Writers’ Quotes on Writing.

‘Prose on certain occasions can bear a great deal of poetry; on the other hand, poetry sinks and swoons under a moderate weight of prose.’
 
Walter Savage Landor
 
‘Eight hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, that’s the only way I know how to do it.’

Philip Roth

‘Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare, or a witches sabbath or a portrait of the devil; but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the anatomy of the terrible, or the physiology of fear.’

H P Lovecraft

‘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.’

Lord Chesterfield

‘It is true that publishers try to stop me from writing anything but mysteries, but whenever they do, I go to another publisher. And they know I’m going to do that, so they have to make some kind of room for me.’

Walter Mosley

 

‘The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.’

John Campbell

‘The majority of poems one outgrows and outlives, as one outgrows and outlives the majority of human passions.’

T S Eliot

‘I am never indifferent, and never pretend to be, to what people say or think of my books. They are my children, and I like to have them liked.’

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘There is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion.’

George Orwell

‘If booksellers wanted to be  millionaires, they’d be in another line of business.’

Godfrey Smith

‘In the same way that a woman becomes a prostitute. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and finally I did it for money.

Ferenc Molnair, on being asked how he became a writer.

‘It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.’

C J Cherryh

‘The world is so great and rich, and life so full of variety, that you can never lack occasions for poems.’
 
J W Goethe
 
‘If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.’

Edgar Rice Burroughs

‘The long-lived books of tomorrow are concealed somewhere amongst the so-far unpublished MSS of today.’

Philip Unwin

‘The crown of literature is poetry.. It is its end and aim.  It is the sublimest activity of the human mind.  It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy.’ the writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.

Somerset Maugham

‘F*** this, I’ve had enough of writing.  I don’t like the book world.  I don’t like most books, even.  I don’t like sitting on my own in a room for hours on end.’

Alex Garland on writing your second novel (which took him nearly ten years) 

‘Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer – and if so, why?’

 
Bennett Cerf, Co-founder of Random House

‘When you give someone a book you re giving them the most imaginative of gifts, because you’re taking a personal interest in what interests them.’

W H Smith ad in the Observer

‘It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.’ 

Penelope Lively 

‘I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.’

Edgar Rice Burroughs

‘The best poem is that whose worked-upon unmagical passages come closest, in texture and intensity, to those moments of magical accident.’

Dylan Thomas 

‘In an abundant society where people have laptops, cellphones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.’

Harper Lee
 

‘Fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.’

Virginia Woolf

‘If you have other things in your life – family, friends, good productive day work – then these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.’

David Brin

‘I can’t start writing until I have a closing line.’

Joseph Heller

‘One of my great surprises when I was in America was about twenty-five years ago in Harvard, hearing Randall Jarrell deliver a bitter attack on the way poets were neglected. Yet there were about two thousand people present, and he was being paid five hundred dollars for delivering this attack.’

Stephen Spender, 1984

‘In science there is a dictum: don’t add an experiment to an experiment. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be.  Don’t ask your reader to admire your words when you want them to believe your story.’

Ben Bova

‘I should think it extremely improbable that anyone ever wrote simply for money. What makes a writer is that he likes writing. Naturally, when he has written something, he wants to get as much for it as he can, but that is a very different thing from writing for money.’

P G Wodehouse
 

‘Fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.’

Virginia Woolf

‘No poet or novelist wishes he was the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.’

W H Auden

‘There is no such thing as moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

Oscar Wilde

 ‘And as to experience–well, think how little some good poets have had, or how much some bad ones have.’

Elizabeth Bishop

‘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

‘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.’

Amos Bronson Alcott

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

William Hazlitt

‘If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.’

Edgar Rice Burroughs

‘The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, the Odyssey because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle.’

G K Chesterton

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

Truman Capote

‘An author ought to consider himself not as a gentleman who gives a private treat, but rather as one who keeps a pub, at which all persons are welcome for their money.’ 

Henry Fielding

‘I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.’ Edgar Rice Burroughs

‘Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you.  If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego.’

David Brin

 ‘In science there is a dictum: don’t add an experiment to an experiment. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don’t ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story.’ Ben Bova ‘The crown of literature is poetry.  It is its end and aim.  It is the sublimest activity of the human mind.  It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.’

Somerset Maugham

 
‘Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.’

Ray Bradbury

‘War and Peace maddens me because I didn’t write it myself, and worse, I couldn’t.’

Jeffrey Archer

‘The poet is the man made to solve the riddle of the universe’ who ‘brings the whole soul of man into activity’.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 
‘It’s a kind of zen question: if you write a book and no one reads it, is it really a book?’
 
Lee Child
 
‘Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take only a minute.  Or you might not write the paragraph at all.’

Franklin P Adams

‘I will never stop writing. People often ask when I will retire, but I say it’s none of their business. Writing defines who I am. I love the feeling of holding a finished book in my hands, and then I can’t wait to start the great adventure of writing the next one.’

Barbara Taylor Bradford
 

‘Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you.

If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego.’

David Brin

‘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

‘The only reward to be expected from the cultivation of literature is contempt if one fails and and hatred if one succeeds.’

Voltaire

‘Unless a writer is extremely old when he dies, in which case he has probably become a neglected institution, his death must always be seen as untimely. This is because a real writer is always shifting and changing and searching. The world has many labels for him, of which the most treacherous is the label of Success.’

James Baldwin

‘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
 

‘My books aren’t trying to fathom the mysteries of human existence. I’m an entertainer.’

Bernard Cornwall

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

Anton Chekov

‘Justice to my readers compels me to admit that I write because I have nothing to do; justice to myself induces me to add that I will cease to write the moment I have nothing to say.’

Charles Caleb Colton

‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’

Henry David Thoreau

‘The art of translation lies less in knowing the other language than in knowing your own.’

Ned Rorem

‘Only two classes of books are of universal appeal.  the very best and the very worst.’

Ford Madox Ford

‘A writer ought to be the best possible source about their work but the writing instinct doesn’t come out of self-examination.  That part of yourself in your work is expressed willy-nilly, without your cooperation, motivation or collusion.  You can’t help being what you write and writing what you are.’

Tom Stoppard

‘Writing poetry is the only form of literary labour which gives me entire satisfaction.’

Peter Porter

‘What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.’

P D James, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday

‘You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart.  You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names.  You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world.  Come to it any way but lightly.  Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.’

Stephen King

‘Poetry is not a career, but a mug’s game.  No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written, he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.’

T S Eliot

‘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.’

Charlotte Bronte

‘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

‘Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.’

A A Milne

‘Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction?  Fiction, after all, has to make sense.’

Mark Twain

‘The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and good bad books, create in one’s mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life, and which in some cases can even survive a visit to the real countries which they are supposed to represent.’

George Orwell

‘I write what I would like to read – what I think other women would like to read. If what I write makes a woman in the Canadian mountains cry and she writes and tell me about it, especially if she says, ‘I read it to Tom when he came in form work and he cried too’, I feel I have succeeded.’

Kathleen Norris, on the publication of her 78th book.
 

‘All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?

Philip Pullman

 ‘Writing is not a job description.  A great deal of it is luck.  Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their life to it.  I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.’

Margaret Atwood

‘If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?’

Emily Dickinson
 

‘I would sooner read a time-table or a catalogue than nothing at all, they are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written.’

Somerset Maugham

‘The art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood.’

Allan Sillitoe, author of Saturday Night and Saturday Morning, who died last week.

‘Once  a book has been declared a bestseller, its sales accelerate – like the freshwater polyp the best seller breeds from itself – and the book-buyer can happily accept the judgement of the great majority.’

Frank Muir

‘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 think readers who aren’t used to reading contemporary poetry are surprised to find it’s about our world now, our experience; it talks about movies and pop music and stuff. It’s not some fuddy-duddy thing, and most of it contains a good deal of imaginative brilliance. My experience is that when people read contemporary poetry they are engaged and interested in a way they did not expect to be.’

John Stammers
 

‘The “greatness” of literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards though we must remember that whether it is literature or not can be determined only by literary standards.’

T S Eliot

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

Gustave Flaubert

‘It really is most extraordinary, having lived all these years as a cheerful but inconspicuous blue-stockinged, gray-haired, backseat publishing lady, to become a sort of show- stopper.’

Diana Athill, 92-year-old author of Somewhere Towards the End
 

‘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

‘If you steal from one author, it’s research; if you steal from many, it’s research.’

Wilson Mizner

‘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

‘This (writing) is the love of your life. It’s what I want to do when I wake up. Nothing feels so absorbing, so fulfilling.’

Martin Amis 

‘The ideal audience the poet imagines consists of the beautiful who go to bed with him, the powerful who invite him to dinner and tell him secrets of state, and his fellow-poets.  The actual audience he gets consists of myopic schoolteachers, pimply young men who eat in cafeterias, and his fellow-poets.  This means, in fact, he writes for his fellow-poets.’

W H Auden

The very cheapness of literature is making even wise people forget that if a book is worth reading, it is worth buying.  No book is worth anything which is not worth much; nor is it serviceable, until it has been read, and re-read, and loved, and loved again; and marked, so that you can refer to the passages you want in it.’

John Ruskin

‘Most people do not believe in anything very much and our greatest poetry is given to us by those who do.’

Cyril Connolly

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

Benjamin Jowett

‘I have never know any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve.’

Baron de Montesquieu

‘I hate the term “mystery”.  That’s not what I write.  I think the Scarpetta novels are much more character-driven than an average puzzle solver.  Writing should be like a pane of glass – there’s another world on the other side and your vision carries you there, but you’re not aware of having passed through a barrier to get there.’

Patricia Cornwall

‘Poems are made by fools like me,                       

But only God can make a tree.’

Alfred Joyce Kilmer

‘I think what I love most [about writing] is that feeling that you really nailed something. I rarely feel it with a whole piece, but sometimes with a line you feel that it really captured what it is that you had inside you and you got it out for a stranger to read, someone who may never love you or meet you, but he or she is going to get that experience from that line.’

Andre Dubus III

‘Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.’

William Wordsworth

‘Writing is a deeply immersive experience.  When the words are flying, the house could be burgled and I wouldn’t notice.  I have a low boredom threshold and I like intensity – writing is a way of escaping the quotidian.’

Monica Ali

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

William Saroyan

‘Anyone could write a novel, given six weeks, pen, paper, and no telephone or wife.’

Evelyn Waugh

‘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

‘You just have to work with what God sends, and if God doesn’t seem to understand the concept of commercial success, then that’s your bad luck.’

Michael Frayn

‘What creates a writer is huge, psychological dysfunction.’

Kathy Lette

‘Those of us who had a perfectly happy childhood should be able to sue for deprivation of literary royalties.’

Chris Patten

‘There is no need for the writer to eat a whole sheep to be able to tell you what mutton tastes like.  It is enough if he eats a cutlet.  But he should do that.’

W Somerset Maugham

‘It is splendid to be a great writer, to put men into the frying pan of your words and make them pop like chestnuts.’

Gustave Flaubert

‘In the old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public.  Nowadays books are written by the public and read by anybody.’

Oscar Wilde

‘I don’t believe in it (writer’s block). All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?’

Philip Pullman

‘Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.’

G K Chesterton

‘Nobel Prize money is a lifebelt thrown to a swimmer who has already reached the shore in safety.’

George Bernard Shaw (attrib)

‘What literature can and should do is change the people who teach the people who don’t read the books.’

A S Byatt

‘Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.’

Cicero, circa 43 BC

‘For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.’

Amy Lowell
 

‘Don’t ask a writer what he’s working on.  It’s like asking someone with cancer on the progress of his disease.’

Luke Angel

‘The shelf-life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt.’

Calvin Trillin

‘An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.’

Benjamin Disraeli

‘I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.’

Doris Lessing

‘Most of my recent plays were written in the railway train between Hatfield and King’s Cross.  I write anywhere, on the top of omnibuses or wherever I may be; it is all the same to me.’

George Bernard Shaw

‘Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’

Gene Fowler

‘It seems to me that all poets’ precepts about the nature of poetry are true, even when they seem to contradict each other.’

Geoffrey Grigson

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

Wilson Mizner

‘I see the role of the writer as creating a room with big windows and leaving the reader to imagine. It’s a meeting on the page.’

Kevin Crossley-Holland
 

‘Poetry is not a career, but a mug’s game.  No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written, he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.’

T S Eliot

‘A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good.’

Samuel Johnson

‘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

‘Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination.’ 

Janet Frame

‘”Classic”. A book which people praise and don’t read.’

Mark Twain

‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma.  In the afternoon, I put it back in.’ 

Oscar Wilde

‘Writing shouldn’t come between the reader and what’s being described.  It should be as transparent as possible.’

Diana Athill

‘This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write?  Dig down into yourself for a deep answer.  And if this should be in the affirmative, if you may meet this solemn question with a strong and simple, I must, then build your life according to this necessity.’

Rainer Maria Rilke

‘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

‘Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.’

A A Milne

‘My stories run up and bite me in the leg.  I respond by writing them down – everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.’ 

Ray Bradbury

‘The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.

Thomas Hardy

‘If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing.’

Kingsley Amis

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

Ring Lardner

‘You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.’

C S Lewis

‘What is so wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote, and brings to birth in us also the creative impulse.’

E M Forster

‘There’s only one difference between published and unpublished writers and it is this – the first group see their work in print on the shelves of Waterstone’s or Tesco or online at Amazon; the second group are yet to have physical evidence of the hours, weeks, years spent fashioning words into their patterns.  You are already a writer.’

Kate Mosse

‘People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.’

Logan Pearsall Smith

‘For me a poem is a place where one invites someone in. You build a little house, fix it up real nice. Inside you’ve got a painting on the wall, a new couch, some knick-knacks and souvenirs, a swell meal all laid out on the table, and you open the door and hope somebody comes in…’

US Poet Laureate Charles Simic

‘Books say: she did this because.  Life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t.’

Julian Barnes

‘Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.’

Henry David Thoreau

‘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 you live and work on your own, as I do, writing takes a long time. You can keep producing shit and you’re always wondering whether you should stop. I’m so glad I had friends who told me to keep going.’

Aravind Adiga in the Sunday Times
 

‘The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers had it.’

Ernest Hemingway

‘To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make. 

Truman Capote

‘Avoid agents if you wish to succeed… the literary parasite is fully recognised as the grossest abuse of modern innovations.’

Spencer C Blackett, 1893

‘Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.  I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can.’

Jane Austen

‘Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.’

Joseph Brodsky

‘Wanting to know an author because you like his work is like wanting to know a duck because you like paté.’

Margaret Atwood

‘The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.  He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one… If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies.’

William Faulkner

‘The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain whatsoever on his habitually slack attention.’

Ezra Pound

‘It’s never going to be very mainstream. One reason is that poetry requires concentration, both on the part of the writer and the reader. But it’s kind of unkillable, poetry. It’s our most ancient artform and I think it’s more relevant today than ever, because it’s one person saying what they really believe.’

Simon Armitage

‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot…reading is the creative center of a writer’s life…you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.’

Stephen King

‘Your book may be a masterpiece but do not suggest that to the publisher because many of the most hopeless manuscripts that have come his way have probably been so described by their authors.’

Sir Stanley Unwin in The Truth abut Publishing

‘The King died and then the Queen died. That is a story. The King died and then the Queen died of grief. That is a plot.’

E M Forster in Aspects of the Novel
 

‘There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately no-one knows what they are.’

Somerset Maugham

‘Every writer has to make an emotional journey from artist sitting in attic to being part of a business. The writer of a film is like Tinkerbell. You are only there because people believe in you. The moment they don’t, because you’re a pain the arse, you’ve lost.’

Julian Fellowes
 

‘Writing a book 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

‘Publishing is a very mysterious business.  It is hard to predict what kind of sale or reception a book will have, and advertising seems to do very little good.’

Thomas Wolfe

‘Nobody asks you to do this.  The world out there is not panting after another novelist.  We choose it.’

Paul Auster, quoted in an interview with his wife, novelist Siri Hustvedt

‘Writing a novel without being asked seems a bit like having a baby when you have nowhere to live.’

Lucy Ellman

‘Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.’

Oliver Goldsmith

‘Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.’

Hermann Hesse

‘The way British publishing works is that you go from not being published no matter how good you are, to being published no matter how bad you are.’

Tibor Fischer

‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot…reading is the creative center of a writer’s life…you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.’

Stephen King

‘Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.’ 

W B Yeats
 

‘To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.’

William Shakespeare

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

Aldous Huxley in Point Counter Point

‘But those who cannot write, and those who can,

All rhyme, and scrawl, and scribble, to a man.’

Alexander Pope

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

Gustave Flaubert

‘Literature, with a capital L, unless preserved by Time, has always been in a bad way, but books considered as merchandise have not.’

Denys Val Baker in The Author

‘I’ve been reading reviews of my stories for twenty-five years, and can’t remember a single useful point in any of them, or the slightest good advice.  The only reviewer who ever made an impression on me was Skabichevsky, who prophesied that I would die drunk in the bottom of a ditch.’

Anton Chekhov

‘The world is so great and rich, and life so full of variety, that you can never lack occasions for poems.’

J W Goethe

‘There’s a lot of tasteful writing out there – nice, tidy, clean – but sometimes it’s excess, rawness and the unpolished that work.’

Dan Vyleta, author of Pavel & I
 

‘An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.’

Francois-Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubriand

‘I dislike modern memoirs.  They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering.’

Oscar Wilde

‘Oh it is only a novel…  In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.’

Jane Austen

‘I don’t believe in writers’ block.  Plumbers don’t get plumbers’ block.  Why should writing be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working.’

Philip Pullman

‘Why, after all, should readers never be harrowed?  Surely there is enough happiness in life without having to go to books for it.’

Dorothy Parker

‘Writing well is at one and the same time good thinking, good feeling and good expression; it is having wit, soul and taste, all together.’

George-Louis Leclerc, Comte du Buffon

‘Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name.’

Brian Aldiss

‘A writer is a maker, not a man of action: his private life is of no concern to anybody but himself, his family and his friends.’

W H Auden, discussing literary biography

‘You who write, choose a subject suited to your abilities and think long and hard on what your powers are equal to and what they are unable to perform.’

Horace

‘Even bad books are books and therefore sacred.’

Gunter Grass

‘Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.’

Margaret Atwood in The Times
 

‘I have nothing to declare except my genius.’

Oscar Wilde, on passing through the New York Customs House

‘When you read a book, you’re totally lost in your own private world, and society says that’s a good and a wonderful thing. But if you play a game by yourself, it’s this weird, fucked-up socially damaging activity.’

Douglas Coupland
 

‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.’

T S Eliot

 ‘I feel that criticism is a letter to the public which the author, since it is not directed to him, does not have to open and read.’

Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet

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

E L Doctorow
 

‘There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.’

Anthony Trollope

‘The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.’

John le Carre

‘Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book! A message to us from the dead – from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, arouse us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.’

Charles Kingsley

‘Contrary to what many of you may imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawbacks – chief among them the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to sit down and write.’

Fran Lebowitz

‘I am inclined t think that as I grow older I will come to be infatuated with the art of revision, and there may come a time when I will dread giving up a novel at all.’

Joyce Carol Oates

‘I’ve always just wanted to earn my living by writing. The best thing is to go into my study in the morning and put words together.’

Robert Harris, whose new political novel The Ghost is causing a furore.
 

I used to think all poets were Byronic.
They’re mostly wicked as a ginless tonic’

Wendy Cope from Triolet

‘What we want above all things is not more books, not more publishers, not more education, not more literary genius, but simply and prosaically more shops.’

George Bernard Shaw

‘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 in the New York Journal

‘Most writers need to write.  I write for money, really.  If I won the lottery, I would never write another word.  I would rather read.’

Clarissa Dickson Wright, cookery writer

‘Truth is always duller than fiction.’

Piers Paul Read

‘Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layered rewrites.’

Andre Jute

Outside of a dog, a man’s best friend is a book. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.’

Groucho Marx

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

Samuel Johnson

‘Better to write twaddle, anything, than nothing at all.’

Katherine Mansfield

‘Pedestrian writing, thin characters-I can handle the criticism. I write to pedestrians. And I am a pedestrian. I write the best I can. I know I’m never going to be revered as some classic writer. I don’t claim to be C. S. Lewis. The literary-type writers, I admire them. I wish I was smart enough to write a book that’s hard to read, you know?’

Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series

‘Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand – a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods – or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.’

Willa Cather

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

F Scott Fitzgerald

‘An intelligent observation of the facts of human existence will reveal to shallow-minded folk who sneer at the use of coincidence in the arts of fiction and drama that life itself is little more than a series of coincidences.’

Rafael Sabatini
 

‘What’s the product that is imbued with the most value, and the most meaning, and is the most important thing in the world?  And without a doubt, that is books.’

Emma Barnes, MD of Snowbooks

‘Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money from and fame from this state of being.’

A A Milne

‘Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

Samuel Beckett

‘There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die.’

Robertson Davies
 

‘Just because you go somewhere it doesn’t mean you have a peculiar or vivid or insightful take on the place.  Any story takes place in the landscape of the imagination.’

Stef Penney on her refusal to visit the northern Ontario location for her Costa-winning novel, The Tenderness of Wolves.

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

John Steinbeck

‘The end of a novel, like the end of a children’s dinner-party, must be made up of sweetmeats and sugar-plums.’

Anthony Trollope in Barchester Towers

‘I think we got much better poetry when it was all regarded as sinful or subversive, and you had to hide it under the cushion when somebody came in.’

Philip Larkin

‘Publishers don’t nurse you; they buy and sell you.’

P D James

‘A writer’s duty is to register what it is like for him or her to be in the world.’

Zadie Smith in the Guardian
 

‘The ancient historians gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact; the modern novelist presents us with dull facts under the guise of fiction.’

Oscar Wilde

‘No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.’

Charles Dickens

‘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 only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.’

Somerset Maugham

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

Katherine Ann Porter

‘I review novels to make money, because it is easier for a sluggard to write an article a fortnight than a book a year, because the writer is soothed by the opiate of action, the crank by posing as a good journalist, and having an airhole. I dislike it. I do it and I am always resolving to give it up.’

Cyril Connolly in his Journal

‘Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.’

Salman Rushdie

‘Writing is more than anything a compulsion, like some people wash their hands thirty times a day for fear of awful consequences if they do not. It pays a whole lot better than this type of compulsion, but it is no more heroic.’

Julie Burchill

‘Writers don’t need love; all they require is money.’

John Osborne

‘Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one’s luck.’

Iris Murdoch

‘What a blessed thing it is, that Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left!’

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jnr

‘I have no problem with chick lit.  I love Bridget Jones’s Diary, it’s just great. It’s all the muck in the middle I mind.  I hate anything that’s middle brow.  Let us have art and let us have entertainment.’

Jeanette Winterson in The Times

‘Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality.’

T S Eliot

‘Reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.’

Ian McEwan

‘Novels seem to me to be richer, broader, deeper, more enjoyable than poems.’

Philip Larkin

‘That was the chief difference between literature and life.  In books, the proportion of exceptional to commonplace people is high; in reality, very low.’

Aldous Huxley

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

Virginia Woolf

‘Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy.’

Paul Auster

‘The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.’

Blaise Pascal

‘If a publisher declines your manuscript, remember it is merely the decision of one fallible human being, and try another.’

Sir Stanley Unwin

‘The more you say, the less people remember.  the fewer the words, the greater the profit.’

Francois Fenelon

‘Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.’

Ernest Hemingway

‘Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.’

The Bible: Ecclesiastes

‘Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.’

Robert Louis Stevenson

 ‘Unfortunately many young writers are more concerned with fame than with their own work… It’s much more important to write than to be written about.’

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

‘Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice.’

Cyril Connolly

‘My relatives say that they are glad I’m rich, but that they simply cannot read me.’

Kurt Vonnegut

‘Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you are going to say.’

Francoise Sagan

‘Coleridge was a drug addict.  Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was stabbed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire; then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer -and if so, why?

Bennett Cerf, co-founder of Random House

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ 

Joan Didion

‘All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery.  Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.’

George Orwell in England, Your England

‘Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by somebody I do not know.’

John Keats, in a letter to Fanny Keats

‘I suppose in the world of publication 40 million buyers cannot be wrong.’

Mr Justice Peter Smith, comprehensively dismissing Baigent and Leigh’s case that Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code had infringed their copyright in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. (The authors are now taking their case to the Court of Appeal.)

‘Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,, and some few to be chewed and digested.’

Francis Bacon in his Essays of 1625

‘As regards plot I find real life no help at all.  Real life seems to have no plots.  And as I think a plot desirable and almost necessary, I have this extra grudge against life.’

Ivy Compton-Burnett

‘Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.’

J B Priestley

‘The crown of literature is poetry. It is its end and aim.  It is the sublimest activity of the human mind.  It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.’

Somerset Maugham

‘Every author’s fairy godmother should provide him not only with a pen but also with a blue pencil.’

F L Lucas in Style

‘If you caricature friends in your first novel they will be upset, but if you don’t they will feel betrayed.’

Mordecai Richler

‘I have read everything on the shortlist and I know its quality is incredible. Every writer has aspects of style I genuinely covet. They are extraordinary women and extraordinary writers.’

Zadie Smith, winner of this year’s Orange Prize for On Beauty

‘Don’t ever get to feeling important about yourself… an editor can only get as much out of an author as the author has in him.’

Maxwell Perkins, speaking to editors

‘People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.’

Logan Pearsall Smith

‘All books are either dreams or swords.  You can cut, or you can drug, with words.’

Amy Lowell

‘I can’t think of any one film that improved on a good novel, but I can think of many good films that came from very bad novels.’

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

‘When you start, the world of publishing seems like a great cathedral citadel of talent, resisting attempts to let you inside.  It isn’t like that at all.  It may be more difficult now, and take longer than when I started to write, but there’s a great, empty warehouse out there looking for simple talent.’

Alan Garner, writing in 1987

‘The blog is certainly another tool for writers out there to break their way in.  But being a blogger does not make you a great writer.’

Julie Powell, who has just won the Blooker for Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/

‘Poets will never be the highest-paid writers in the world.  Instead, poetry will go on cutting a hand-made path through the mass-market insanity.  For me, anyway, that path is the one that leads to the Chapel of the Grail.’

Jeanette Winterson

‘There is no measure or limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity to acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of lucre and gain.’

Martin Luther

‘I am taxed with being a plagiarist, when I am least conscious of being one; but I am not very scrupulous, I own, when I have a good idea, how I came into possession of it.’

Lord Byron

‘A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face…. It is one of the few havens remaining where [your] mind can get both provocation and privacy.’

Edward P. Morgan

‘When people, women included, hear that you are writing, they assume that it is simply a hobby to fill in the time between doing the washing-up and the ironing. It couldn’t possibly be a profession.’

Rachel Billington

‘Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.’

Ernest Hemingway

‘Even if my marriage is falling apart and my children are unhappy, there is still a part of me that says, ‘God, this is fascinating!’

Jane Smiley

‘I simply don’t know how anyone can write at great speed, and only for the money’s sake.’

Feodor Dostoevsky

Asked if editors were no more than failed writers: ‘Perhaps – but so are most writers.’Image

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About j. j. marino

As a creaky & cranky a-social agoraphobic anchorite, living in seclusion in the Great North Woods & keeping centered by the Power of the Written Word, a blog would seem to be a fat pitch in my strike zone.

Posted on March 7, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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