Writers On Writing: Quotable Quotes


“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” –Red Smith

Writing is like making love. Don’t worry about the orgasm, just concentrate on the process.”—- Isabel Allende

Writing is a little bit like prostitution. First you do it for love. Then you do it for a few friends. Then you do it for money.”—Moliére

The true novelist is the one who doesn’t quit.  Novel-writing is not so much a profession as a yoga, or “way,” an alternative to ordinary life-in-the-world. Its benefits are quasi-religious—a changed quality of mind and heart, satisfactions no non-novelist can understand—and its rigors generally bring no profit except to the spirit. For those who are authentically called to the profession, spiritual profits are enough.”John Gardner

book with legs“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” — Peter De Vries

“The art of writing consists of the art of placing the seat of one’s pants to the seat of one’s chair.”– Sinclair Lewis

“Writing is easy; all you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” –Gene Fowler

“In my own experience, nothing is harder for the developing wrman in robe/coffeeiter than overcoming his anxiety that he is fooling himself and cheating or embarrassing his family and friends. To most people, even those who don’t read much, there is something special and vaguely magical about writing, and it is not easy for them to believe that someone they know—someone quite ordinary in many respects—can really do it.” –John Gardner

“You have to understand, having a good time is not my idea of having a good time.”–Anonymous writer

A woman was having tea with Mrs. (Thomas) Hardy, and inquired, “Did Mr. Hardy have a good day of writing?” Mrs. Hardy replied, “Oh, I’m sure of it. I could hear him sobbing all afternoon.”

‘Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.’  —Gustave Flaubert

The Poet and the Physician (Sufi Fable)

A poet went to see a doctor. He said to him, “I have all kinds of terrible symptoms. I am unhappy and uncomfortable, my hair and my arms and legs are as if tortured.” The doctor replied, “Is it not true that you have not yet Typewritergiven out your latest poetic composition?”  “That is true,” said the poet. “Very well,” said the physician, “be good enough to recite.” He did so, and, at the doctor’s orders, said his lines again and again. Then the doctor said, “Stand up, for you are now cured. What you had inside had affected your outside. Now that it is released, you are well again.”

“Writin’ Is Fightin””–Ishmael Reed

Saul Bellow, when asked how he felt about winning the Nobel Prize, said, “I don’t know. I haven’t written about it yet.”

“Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be wild and experimental in your work.”–Gustave Flaubert

hand and penIt does no harm to repeat, as often as you can,’Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages–all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person.”–Doris Lessing

“Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”–Paul Auster

laughing cat“Writing is re-examining values, and nothing produces more anxiety for the human being than reexamining widely accepted values and searching for a way of justifying and articulating the reexamination. The secret of becoming productive and retaining your peace of mind lies in learning how to harness the anxiety and transform it into ‘productive elation.’”–Kenneth Atchity

“The idea of talent is incredibly overrated. A need to survive is much more important. If you went up to someone on the street with a gun and said, ‘in twelve months’ time you’ll be shot unless you produce a great work of art,’ he would suddenly find the motivation to do so.”–David Byrne

“I shall go on writing. That is my heroism. I shall bear witness, precise witness.”–Victor Klemperer

“The writer’s business is to make up convincing human beings and create for them basic situations and actions by means of which they come to know themselves and reveal themselves to the reader.”–John Gardner

The real writer is one who really writes.

Talent is an invention like phlogiston after the fact of fire.

Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved.”

–Marge Piercy


Better go down upon your marrow-bones

And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones

Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these, and yet

Be thought an idler by the noisy set

Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen

The martyrs call the world.

–W.B. Yeats

“Life is hard–and then you write a book about it.” — A writer’s sonHaircut4

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