inspire designers or makeup artists.

–John Logan

Creativity is the residue of wasted time.

—Albert Einstein

Money is as important as love in generating great art.

–Damien Hirst

I had just a lot of projects that didn’t go forward. And if I find any resistance to going ahead on a project, I am very happy to just work on another script.

—Whit Stillman

Fiction for me is a conversation for me between me and something that May Not be Named—God, the Cosmos, the Unified Field, my own psychoanalytic cathexes, Roqoq’oqu, whomever. I do not feel even the hint of an obligation to an entity called READER—do not regard it as his favor, rather as his choice, that duly warned he is expended capital/time/retinal energy on what I’ve done.

–David Foster Wallace

When you’re an artist you have to have that selfishness to be alone and create great things to your satisfaction.

–Robert DeNiro

I needed a plan. I figured out that writing time was when Alex was asleep. So the minute I put him down for a nap or he fell asleep in the baby-swing, I went to my desk and started working on something—footnotes, reading, outlining, writing…I learned to do everything else with a baby on my hip.

–Elizabeth Warren

Do not focus on the past. Be future focused. If you’ve done something great or terrible in the past, forget it and go on and create the next thing.

–Steve Jobs

The best grand theories tend to be written no earlier than middle age, when the writer has life experience and mistakes behind him to draw upon.

–Robert D. Kaplan

Each time she (Joan Didion) finished a novel she had done so back in her old bedroom at her parents’ house—the one she had painted carnation pink during her first year at college, and that had green vines growing up over all the windows, so that the light was filtered.

–Caitlin Flanagan

(Philip Roth) seems to be in the grip of an artistic dedication that…involves a fear of all connections and activities that threaten to separate even briefly the writer from his desk.

–Joseph O’Neill

To record, one must be unwary

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

My writing is done in railroad yards while waiting for a freight, in the fields while waiting for a truck, and at noon after lunch. Towns are too distracting.

–Eric Hoffer

A multitude of words is probably the most formidable means of blurring and obscuring thought. There is no thought, however momentous, that cannot be expressed lucidly in 200 words.

–Eric Hoffer

If anybody asks me what I have accomplished, I will say all I have accomplished is that I have written a few good sentences.

–Eric Hoffer

The sense of worth derived from creative work depends upon ‘recognition’ by others, which is never automatic. As a result, the path of self-realization, even when it is the only open one, is taken with reluctance. Men of talent have to be goaded to engage in creative work. The groans and laments of even the most gifted and prolific echo through the ages.

–Eric Hoffer

One is not quite certain that creativeness in the arts, literature, and science functions best in an environment of absolute freedom. Chances are that a relatively mild tyranny stimulates creativeness.

–Eric Hoffer

Good writing, like gold, combines lustrous lucidity with high density. What this means is good writing is packed with hints.

–Eric Hoffer

How rare it is to come across a piece of writing that is unambiguous, unqualified, and also unblurred by understatements or subtleties, and yet at the same time urbane and tolerant. It is a vice of the scientific method when applied to human affairs that it fosters hemming and hawing and a scrupulousness that easily degenerates into obscurity and meaninglessness.

–Eric Hoffer

A good sentence is a key. It unlocks the mind of the reader.

–Eric Hoffer

As a full-time longshoreman I am necessarily more a scribbler than a writer. But I am also so by inclination. The writing I can enjoy is the sketching of an idea in a few dozen words — two hundred at most. Elaboration and expansion are for me hard going. An article of several thousand words becomes inevitably a mosaic of ideas — a series of ideas stuck together.

–Eric Hoffer

In all my life I never competed for fortune, for a woman, or for fame. I learned to write in total isolation. My first work was also my best, and the first thing published. I never belonged to a circle or clique. I did not know I was writing a book until it was written. When my first book was published there was no one near me, an acquaintance let alone a friend, to congratulate me. I have never savored triumph, never won a race.

–Eric Hoffer

Talent in cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

–Stephen King

People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.

–Stephen King

And as a writer, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Get under your skin, and make you react.

—Stephen King

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.

—Stephen King

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

—Stephen King

Wherever you write is supposed to be a little bit of a refuge, a place where you can get away from the world. The more closed in you are, the more you’re forced back on your own imagination.

—Stephen King

Like anything else that happens on its own, the act of writing is beyond currency. Money is great stuff to have, but when it comes to the act of creation, the best thing is not to think of money too much. It constipates the whole process.

–Stephen King

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

–Stephen King

On a wall calendar mark an X every day you get some writing done, gradually creating a chain of X’s. Your only job…is to not break the chain.

–Jerry Seinfeld

In every field of creative activity, there are people famous for their goodness: they are rarely at the top of the tree, which is a harsh environment.

–Clive James

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

–Stephen King

You must never write history until you can hear the people speak.

–Arthur Hibbert

A valuable guiding principle for fiction: If you didn’t have a sense of how people spoke, you didn’t know them well enough, and so you couldn’t, and you shouldn’t‚ tell their story. The way people spoke, in short, clipped phrases, or long, flowing rambles, revealed so much about them: their place of origin, their social class, their temperament, whether calm or angry, warmhearted or cold-blooded, foulmouthed or clean-spoken, polite or rude; and beneath their temperament, their true nature, intellectual or earthy, plain spoken or devious, and, yes, good or bad.

–Salman Rushdie

Only those who are capable of silliness can be called truly intelligent.

–Christopher Isherwood

The Indian writer is luckier than his Western counterpart, for he lives simultaneously in the 12th and 21st centuries, and in every century in between.

—U. R. Ananthamurthy

Writers should always write to illuminate, not to obfuscate.

–Stephanie Zacharek

To achieve literary immortality one must make the thing frankly a fairy story and ignore real life altogether.

—P. G. Wodehouse

We are all failures—at least the best of us.

—J. M. Barrie

Writing seems like tender labor…being created from a diet of easy grace, fertilized frequently with tea, long walks, dinners on the porch, and Chekhov readings. Why would anyone have to retire from writing, as if it’s a job with regular hours?

–James Thompson

Why should a writer retire? It’s not like a normal job.

–Jimmy So

John Updike used to rent a one-room office above a restaurant, where he would report to write six days a week. John Cheever famously put on his only suit and rode the elevator with the 9-to-5 crowd, only he would proceed down to the basement to write in a storage room. Robert Caro still puts on a jacket and tie every day and repairs to his 22nd-floor Manhattan office. Authors who corral their duties into daily routines help remind us of the industry of writing. A muse does not pour words into someone’s skull.

–Jimmy So

When you decide to be a writer, you don’t have the faintest idea of what the work is like. But working at it nearly every day for 50 years…turns out to be an extremely taxing job and hardly the pleasantest of human activities. It’s just torture, awful.

–Philip Roth

Style, that’s what people remember.

–Terry Pratchett

Joe Cumming, the Atlanta bureau chief, was a wordsmith, and I greatly admired him. He told me years later of the writer’s block he suffered trying to ‘write to space’ an obit on the legendary columnist Ralph McGill. As the scrunched-up pieces of discarded copy mounted around Joe’s feet, he remembered looking up at the rafters and thinking he could just hang himself and end it all, but then the first responders would arrive and think, ‘The poor guy couldn’t even write a lead.’ That made him laugh and freed him to write, a valuable lesson about the creative process.

–Eleanor Clift

At one point I just read a dictionary to make sure I wasn’t missing certain concepts or words.

–Anna Holmes

I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t want people to ask me questions about it. What are you going to write? Where are you going to publish? Who’s going to read it? How are you going to make a living? Those tough questions that you don’t have the answer to.

–Paul Theroux

My nephew Justin is an actor, and he didn’t get a lot of encouragement. Everyone needs encouragement. I think you need someone to say, at some stage, particularly someone not in your family, ‘I read you’ or ‘I saw you on stage’—whatever it is. ‘Good going. You’ve got it.’

–Paul Theroux

When I’m traveling, I feel small. You see how big the world is, how small you are, how you don’t really matter,  how you can’t effect much change, you can’t bring something back. When I finish a book or I’m between things, I’m sitting around thinking, I feel superfluous. If I don’t have something that I’m writing, something to think about, something to direct my attention, then, yeah, I feel temporary and superfluous.

–Paul Theroux

Handwriting embodies who a writer is; it breathes life into paper. Nothing but a voice better captures a person’s individuality.

–Lynn Nicholas

My theory about creativity is that the more money one has, the more creative one can be.

—Robert Mapplethorpe

I found some time ago that I have to be careful, while working on a novel, what I read.

—John Sladek

A word to the wise is not sufficient if it doesn’t make sense. –James Thurber

Dear Mom and Dad:

Thanks for the happy childhood. You’ve destroyed any chance I had of becoming a writer.

–Delia Ephron

If you are literate today, it does not mean you can write, not even close to it in many cases. But if you were literate in 1863, even if you could not spell, you often could write descriptively and meaningfully. In the century and a half since, we have evolved from word to image creatures, devaluing the power of the written word and turning ourselves into a species of short gazers, focused on the emotions of the moment rather than the contemplative thoughts about consequences and meaning of our actions. Many everyday writers in the mid-19th century were far more contemplative, far more likely to contextualize the longterm meaning of their actions. They meticulously observed and carefully described because, although photography was the hot new medium during the Civil War, words remained the dominant way of communicating thought, memory, aspiration, hope.

–Chuck Raasch

Imagery is the primary medium of our time, a potentially powerful host for good change and authentic understanding. But in its shadow, we have gotten lazy in our appropriation of the correct words to assuage or understand or to seek the common humanity that is in all of us. Today, throwing barbs and brickbats into the Great Din of the Internet has become as second nature as breathing, and one can do it so ubiquitously that words have become devoid of any meaningful consequence. The Great Din requires no forethought, no real calculation of purpose or result, no contemplative brake, no need to seek angles or views beyond those that reaffirm or reassure what we think right now. The best photographers still work patiently and incessantly for the right angles, the right lighting, the right moments to tell the story most truthfully and honestly. Would that more writers do likewise.

–Chuck Raasch

Don’t write for money.

–William T. Vollmann

I write about five thousand words a day, when working on a book, about three thousand a day if I’m writing a short story. I take long periods off between projects, when I read a lot, garden, and think about the next book or stories.

–Eric Brown

All glory comes from daring to begin.

–Eugene F. Ware

I always stop at a point where I know precisely what’s going to happen next. So I don’t have to crank up every day.

–Ernest Hemingway

Words are undervalued as a means of expression. Pictures tend to trivialize experience.

–Arthur Miller

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

–Marianne Moore

Authors are actors, books are theaters.

–Wallace Stevens

The writers of books do not truly die; their characters…come back to life over and over again.

–Anna Quindlen

My story ‘The Sea and Its Shore’ came back from The Criterion with two rejection slips, which seems unnecessarily cruel.

–Elizabeth Bishop

Writing is a way…of making something perfect and beautiful…in a world that can be at times chaotic, wretched, ugly and upsetting.

–Patricia Highsmith

In my first draft, I never censor myself. I let everything in my head and heart spill out–raw–onto the page. I let it be a mess. I don’t worry about grammar or spelling. I just let the ideas flow until I run out of words. Then, in the second draft, I clean up spelling and grammar. I add whatever I forgot to include in the first draft and take out whatever isn’t working. In the third draft, I polish sentences and paragraphs for style. I always need a minimum of three drafts for a story or nonfiction work to approach finished form….My ratio of ‘throw away’ to ‘keep’ can go as high as 20 to 1.

–Charles Johnson

Writing’s like running, playing the piano, anything: You will only get better if you do it consistently. Don’t write in a vacuum, because if nobody ever sees it, you’re not going to know if it works. I still don’t know if a book works until somebody else reads it. Find a group of people, or a class, to give you structure and force you to take it seriously.

–Tracy Chevalier

I do not revise as I write. I just go and go and go until I finish the draft. If I feel there’s something I need to take care of, I make a note on a pad and go back and fix it when I’m done.

–Stuart M. Kaminsky

Write about characters you’re interested in and let them come to life. If you can’t, you’re not getting it. If you can’t write one page a day, meaning 365 pages a year, which is a reasonable-length novel, then you shouldn’t be doing this.

–Stuart M. Kaminsky

Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea.

–John Updike

Writing is more than anything a compulsion, like some people wash their hands 30 times a day for fear of awful consequences if they do not.

–Julie Burchill

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay.

–Flannery O’Connor

I feel that in revision, the writing really begins. Rewriting is something I enjoy–the fact there is something already on the page to work with grants me a kind of confidence. If something already exists, I feel it can’t help but improve. I rewrite constantly and feel that first drafts of scenes or discursive prose only very rarely appear close to what I’m looking for. If I’m trying to get a scene down, I don’t edit at all and just try to type as fast as I can, without punctuation or space breaks. On a good day, when I reopen the file, I have no recollection of what I wrote, and I’m excited by what is there. It feels like I’ve been left a present.

–Sheridan Hay

The secret to writing is knowing your own mind and the way it works. As far as advice goes: Get it down, as much and as quickly as you can, and fix it up later. Write every day. When you can’t write every day, read as much as you can and take notes of the things that work in the novels of others.

–Sheridan Hay

I thrive on revision, yet another part of the journey of discovery. By the time I finish a book, I’ve gone over every word, phrase and sentence hundreds of times. By page 300, I practically know the pages by heart. This is especially helpful when I discover, as I always do, that I need to rearrange a scene or give my main character’s early words to her antagonist later in the book. What I’m looking for–listening for–is harmony, echoing and unity. I want my language to evolve, my images to resonate, my characters to progress, my action to resolve.

–Kim Barnes

I don’t think style is consciously arrived at, any more than one arrives at the color of one’s eyes. After all, your style is you.

–Truman Capote

Journalism allows its readers to witness history; fiction gives its readers the opportunity to live it.

–John Hersey

It’s easy to stir the mind, but it doesn’t work if you don’t stir the heart.

–Harlan Coben

It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, ‘How good or how bad am I?’

–Erma Bombeck

Writers don’t write from experience….Writers write from empathy.

–Nikki Giovanni

There’s a writer I work with who hates to revise because he thinks revision ‘isn’t creative.’ I keep telling him he’s wrong. Revision is where a story comes alive. You can delete one phrase and change an entire world.

–Mark Wisniewski

Be tough on your drafts, but don’t ever give up. Let your early drafts sit for as many a six months before you revise, and then be brutal to your drafts before you let editors and fellow writers criticize them, but don’t ever, ever give up.

–Mark Wisniewski

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.

–Virginia Woolf

If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.

–Peter Handke

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

Writing novels is something you have to believe in to keep going. It’s a fairly thankless job when no one is paying you to do it.

—J. K. Rowling

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

–Peter de Vries

I know how this is going to sound, but I don’t revise. I am really a one-draft writer. Any revision is mostly just cleaning up the language, prepositions and such, since English is not my first language. The thing is, I know very clearly what I want to say in the first draft. I feel that too much revision, at least in my case, blunts the force and vision of the way a character will come to me. I feel vey strongly that I must retain that initial spark of energy about my characters.

–Yiyun Li

I don’t want to sit around and have my language just be beautiful….When I rework things I try to get it as simple as I can.

–Jhumpa Lahiri

A work of art that one has to explain fails…its mission.

–Henry James

A professional writer is a professional reviser.

–John Long

The original writer is not he who refrains from imitating others, but he who can be imitated by none.

–Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand

Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth.

–Edna Ferber

The typewriter separated me from a deeper intimacy with poetry, and my hand brought me closer to that intimacy again.

–Pablo Neruda

A humorist entertains his readers. A satirist makes them think.

–Richard Amour

When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate, and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.

–John Steinbeck

Writers should be read–but neither seen nor heard.

–Daphne du Maurier

I think it is very possible that the novel, like poetry before it, could die. Poetry is already living on a very high, snow-covered peak. But nobody goes to visit. And I think the same thing is beginning to happen to the novel. I say, God bless John Grisham and all the other extremely popular writers. At least they are writing things that entertain. Every writer should entertain.

–Tom Wolfe

Everything must have a distinct purpose so that if anything were to be deleted, it would be missed.

–Barbara Delinsky

Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.

–Tom Clancy

An outline is crucial. It saves so much time. When you write suspense, you have to know where you’re going because you have to drop little hints along the way. With the outline, I always know where the story is going. So before I ever write, I prepare an outline of 40 or 50 pages.

–John Grisham

I write for me. For the audience of me. If other people come along for the ride then it’s great.

–Edward Albee

People are willing to take these extraordinary chances to become writers, musicians or painters, and because of them, we have a culture. If this ever stops, our culture will die, because most of our culture, in fact, has been created by people that got paid nothing for it–people like Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent van Gogh or Mozart.

–Kurt Vonnegut

When I leave the novel I’m working on for the day, I never complete the last sentence–I quit mid-sentence, and it seems to kick-start me the next time I get back to the chapter.

–Judy Kimball

Don’t let technology, which is supposed to help us, hold you back. All you need to start with is a pen or pencil and paper. ‘The simpler, the better’ usually works for me. When friends know you’re a writer, they sometimes give you exquisite leather-bound journals in which to record your thoughts. For me they are so beautiful and intimidating, I can’t write in them. I line them up on the shelf and admire them from afar. For actual writing, I prefer a spiral notebook–preferably the steno kind with the flip-top back and pale green paper that’s easy on the eyes.

–Valerie O. Patterson

Stop mythologizing the life of a writer. Don’t wait for the muse to whisper in your ear. Don’t cultivate an affected personality. Put your butt in a chair and write. A writer is no different than a plumber, a landscaper or a dental hygienist. We are doing what we are called to do and what we are suited for. You don’t need to escape to a cabin and write in a parchment diary with a special pen. Sit at a Starbucks or at home or in the middle of traffic and just write.

–Jonathan Maberry

Avoid the ‘what ifs’ and get a daily discipline going. I’ve always written starting at about 3 in the morning. I can’t produce a coherent sentence after 2 in the afternoon. Know your limits and edit, edit, edit. Then edit again.

–Andrea Kitay

I prefer to write in the morning. Right now I type on antique typewriters. They are a preference, but not a requirement. I don’t want to ever feel like any one thing is my magic feather that can be taken away. The thing that helps me most with my morning writing is if I prepare my writing space before I go to bed. If I get the desk cleaned, the pencils sharpened, the coffeemaker loaded–if I can do a straight line from my bed to my writing desk in the morning–it greatly increases the chances that I have of productive writing.

–Tayari Jones

I know a group of young adult writers who rent a hotel room and sit around a table, writing together, but separately, all day long. It’s the same principle as group exercise classes: You don’t want to be the first to quit.

–Donna Gephart

I sometimes go to a library to write because there are other people there, but it’s still quiet. Same with coffee shops, where the noise level may be too frenetic for some and comforting to others. If the ambiance and not the actual people is what you are looking for, stream the sounds of a coffee shop.

–Donna Gephart

I’m a feedback junkie. I usually give a draft to several friends, including a novelist who never hesitates to scrawl ‘BORING’! in the margins. The struggle then is how to weigh their reactions while remaining true to my writing self.

–Nancy K. Miller

At some point in the middle of a book, you reach a seriously low point where anything else looks more interesting. Heck, even laundry and toilet cleaning seem appealing. But your job is to finish the one you’re working on, however much you want to do something else.

–Donna Andrews

You can’t fix what you haven’t written. If you keep revising and deleting, you’ll never get to the end of the story. It’s better to go full steam ahead. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. As long as your fingers can move over the keyboard, eventually it’ll segue into something.

–Mary Kay Andrews

Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.

–Tom Clancy

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