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Writers and Writing Quotes and Quotations


I keep six honest serving men. (They taught me all I know); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.
Agatha Christie has given more pleasure in bed than any other woman.
An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.
Autobiography is a preemptive strike against biographers.
Begin with another's to end with your own.
Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary were it not for his bow-wow way.
Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach.
I am being frank about myself in this book. I tell of my first mistake on page 850.
I am not learning definitions as established in even the latest dictionaries. I am not a dictionary-maker. I am a person a dictionary-maker has to contend with. I am a living evidence in the development of language.
I have this feeling of wending my way or plundering through a mysterious jungle of possibilities when I am writing. This jungle has not been explored by previous writers. It never will be explored. It's endlessly varying as we progress through the experience of time. These words that occur to me come out of my relation to the language which is developing even as I am using it.
I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.
In Ireland, a writer is looked upon as a failed conversationalist.
It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practising it.
Make'em laugh; make 'em cry; make 'em wait.
Many a fervid man writes books as cold and flat as graveyard stones.
Memoirs: the backstairs of history.
No tears and the writer, no tears and the reader.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
The work of Henry James has always seemed divisible by a simple dynastic arrangement into three reigns: James 1st, James 2nd, and the Old Pretender.
There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth the publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.
This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.
Thought flies and words go on foot.
To write is to become disinterested. There is a certain renunciation in art.
What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.
When my journal appears, many statues must come down.
Writers aren't exactly people, they're a whole lot of people trying to be one person.
Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.
Writing is one of the easiest things: erasing is one of the hardest.
Writing is turning one's worst moments into money.
You cannot write in the chimney with charcoal.
The truth is, we've not really developed a fiction that can accommodate the full tumult, the zaniness and crazed quality of modern experience.
Take care of the sense and the sounds will take of care themselves.
There is today an extraordinary interest with the data of modern experience per se. Our absorption in our contemporary historical state is very high right now. It's not altogether unlike a similar situation in seventeenth century Holland, where wealthy merchants wanted their portraits done with all their blemishes included. It is the height of egotism, in a sense, to think even one's blemishes are of significance. So today Americans seem to want their writers to reveal all their weaknesses, their meannesses, to celebrate their very confusions. And they want it in the most direct possible way - they want it served up neat, as it were, without the filtering and generalizing power of fiction.
I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and I can write faster than anyone who can write better.
Writing: I certainly do rewrite my central myth in every book, and would never read or trust any writer who did not also do so.
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.
There is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.
The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.
Writers should be read - but neither seen nor heard.
A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public with his pants down.
The beginning is easy; what happens next is much harder.
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.
If we try to envisage an 'average Canadian writer' we can see him living near a campus, teaching at least part-time at university level, mingling too much for his work's good with academics, doing as much writing as he can for the CBC, and always hoping for a Canada Council Fellowship.
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.
I struggled in the beginning. I said I was going to write the truth, so help me God. And I thought I was. I found I couldn't. Nobody can write the absolute truth.
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.
Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.
Never believe anything a writer tells you about himself. A man comes to believe in the end the lies he tells himself about himself.
I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories.
That's not writing, that's typing.
There is an accuracy that defeats itself by the overemphasis of details. I often say that one must permit oneself, and quite advisedly and deliberately, a certain margin of misstatement.
I suppose some editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.
I think with my right hand.
Writers are the engineers of human souls.
I quote others in order to better express my own self.
A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed in keeping rabbits.
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.
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.
Writing, when properly managed (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.
My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.
Caesar had perished from the world of men Had not his sword been rescued by his pen.
Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.
We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates.
In any really good subject, one has only to probe deep enough to come to tears.
He is limp and damp and milder than the breath of a cow.
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.
Get black on white.
It is a sobering thought that each of us gives his hearers and his readers a chance to look into the inner working of his mind when he speaks or writes.
Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
When you're a writer, you no longer see things with the freshness of the normal person. There are always two figures that work inside you, and if you are at all intelligent you realize that you have lost something. But I think there has always been this dichotomy in a real writer. He wants to be terribly human, and he responds emotionally, but at the same time there's this cold observer who cannot cry.
When I am dead, I hope it may be said: 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
The best part of every author is in general to be found in his book, I assure you.
The obscurity of a writer is generally in proportion to his incapacity.
Life cannot defeat a writer who is in love with writing - for life itself is a writer's love until death.
Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do with it.
Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don't write about Man, write about a man.
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.
Tennessee Williams said if he got rid of his demons, he would lose his angels.
Self-expression is for babies and seals, where it can be charming. A writer's business is to affect the reader.
There is but one art, to omit.
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.
It is in the hard rockpile labour of seeking to win, hold, or deserve a reader's interest that the pleasant agony of writing comes in.
Write something, even if it's just a suicide note.
Flaubert had infinite correction to perform.
Nature, not content with denying him the ability to think, has endowed him with the ability to write.
Beauty and truth may be attributes of good writing, but if the writer deliberately aims at truth, he is likely to find that what he has hit is the didactic.
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.
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.
The man who is asked by an author what he thinks of his work is put to the torture and is not obliged to speak the truth.
Style is the hallmark of a temperament stamped upon the material at hand.
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.
My novels point out that the world consists entirely of exceptions.
Less is more.
We like that a sentence should read as if its author, had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow deep and straight to the end.
The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.
I work every day - or at least I force myself into office or room. I may get nothing done, but you don't earn bonuses without putting in time. Nothing may come for three months, but you don't earn the fourth without it.
John the Baptist pretending to be Karl Marx.
Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'.
When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad things you did do - well, that's memoirs.
Journalism allows it's readers to witness history. Fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it.
His (the writer's) standard of fidelity to the truth should be so high that his invention, out of his experience, should produce a truer account than anything factual can be.
The most lasting reputation I have is for an almost ferocious aggressiveness, when in fact I am amiable, indulgent, affectionate, shy and rather timid at heart.
The life of a writer is tragic: the more we advance, the farther there is to go and the more there is to say, the less time there is to say it.
It is only through fiction and the dimension of the imaginary that we can learn something real about individual experience. Any other approach is bound to be general and abstract.
When the style is fully formed, if it has a sweet undersong, we call it beautiful, and the writer may do what he likes in words or syntax.
I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.
It makes a great difference in the force of a sentence whether a man be behind it or no.
Footnotes, the little dogs yapping at the heels of the text.
I like prefaces. I read them. Sometimes I do not read any further.
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.
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
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.
The business of writing is one of the four or five most private things in the world.
I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys but strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.
He claimed his modest share of the general foolishness of the human race.
There are two kinds of writers - the great ones who can give you truths, and the lesser ones, who can only give you themselves.
My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying . . . one must ruthlessly suppress everything that is not concerned with the subject. If, in the first chapter, you say there is a gun hanging on the wall, you should make quite sure that it is going to be used further on in the story.
(Writing) - the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
All a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he's a writer. It's an aphrodisiac.
Publication is a self-invasion of privacy.
It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.
I've put my genius into my life; I've only put my talent into my works.
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.
I am what libraries and librarians have made me, with a little assistance from a professor of Greek and a few poets.
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.
If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write.
A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right.
How can I know what I think till I see what I say?
Please, never despise the translator. He's the mailman of human civilization.
The waste basket is a writer's best friend.
The llama is a woolly sort of fleecy hairy goat With an indolent expression and an undulating throat - Like an unsuccessful literary man.
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 his recognition of bad writing are bound to unfold at something like the same rate.
Words and sentences are subjects of revision; paragraphs and whole compositions are subjects of prevision.
There is nothing more dangerous to the formation of a prose style than the endeavour to make it poetic.
The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also his most difficult task.
Now as through this world I ramble, I see lots of funny men, Some rob you with a six gun Some with a fountain pen.
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.
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
I have cultivated my hysteria with joy and terror.
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.
A good writer is basically a story-teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.
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.
I believe the writer... should always be the final judge. I have always held to that position and have sometimes seen books hurt thereby, but at least as often helped. The book belongs to the author.
You have to throw yourself away when you write.
A memorandum is written to protect the writer - not to inform his reader.
I write for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear Readers, are an afterthought.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as if it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.
A novel must be exceptionally good to live as long as the average cat.
You praise the firm restraint with which they write - I'm with you, there, of course: They use the snaffle and the curb all right, But where's the bloody horse?
At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.
On the trail of another man, the biographer must put up with finding himself at every turn: any biography uneasily shelters an autobiography within it.
The editorial job has become, unlike the ancient age when one judged what one read, a job of making judgements on outlines, ideas, reputations, previous books, scenarios, treatments, talk and promises.
An editor should tell the author his writing is better than it is. Not a lot better, a little better.
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.
Just as there is nothing between the admirable omelette and the intolerable, so with autobiography.
How can you write if you can't cry?
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.
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.
No man understands a deep book until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents.
Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good.


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My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
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