Writing Quotations

“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

“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.”–Moliere

Writing is like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.—Philip Rothphiliprothcartoon

It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.” 
­Robert Hass

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.–Leo Rosten

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

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.–W. Somerset Maugham

The most clear-sided view of the darkest possible situation is itself an act of optimism.” –Jean Paul Sartre

“Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.” –Zadie Smith

A person who has not done one-half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.—Emily Bronte

 If your career doesn’t work out—write a book about it! – Marcy Sheiner

Lady Gresham: What is she doing?
Mrs. Austen: Writing.
Lady G: Can anything be done about it?–from Becoming Jane

 Publishers today only want books that don’t need editing.”–Pat Teal, literary agent

“Mergers and consolidations in the publishing industry have meant staff cutbacks and a stronger orientation on marketing the books that are published, with the result that there are fewer editors and those few must devote more time to sales and promotional details. As a result, most editors no longer have time to edit.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Novel writing is hacking away at the rockface.”–Penelope Lively.

It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.—WH Auden

“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

My favorite character to write is one who’s been medicated. It cuts down on a lot of dialogue.”-Abigail Turnpike

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with The Elements Of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.—Dorothy Parker

” I don’t have a career, I have a typewriter.”–Don DeLillo

The writers who are the most popular are those who share the largest number of assumptions with their audience—Gore Vidal.

Literature is the intelligent person’s dope.”–Ernest Hemingway Jr.

Poetry is the transformative kiss by which history is released”—Joani Reinmuth

(There seem to be many versions of the following, by Flaubert):
Language is like a cracked pot on which we beat rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from stars.—Flaubert

Write with the heart and edit with the head—Stuart Aken

“… The Da Vinci Code: A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.”–Salman Rushdie

I began to drink heavily after I realized that the things I’d wanted most in life for myself and my writing, and my wife and children, were simply not going to happen–Raymond Carver

Sufficient for the morning is the pleasure thereof, and one of the most unfailing pleasures is to sit down in the morning and write.—Leonard Woolf

If you’re for this racket—and not many really are—then you’ve got an eternity of sweat and tears ahead.—Red Smith

“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

“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

In my own experience, nothing is harder for the developing writer than overcoming his anxiety that he is fooling himself and cheating or embarrassing his family and friends.—John Gardner

“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.”

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

“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

All art is solitary and the studio is a torture area.–Alexander Liberman

It’s surprising how much one can produce in a year…if one works hard for three and a half hours every day for 330 days.–Leonard Woolf

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

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

Salmon Rushdie, on the fatwa and whether writers should be killed for what they write: “Even Dan Brown must live; preferably not write, but live.”

Life is hard–and then you write a book about it. — My son, Daryl Hochheiser

“Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition of himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”–Proust

I would write a book, or a story, three times—once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say… First drafts are for learning what one’s fiction wants you to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge or enhance an idea, to re-form it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing. — Bernard Malamud

This is what happens when you write books…something begins putting everything in your path. There is suddenly no such thing as a back road that doesn’t lead headlong into your obsession.– Philip Roth

As for writing, most people secretly believe they themselves have a book in them, which they would write if they could only find the time. And there’s some truth to this notion. A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same thing as “being a writer.” Margaret Atwood

“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

“It 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 LessingDL Portrait

“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

“Writing is re-examining values, and nothing produces more anxiety for the human being than re-examining widely accepted values and searching for a way of justifying and articulating the re-examination. 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

I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer, anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you–it would make life easier. But discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists.–Philip Roth

Writing is an attempt to find a way out, like Houdini escaping from a water torture chamber or a soul escaping a body.”—Milan Kundera

“For me, writing was the only way out.”—Anne Tyler

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”-Muriel Rukeyser

If I get up at five and can’t sleep and I want to work, I go to work. I’m on call. I’m like a doctor and it’s an emergency room. And I’m the emergency—Philip Roth

“Writin’ Is Fightin””–Ishmael Reed

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