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Quotations about Writing

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury
So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it.
~Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
~Anaïs Nin
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
~E.L. Doctorow
A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.
~Charles Peguy
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
~Sylvia Plath
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.
~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977
I try to leave out the parts that people skip.
~Elmore Leonard
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
~Toni Morrison
What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.
~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931
The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.
~Norbet Platt
It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.
~Vita Sackville-West
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
~Sharon O'Brien
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
~Mark Twain
I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.
~James Michener
The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.
~Mark Twain
The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.
~Isaac Bashevis Singer
Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction.
~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
~William Wordsworth
The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
~Vladimir Nabakov
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
~Anton Chekhov
Easy reading is damn hard writing.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies.
~Terri Guillemets
Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.
~Orson Scott Card
A metaphor is like a simile.
~Author Unknown
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888 (Thanks, Andrew & Barbara), variation of Josh Billings' "Don't mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az much difference az thare iz between lightning and a lightning bug."
The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.
~Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
~Author Unknown
A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.
~Karl Kraus
A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet. So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose.
~Samuel McChord Crothers, "Every Man's Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else," The Dame School of Experience, 1920
When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can.
~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1842
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
~James Michener
Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.
~Jeb Dickerson, www.howtomatter.com
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.
~Isaac Asimov
I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.
~Peter De Vries
Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne
A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960
Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.
~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957
To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make.
~Truman Capote, McCall's, November 1967
A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right.
~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961
I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.
~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University
Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
~Hannah Arendt
It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.
~Ann Beattie, Picturing Will, 1989
For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.
~John Cheever
Do not put statements in the negative form.And don't start sentences with a conjunction.If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that agreat deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.De-accession euphemisms.If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"
No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.
~Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907
Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
~Gene Fowler
Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.
~Francis Bacon
The expression "to write something down" suggests a descent of thought to the fingers whose movements immediately falsify it.
~William Gass, "Habitations of the Word," Kenyon Review, October 1984
Be obscure clearly.
~E.B. White
Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
~Flannery O'Connor
It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.
~Joan Baez
When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.
~Samuel ButlerInk on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we?
~Terri Guillemets
Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may.
~Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversation: Diogenes and Plato
Let me walk through the fields of papertouching with my wanddry stems and stuntedbutterflies....
~Denise Levertov, "A Walk through the Notebooks"
When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man.
~Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670
Every writer I know has trouble writing.
~Joseph Heller
Writer's block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite.
~Terri Guillemets
A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one.
~Baltasar Gracián
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.
~Enrique Jardiel Poncela
I asked Ring Lardner the other day how he writes his short stories, and he said he wrote a few widely separated words or phrases on a piece of paper and then went back and filled in the spaces.
~Harold Ross
When you are describing,A shape, or sound, or tint;Don't state the matter plainly,But put it in a hint;And learn to look at all things,With a sort of mental squint.
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.
~Sholem Asch
The ablest writer is only a gardener first, and then a cook: his tasks are, carefully to select and cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts; and when they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and yet so that they may have a relish.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.
~Lord Byron
I'd rather be caught holding up a bank than stealing so much as a two-word phrase from another writer.
~Jack Smith
An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts.
~Juvenal, Satires
Writing is a struggle against silence.
~Carlos Fuentes
The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.
~Elias Canetti
All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.
~Isaac Bashevis Singer
One hates an author that's all author.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Beppo"
What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window.
~Burton Rascoe
The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.
~Agatha Christie
An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960
Every word born of an inner necessity - writing must never be anything else.
~Etty Hillesum, quoted in Ten Fun Things to Do Before You Die by Karol Jackowski
A writer's mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head.
~Ethel Wilson
Publication - is the auction of the Mind of Man.
~Emily Dickinson
If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves.
~Don Marquis
There are men that will make you books, and turn them loose into the world, with as much dispatch as they would do a dish of fritters.
~Miguel de Cervantes
Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.
~E.L. Doctorow
The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure.
~Henry David Thoreau
You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.
~Arthur Polotnik
An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.
~Adlai Stevenson, as quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs
The first goal of writing is to have one's words read successfully.
~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com
Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.
~T.S. Eliot
What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told.
~André Gide
Authors and lovers always suffer some infatuation, from which only absence can set them free.
~Samuel Johnson
Lists are the butterfly nets that catch my fleeting thoughts...
~Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com
A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.
~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938
They lard their lean books with the fat of others' works.
~Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621
The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
~Stephen King
It is plagiarism when you take something out of a book and use it as your own. If you take it out of several books then it is research.
~Quoted by Ralph Foss, 1932 (Thanks, Garson O'Toole!)
My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin.
~Karl Kraus
As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.
~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894
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
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
To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all.
~Lord Byron
Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.
~Theodore Dreiser, 1900
It is the little writer rather than the great writer who seems never to quote, and the reason is that he is never really doing anything else.
~Havelock Ellis
Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason. They made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
~Charles Caleb Colton
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
~Author Unknown, commonly misattributed to Samuel Johnson (*) (Thank you, Frank Lynch.)
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
~Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 19 August 1851
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, preface to Shestov, All Things Are Possible, 1938
Ink surrounds me all the timeOn my bed sheets, recorded in rhymeQuills 'ever scribbling in my headSometimes damnit I forget what they said.Ink has settled into my fingerprintsBut to keep the words I fear to rinse...
~Terri Guillemets
Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.
~From the movie Finding Forrester
It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.
~Sinclair Lewis
Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?
~Friedrich Nietzsche
Writing is both mask and unveiling.
~E.B. White
Let's hope the institution of marriage survives its detractors, for without it there would be no more adultery and without adultery two thirds of our novelists would stand in line for unemployment checks.
~Peter S. Prescott
It's not plagiarism - I'm recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do.
~Uniek Swain
True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
~Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism"
Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.
~Franz Kafka
An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.
~Gustave Flaubert
If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand, don't remove it - I might be writing in my dreams.
~Terri Guillemets
There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write.
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966
One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one's own flesh in the inkpot, each time one dips one's pen.
~Leo Tolstoy
A man will turn over half a library to make one book.
~Samuel Johnson
What things there are to write, if one could only write them! My mind is full of gleaming thought; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings. But always the rarest, those streaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my reach.
~Logan Pearsall Smith
No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.
~Russell Lynes
A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.
~Jean Luc Godard
Loafing is the most productive part of a writer's life.
~James Norman Hall
Whatever an author puts between the two covers of his book is public property; whatever of himself he does not put there is his private property, as much as if he had never written a word.
~Gail Hamilton
Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially.
~A. Bronson Alcott
The artist's only responsibility is his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.... If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate: The "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.
~Faulkner, quoted in M. Cowley, Writers at Work, 1958
A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
~Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947
The reason why many people are so fond of using superlatives, is, they are so positive that the poor positive is not half positive enough for them.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964
Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.
~Jules Renard, Journal, 10 April 1895
The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.
~Ray Bradbury
Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too.
~Terri Guillemets
Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take you only a minute. Or you might not write the paragraph at all.
~Franklin P. Adams, Half a Loaf, 1927
You could compile the worst book in the world entirely out of selected passages from the best writers in the world.
~G.K. Chesterton
The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.
~André Gide, Journals, 1894
Life can't ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death - fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.
~Edna Ferber, A Kind of Magic, 1963
The writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas, though it brings gratification, is a curious anticlimax.
~Alfred Kazin, Think, February 1963
i never think at all when i writenobody can do two things at the same timeand do them both well
~Don Marquis, Archy's Life of Mehitabel, 1933
Our passions shape our books; repose writes them in the intervals.
~Proust, The Past Recaptured, 1927
Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
~Samuel Johnson, "Recalling the Advice of a College Tutor," Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1791
An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.
~Chateaubriand, Le Génie du Christianisme, 1802
Keep a diary and one day it'll keep you.
~Mae West
The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.
~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958
There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as do exist do not lead through neat critical gardens, various as they are, but through the jungles of self, the world, and of craft.
~Jessamyn West, Saturday Review, 21 September 1957
I do not like to write - I like to have written.
~Gloria Steinem
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947 (Thanks, Jennifer)
One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.
~Hart Crane
He that uses many words for the explaining any subject doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.
~John Ray
Writing is a product of silence.
~Carrie Latet
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
~G.K. Chesterton
Novelists... fashioning nets to sustain and support the reader as he falls helplessly through the chaos of his own existence.
~Fay Weldon
Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such.
~Samuel Butler
It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
~Robert Benchley
No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman.
~Van Wyck Brooks
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it.
~Ernest Hemingway, interview in Paris Review, Spring 1958
The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.
~Samuel Johnson
The best style is the style you don't notice.
~Somerset Maugham
There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.
~William Makepeace Thackeray
I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head.
~John Updike
Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man's life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible.
~Leo Tolstoy
Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.