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Writing1

  • Writing isn't about the destination—writing is the journey that transforms the soul and gives meaning to all else.

  • Writing is self-taught. Consulting other people only teaches you to depend on their reactions, which may or may not be legitimate. Quit looking for approval ... Learn to evaluate your own work with a dispassionate eye ... the lessons you acquire will be all the more valuable because you've mastered your craft from within.

    • Sue Grafton,
    • in Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz, Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life ()
  • Here is a simple recipe to begin with. Get up every morning with the set intention of writing and go to your desk and sit there for three hours, whether you accomplish anything or not. Before long you will find that you are writing madly, not waiting for inspiration.

  • Writing is unsocial, solitary work and the one safety-valve sort of reaction from it is contact with people. Otherwise the writing and the writer both suffer from lack of aeration and contact with material of art.

  • ... I honestly believe that everything I know about the writing of non-fiction (or writing) could be engraved on the head of a pin with a garden hoe ...

    • M.F.K. Fisher,
    • in Norah K. Barr, Marsha Moran, Patrick Moran, eds., M.F.K. Fisher: A Life in Letters ()
  • It's difficult to write a really good short story because it must be a complete and finished reflection of life with only a few words to use as tools. There isn't time for bad writing in a short story.

  • The ideal view for daily writing, hour on hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible.

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

  • Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I've ever encountered. It takes it out of you. It's very psychically wearing not to write — I mean if you're supposed to be writing.

  • I just write when fear overtakes me.

    • Fran Lebowitz,
    • in Jane Yolen, 'Writing With Joy,' The Writer ()
  • To survive, each sentence must have, at its heart, a little spark of fire, and this, whatever the risk, the novelist must pluck with his own hands from the blaze.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "Life and the Novelist," The Common Reader, 1st series ()
  • ... the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.

  • 'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "Modern Fiction," The Common Reader, 1st series ()
  • ... a good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in, not out.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "The Modern Essay," The Common Reader, 1st series ()
  • There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "The Modern Essay," The Common Reader, 1st series ()
  • If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.

  • ... writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial.

  • I think writing, my writing, is a species of mediumship. I become the person.

  • Writing is still like heaving bricks over a wall ...

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • 1922, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1912-1922 ()
  • Let it be fact, one feels, or let it be fiction; the imagination will not serve under two masters simultaneously.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "Poetry, Fiction, and the Future," in David Hume, ed., Selected Essays ()
  • I don't want the world to give me anything for my books except money enough to save me from the temptation to write only for money.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1859, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • All writing seems to me worse in the state of proof than in any other form. In manuscript one's own wisdom is rather remarkable to one, but in proof it has the effect of one's private furniture repeated in the shop windows. And then there is the sense that the worst errors will go to press unnoticed!

    • George Eliot,
    • 1875, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • ... a writer's first duty is to be clear. Clarity is an excellent virtue. Like all virtues it can be pursued at ruinous cost. Paid, so far as I am concerned, joyfully.

  • Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles.

  • Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.

  • A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.

  • [On writer's block:] You notice only this: your worker — your one and only, your prized, coddled, and driven worker — is not going out on that job. Will not budge, not even for you, boss. Has been at it long enough to know when the air smells wrong; can sense a tremor through boot soles. Nonsense, you say; it is perfectly safe. But the worker will not go. Will not even look at the site. Just developed heart trouble. Would rather starve. Sorry.

  • ... the profession of writing is nothing else but a violent, indestructible passion. When it has once entered people's heads it never leaves them.

    • George Sand,
    • 1831, in Raphaël Ledos de Beaufort, ed., Letters of George Sand, vol. 1 ()
  • Books are like sapphires; they must be polished — polished! or else you insult your readers.

  • The writer's way is rough and lonely, and who would choose it while there are vacancies in more gracious professions, such as, say, cleaning out ferryboats?

    • Dorothy Parker,
    • introduction to S.J. Perelman, The Most of S.J. Perelman ()
  • ... writing is a labor of love and also an act of defiance, a way to light a candle in a gale wind.

    • Alice Childress,
    • "A Candle in a Gale Wind," in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) ()
  • I work better the more I am confined and the less I am distracted. My ultimate place would be a closet.

  • A children's writer should, ideally, be a dedicated semi-lunatic, a kind of poet with a marvelous idea, who, preferably, when not committing the marvellous idea to paper, does something else of a quite different kind, so as to acquire new and rich experience.

  • ... words are but drops pressed out of the lives of those who lived them.

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

  • ... any writer is inevitably going to work with his own anxieties and desires. If the book is any good it has got to have in it the fire of a personal unconscious mind.

    • Iris Murdoch,
    • in Gillian Dooley, ed., From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations With Iris Murdoch ()
  • I shall live bad if I do not write and I shall write bad if I do not live.

  • Writing takes a pen, a sheet of paper and, to start with, just the shadow of an idea.

  • When you make a decision to write according to a set schedule and really stick to it, you find yourself writing very fast. At least I do.

    • Françoise Sagan,
    • in Blair Fuller and Robert B. Silvers, "Françoise Sagan, "The Art of Fiction No. 15," Paris Review ()
  • For me, writing is a question of finding a certain rhythm. I compare it to the rhythm of jazz.

    • Françoise Sagan,
    • in Blair Fuller and Robert B. Silvers, "Françoise Sagan, "The Art of Fiction No. 15," Paris Review ()
  • Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.

  • ... in writing we live life twice: once in the experience, and again in recording and reflecting upon our experience.

  • Some degree of expression is necessary for growth, but it should be little in proportion to the full life.

    • Margaret Fuller,
    • 1843, in Robert N. Hudspeth, ed., The Letters of Margaret Fuller, vol. 3 ()
  • Dialogue in fiction should be reserved for the culminating moments and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving towards the watcher on the shore.

  • I think you write only out of a great trouble. A trouble of excitement, a trouble of enlargement, a trouble of displacement in yourself.

  • ... why, why, when one writes, does a sort of shackle bind one's imagination? I become conscious of a deadening mediocrity, perhaps a form of mental cowardice, and I long to break free, to let my imagination take wings. It doesn't — yet ...

    • Winifred Holtby,
    • 1924, in Alice Holtby and Jean McWilliam, eds., Letters to a Friend ()
  • The only difficulty is to know what bits to choose and what to leave out. Novel-writing is not creation, it is selection.

    • Winifred Holtby,
    • 1926, in Alice Holtby and Jean McWilliam, eds., Letters to a Friend ()
  • But to write — that is grief and labor; and to read what one has written — how unlike the story as one saw it; how dull, how spirtless — that is enough to send one weeping to bed.

  • A passage is not plain English — still less is it good English — if we are obliged to read it twice to find out what it means.

  • This suspension of one's own reality, this being entirely alone in a strange city (at times I wondered if I had lost the power of speech) is an enriching state for a writer. Then the written word ... takes on an intensity of its own. Nothing gets exteriorized or dissipated; all is concentrated within.

  • Try making a poem as if it were a table, clear and solid, standing there outside you.

  • I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something.

  • I find that when I have any appointment, even an afternoon one, it changes the whole quality of time. I feel overcharged. There is no space for what wells up from the subconscious; those dreams and images live in deep still water and simply submerge when the day gets scattered.

  • I am furious at all the letters to answer, when all I want to do is think and write poems. ... I long for open time, with no obligations except toward the inner world and what is going on there.

  • I have never written a book that was not born out of a question I needed to answer for myself.

  • I am brooding on the book and think there must be a pause to let things come, not to force them. But I am not suited to pauses. When I can't work I feel miserable, a worm.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1941, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • ... when I am working I immediately feel hopeful.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1949, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • A great silence has descended on me for the last six months. I am as silent as an Arab in the desert, as dry, thirsty, and full of wonder and rumours which do not materialize into camels or travellers at all, but just vanish into the silent spaces from where they came. I expect this is a good thing though it is extremely irritating — the brink of a voice and never a voice.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1942, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.

  • Content without style is propaganda or adolescence. Style without content is decadence.

  • Don't ask to live in tranquil times. Literature doesn't grow there.

  • Money and writing appear to be mutually exclusive.

  • Writing is like anything — baseball playing, piano playing, sewing, hammering nails. The more you work on it, the better you get. But it seems to take a longer time to get better at writing than hammering nails.

  • When I type a title page, I hold it and I look at it and I think, I just need four thousand sentences to go with this and I'll have a book!

  • For me, reading books and writing them are tied together. The words of other writers teach me and refresh me and inspire me.

  • ... plot is character in action.

  • All writers have periods when they stop writing, when they cannot write, and this is always painful and terrible because writing is like breathing ...

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Joan Wylie Hall, ed., Conversations with Audre Lorde ()
  • Mark this well, I told myself, when you come to write the History of your own Life; ne'er forget that 'tis not Fidelity to Fact alone that makes a Story stir the Blood, but Craft and Art! And 'tis perhaps the greatest Craft to seem to have no Craft.

  • What a damnably lonely profession writing is! In order to do it, one must banish the world, and having banished it, one feels cosmically alone.

  • Writing has often been accompanied by terror, silences, and then wild bursts of private laughter that suddenly make all the dread seem worthwhile.

  • Before things are written down they don't exist in quite the same way. The act of fixing them in words gives them a kind of currency that can be traded.

  • The most important education you get is on your own. ... You learn in solitude from reading other writers. And from writing and writing and writing.

    • Erica Jong,
    • in Charlotte Templin, Conversations With Erica Jong ()
  • ... writing is the only thing that ... when I'm doing it, I don't feel that I should be doing something else instead ...

  • ... we teach what we need to learn and we write what we need to know.

  • Writing has been a way of explaining to myself the things I do not understand.

  • When I feel that I'm going to write a detective story, I buy a five pound box of chocolates and a ream of paper. When the candy is all gone and the paper all used up, I know that the book is long enough.

  • [On Uncle Tom's Cabin:] I no more thought of style or literary excellence than the mother who rushes into the street and cries for help to save her children from a burning house, thinks of the teachings of the rhetorician or the elocutionist.

  • It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple beautiful sentence.

  • [On her political writings:] It is, I confess, very possible that these my Labours may only be destined to line Trunks, or preserve roast Meat from too fierce a Fire; yet in that Shape I shall be useful to my Country.

  • Whatever is clearly expressed is well wrote ...

  • No one can be taught to be a writer. But it is possible to learn to write better.

  • There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as exist ... lead through ... the jungles of the self, the world, and of craft.

  • Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.

  • ... every good story ... must leave in the mind of the sensitive reader an intangible residuum of pleasure; a cadence, a quality of voice that is exclusively the writer's own, individual, unique.

    • Willa Cather,
    • preface, The Best Short Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett ()
  • Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there — that, one might say, is created.

  • The manuscript in the drawer either rots or ripens.

  • Anyone who has attempted to create knows the hellishness of it, which consists in the final inescapability from it. Knows that anything, however deadly humdrum to drug the senses, is preferable to it. Knows the gigantic effort to get started on the boundless, unwieldy, shapeless material; the forest of hesitations; of what to keep and what to throw out; the running-out terror and reluctance in one of finishing.

  • It is not the office of a novelist to show us how to behave ourselves; it is not the business of fiction to teach us anything.

  • Every word misused revenges itself forever upon a writer's reputation.

    • Agnes Repplier,
    • "Conservative's Consolations," Points of Friction ()
  • I have suffered, like other writers, from indolence, irresolution, distaste to my work, absence of 'inspiration,' and all that: but I have also found that sitting down, however reluctantly, with the pen in my hand, I have never worked for one quarter of an hour without finding myself in full train ...

  • Why does my Muse only speak when she is unhappy? / She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy / When I am happy I live and despise writing / For my Muse this cannot but be dispiriting.

  • There can be no good art that is international. Art to be vigorous and gesund must use the material at hand.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "On Writing," in Hermione Lee, ed., Stevie Smith: A Selection ()
  • Colours are what drive me most strongly.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "On Writing," in Hermione Lee, ed., Stevie Smith: A Selection ()
  • 1. Always wait between books for the springs to fill up and flow over. 2. Always preserve within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries. 3. Always, and as far as it is possible, endeavor to touch life on every side; but keep the central vision of the mind, the inmost light, untouched and untouchable.

    • Ellen Glasgow,
    • "One Way to Write Novels," in The Saturday Review ()
  • Knowledge, like experience, is valid in fiction only after it has dissolved and filtered down through the imagination into reality.

  • Yes, I learned long ago that the only satisfaction of authorship lies in finding the very few who understand what we mean. As for outside rewards, there is not one that I have ever discovered.

  • One cannot lay a foundation by scattering stones, nor is a reputation for good work to be got by strewing volumes about the world ...

  • Thinking, writing are ultimately questions of stamina.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Under the Sign of Saturn," in The New York Review of Books ()
  • Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won't come through.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1964, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • I write — and talk — in order to find out what I think.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • 1965, in David Rieff, ed., As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh ()
  • But to make the intangible tangible, to pick the emotion out of the air and make it true for others, is both the blessing and the curse of the writer, for the thing between book covers is never as beautiful as the thing he imagined.

  • I have found that each of my books has developed out of something I have written in a previous book. Some thought evidently unfinished.

  • Most people won't realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.

  • I always write a story in one sitting.

  • I work whenever I'm let.

  • I've been called a stylist until I really could tear my hair out. And I simply don't believe in style. The style is you.

  • I think it is the most curious lack of judgment to publish before you are ready. If there are echoes of other people in your work, you're not ready. If anybody has to help you rewrite your story, you're not ready. A story should be a finished work before it is shown.

  • A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it's a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself — or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. ... You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own way.

  • I finished the thing, but I think I sprained my soul.

  • Writing does not exclude the full life; it demands it.

  • Work goes as slowly as death by headache, which it really turns out to be, I'm afraid.

  • Two-thirds of my energies go in trying to save one-third for work.

  • The greatest art comes out of warmth and conviction and deep feeling, but then, very few people, even geniuses, have all that.

  • 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.

  • ... however many resolutions one makes, one's pen, like water, always finds its own level, and one can't write in any way other than one's own.

    • Vita Sackville-West,
    • letter to Virginia Woolf (1928), in Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska, eds., The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf ()
  • Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment ...

  • No writer, I believe, should attempt a novel before he is thirty, and not then unless he has been hopelessly and helplessly involved in life. For the writer who goes out to find material for a novel, as a fishermen goes out to sea to fish, will certainly not write a good novel. Life has to be lived thoughtlessly, unconsciously, at full tilt and for no purpose except its own sake before it becomes, eventually, good material for a novel.

  • [On Frances Newman:] ... she employs Matthew Arnold's trick of using a phrase again and again and again, till it accumulates significance like a snowball.

    • Rebecca West,
    • "Battlefield and Sky," The Strange Necessity ()
  • ... whatever a work of art may be, the artist certainly cannot dare to be simple. He must have a nature as complicated and as violent, as totally unsuggestive of the word innocence, as a modern war.

    • Rebecca West,
    • "Battlefield and Sky," The Strange Necessity ()
  • Nobody ever wrote a good book simply by collecting a number of accurate facts and valid ideas.

  • ... humanity is never more sphinxlike than when it is expressing itself.

  • I really write to find out what I know about something and what is to be known about something.

    • Rebecca West,
    • in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series ()
  • I have never been able to write with anything more than the left hand of my mind; the right hand has always been engaged in something to do with personal relationships. I don't complain, because I think my left hand's power, as much as it has, is due to its knowledge of what my right hand is doing.

  • To mistake ugliness for reality is one of the frauds of the realistic school [of writing]. A hunger for the unknown and an aspiration toward beauty were inseparable from civilization. In America the word art was distorted to mean artificial.

  • I write emotional algebra.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1946, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 4 ()
  • The personal, if it is deep enough, becomes universal, mythical, symbolic ...

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1946, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 4 ()
  • I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1954, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 5 ()
  • If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • "The New Woman" (1971), The White Blackbird ()
  • The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.

  • Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.

  • One writes because one has a burning desire to objectify what it is indispensable to one's happiness to express ...

    • Marianne Moore,
    • "Idiosyncrasy and Technique," A Marianne Moore Reader ()
  • ... I believe verbal felicity is the fruit of ardor, of diligence, and of refusing to be false.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • 1951, in Patricia C. Willis, ed., The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore ()
  • Revision is its own reward.

    • Marianne Moore,
    • 1948, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • Art, at any rate in a novel, must be indissolubly linked with craft ...

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • introduction (1948), in Antonia White, Frost in May ()
  • Style is the thing that's always a bit phony, and at the same time you cannot write without style.

  • Story involves action. Action towards an end not to be foreseen (by the reader) but also towards an end which, having been reached, must be seen to have been from the start inevitable.

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • "Notes on Writing a Novel" (1945), Pictures and Conversations ()
  • Roughly, the action of a character should be unpredictable before it has been shown, inevitable when it has been shown. In the first half of a novel, the unpredictability should be the more striking. In the second half, the inevitability should be the more striking.

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • "Notes on Writing a Novel" (1945), Pictures and Conversations ()
  • Often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and color. I have the painter's sensitivity to light. Much ... of my writing is verbal painting.

  • ... every short story is an experiment — what one must ask is not only, did it come off, but was it, as an experiment, worth making?

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • 1959, in Hermione Lee, ed., The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen ()
  • My writing, I am prepared to think, may be a substitute for something I have been born without — a so-called normal relation to society. My books are my relation to society.

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • "Why Do I Write?" in Hermione Lee, ed., The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen ()
  • ... writers do not find subjects: subjects find them. There is not so much a search as a state of open susceptibility.

    • Elizabeth Bowen,
    • 1952, in Hermione Lee, ed., The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen ()
  • What I really do is take real plums and put them in an imaginary cake ... If you're interested in the cake, you get rather annoyed with people saying what species the real plum was.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • in Elisabeth Niebuhr, "The Art of Fiction XXVII," The Paris Review ()
  • The relation between life and literature — a final antimony — is one of mutual plagiarism.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • "Inventions of I. Compton-Burnett," in Carol Brightman, Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World ()
  • My occupational hazard is that I can't help plagiarizing from real life.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • 1979, in Carol Brightman, Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World ()
  • Of two evils, had not an author better be tedious than superficial! From an overflowing vessel you may gather more, indeed, than you want, but from an empty one you can gather nothing.

  • ... day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is re-naming.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision," On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ()
  • William must continue to write. Tell him it is a habit the pleasure of which increases with practice, but becomes more irksome with neglect.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter to her daughter (1808), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • A sentence is not emotional a paragraph is.

  • Now I will give you a piece of advice. I will tell you something that I absolutely believe you should do, and if you do not do it you will never be a witer. It is a certain truth. When your pencil is dull, sharpen it. And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again.

  • The p'int of good writing is to know when to stop.

  • Don't try to write anything you can't feel — it will be a failure ...

  • When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, without faith and without hope, suddenly the work will finish itself.

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • in Glenway Wescott, Images of Truth: Remembrances and Criticism ()
  • The richness and endless variety of human relationships ... that's what authors, even the finest and greatest, only succeed in hinting at. It's a hopeless business, like trying to dip up the ocean with a tea-spoon.

    • Dorothy Canfield Fisher,
    • 1920, in Mark J. Madigan, ed., Keeping Fires Night and Day: Selected Letters of Dorothy Canfield Fisher ()
  • I heard once that she professes to hate writing, and writes to live. She writes rapidly, because without an ideal: which is a very common reason for uncommon facility.

  • Trauma reflected upon in tranquility can produce morally stunning insights — literary light! It can also produce maudlin rubbish.

  • Writing, as I experience it, means wringing out the heart/mind until it stops lying.

  • Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.

  • The habits of a lifetime when everything else had to come before writing are not easily broken, even when circumstances now often make it possible for writing to be first; habits of years — responses to others, distractibility, responsibility for daily matters — stay with you, mark you, become you. The cost of discontinuity (that pattern still imposed on women) is such a weight of things unsaid, an accumulation of material so great, that everything starts up something else in me; what should take weeks take me sometimes months to write; what should take months, takes years.

  • It's never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise.

  • ... writing is probably about five percent talent and ninety-five percent hard work. And I think most people have got five percent talent.

  • It might have happened sooner had I had a room of my own and fewer children, but somehow I doubt it. For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.

  • Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility.

  • The difference between writing a story and simply relating past events is that a story, in order to be acceptable, must have shape and meaning. It is the old idea that art is the bringing of order out of chaos ...

  • This is what art is all about. It is weaving fabric from the feathers you have plucked from your own breast. But no one must ever see the process — only the finished bolt of goods. They must never suspect that that crimson thread running through the pattern is blood.

  • ... a novel is not born of a single idea. The stories I've tried to write from one idea, no matter how terrific an idea, have sputtered out and died by chapter three. For me, novels have invariably come from a complex of ideas that in the beginning seemed to bear no relation to each other, but in the unconscious began mysteriously to merge and grow. Ideas for a novel are like the strong guy lines of a spider web. Without them the silken web cannot be spun.

  • Style in writing is like style in anything else — some special quality that commands interest or gives pleasure, something that makes you 'sit up and take notice.'

  • ... style is not a gift. It is technique. It is the 'how' of writing as opposed to the 'what.' No matter what you have to say, you can learn to say it well. And that is style.

  • ... ultimately your style reflects everything that you are — your attitudes, your capacity for thought and feeling, the whole quality of your mind and imagination.

  • ... the only real rule I know in writing is, Don't be boring. Sleeping people don't read a word you write or hear a thing you say. How can they? They are asleep. So don't put anyone to sleep, and you will probably do okay.

  • For writers from working-class families, the making of art is cultural disenfranchisement, for we do not belong in literary circles and our writing rarely makes it back home.

    • Valerie Miner,
    • "Writing With Class" (1988), Rumors From the Cauldron ()
  • Literature is a peculiarly public product of a particularly private endeavor.

    • Valerie Miner,
    • "Competition Among Feminist Writers," Rumors From the Cauldron ()
  • All I have told is true, but it is not the whole truth.

  • If I haven't anything to write, I am just as anxious to 'take my pen in hand' as though I had a message to deliver, a cause to plead, or a problem to unfold. Nothing but writing rests me; only then do I seem completely myself!

  • [On nonfiction:] At its height it is scholarship clothed in poetry.

  • Nobody wanted me. I just kept writing books and learning my craft. Most writers aren't very good in the beginning.

  • I wanted to write; I sought all possible paths of personal liberation, but I could never sacrifice a living instant of life for the sake of a line to be written, my balance for the sake of a manuscript, a storm within me for the sake of a poem. I loved life itself too much for this.

  • Cut! Cut! Cut! Your reader has a life.

  • I am so full of my work, I can't stop to eat or sleep, or for anything but a daily run.

  • Do write a little each day, dear, if but a line, to show me how bravely you begin the battle, how patiently you wait for the rewards sure to come when the victory is nobly won.

    • Abigail May Alcott,
    • letter to daughter Louisa May Alcott (1846), in Eve LaPlante, Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother ()
  • Oh! may this pen your muse inspire, / When wrapd in pure poetic fire.

    • Abigail May Alcott,
    • to daughter Louisa May Alcott (1842), in Eve LaPlante, Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother ()
  • If I wanted to write, I had to be willing to develop a kind of concentration found mostly in people awaiting execution.

  • ... making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.

  • You never get over the fear of writing.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Paul Rosenfield, "Angelou: The Caged Bird Still Sings," L.A. Times Calendar ()
  • I've tried to be totally present, so that when I'm finished with a piece of work, I'm finished. ... The work, once completed, does not need me. The work I'm working on needs my total concentration. The one that's finished doesn't belong to me anymore. It belongs to itself.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • Writing is not hard work, it is simply an obsession ...

  • When I'm having trouble I write by hand. There is some connection between the mind and the fingers that draws out words.

  • The only justification for writing a novel is that it should be wonderful. Adequate is inadequate.

  • I have no leisure to think of style or of polish, or to select the best language, the best English — no time to shine as an authoress. I must just think aloud, so as not to keep the public waiting.

  • Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.

  • To be a biographer is a somewhat peculiar endeavor. It seems to me it requires not only the tact, patience, and thoroughness of a scholar but the stamina of a horse.

  • Confidence is something one acquires. It can come early or late but it is impossible to write without it. Mine came late.

    • Fay Weldon,
    • in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse ()
  • The peculiar need to write is increased, it seems, rather than allayed with practice.

    • Fay Weldon,
    • in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse ()
  • Writers were never meant to be professionals. Writing is not a profession, it is an activity, an essentially amateur occupation. It is what you do when you are not living.

  • ... one learns best, and writes best, in a state of defiance.

  • Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists. The strands are all there; to the memory nothing is ever really lost.

  • My own words, when I am at work on a story, I hear too as they go, in the same voice that I hear when I read in books. When I write and the sound of it comes back to my ears, then I act to make changes. I have always trusted this voice.

  • Each story tells me how to write it, but not the one afterwards.

  • Plots are ... what the writer sees with.

  • At the time of writing, I don't write for my friends or myself either; I write for it, for the pleasure of it.

    • Eudora Welty,
    • in Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, Conversations With Eudora Welty ()
  • I think that as you learn more about writing you learn to be direct.

    • Eudora Welty,
    • in Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, Conversations With Eudora Welty ()
  • Daydreaming had started me on the way; but story writing once I was truly in its grip, took me and shook me awake.

  • Integrity can be neither lost nor concealed nor faked nor quenched nor artificially come by nor outlived, nor, I believe, in the long run denied.

    • Eudora Welty,
    • "Must the Novelist Crusade," The Eye of the Story ()
  • Writing is, more than anything, a search for one's self.

    • Gwen Moffat,
    • in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse ()
  • It is a racking thing to have a plague of ideas and no chance to get rid of them on paper. I've nearly gone mad at times.

  • Writing, which is my form of celebration and prayer, is also my way of inquiry.

  • Life becomes a lot simpler for a creative person when he or she finds the routine that works best. ... get in the habit of going through the routine every day, and on some of those days, you're going to be lucky and have done some good work. ... Go to your study, close the door, invent your confidence.

  • The writing itself is the best way to work through self-doubt.

  • Writing is harder than anything else; at least starting to write is.

    • Kristin Hunter,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • I write in the first person because I have always wanted to make my life more interesting than it was.

  • A writer needs certain conditions in which to work and create art. She needs a piece of time; a peace of mind; a quiet place; and a private life.

    • Margaret Walker,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • ... writing is a journey, not a destination.

  • People think that they will sit down and produce the great American novel in one sitting. It doesn't work that way. This is a very patient and meticulous work, and you have to do it with joy and love for the process, not for the outcome.

  • I wrote for 12 years and collected 250 rejection slips before getting any fiction published, so I guess outside reinforcement isn't all that important to me.

  • why do you write they ask / why do you breathe i ask.

    • Alta,
    • i am not a practicing angel
    • ()
  • ... inspiration never arrived when you were searching for it.

  • ... for her the whole business of fiction was an arduous putting into words of ideas, pictures, thoughts that continually fought with her to keep their anonymity, their right to a shadowy and secret existence. She never put a thought on paper without feeling as though she were dragging some shrinking little crustacean out of its small shell with a pin.

  • Description needs to slide into a story like a snake through grass — silently, almost invisibly, without calling attention to itself. It should enrich every story moment without slowing the action.

  • Never think of revising as fixing something that is wrong. That starts you off in a negative frame of mind ... Rather, think of it as taking an opportunity to improve something you already love.

  • Writing the opening lines of a story is a bit like starting to ski at the steepest part of a hill. You must have all your skills under control from the first instant.

  • You don't choose your themes; they choose you. The meaning of your stories will rise out of your deepest longings, often out of longings so deep that you haven't admitted them even to yourself. Your convictions, your confusions, your most passionate dreams will be there whenever you begin a story, so you might as well learn to tap into them.

  • ... my experience as a fiction writer tells me that the deeper I look into myself, the more universal is the experience I find there.

  • To me, writing is not a profession. You might as well call living a profession. Or having children. Anything you can't help doing.

  • ... the finest achievements are those of the pen. ... To me God the Father is a writer.

  • No matter how true I believe what I am writing to be, if the reader cannot also participate in that truth, then I have failed.

  • Inspiration comes during work, not before it.

  • Inspiration does not always precede the act of writing; it often follows it.

  • When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colours are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.

  • Build a concept around a conflict and characters audiences can root for. A dog that savagely kills its owners and then embarks on a search for new owners is a tough sell.

  • ... publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

  • Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere. ... There are many obvious advantages to this. You don't have to dress up, for instance, and you can't hear them boo you right away.

  • A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way.

  • If you write what you know about, you will always be on safe ground. I am very edgy and nervous about going into territories I know nothing about. That's why you don't find much high finance, group sex, or yachting parties in my stories.

  • What I use from my own life is not the facts, it's the emotion. It's how I felt about something. It has nothing to do with facts at all. You can get those anywhere. It's the feelings of childhood that you need to know.

  • It is easy to write when you don't know how.

  • Writing is something warm and dependable to snuggle up to when everything else is in flux. It's a little secret that you carry with you in public — the knowledge that you alone have the ability to escape to a wonderland where you can make anything happen.

  • Of one thing the reader can be certain: the more easily anything reads, the harder it has been to write.

  • [The writer] wants both to do the best possible work and also to reach the largest possible audience. The result is a fairly normal condition of discouragement.

  • I'm widest awake as a writer doing something new, engaged in a process I'm not sure I can finish, generating at the edge of my powers. Some people bungee jump; I write.

  • There is no perfect time to write. There's only now.

  • ... there is no pleasure so sweet as the pleasure of spending money but the pleasure of writing is longer. There is no denying that.

  • A novel is what you dream in your night sleep. A novel is not waking thoughts although it is written and thought with waking thoughts.

    • Gertrude Stein,
    • "The Superstitions of Fred Anneday, Annday, Anday: A Novel of Real Life" (1934), How Writing Is Written ()
  • Writing ... is a profession that can only be learned by writing.

  • Writing is an aggressive act because you aren't leaving well enough alone. Some people will love you for it and others will feel threatened by your nerve. Whenever you write you reject being a passive receiver or a victim. When you finish a piece, you're refusing to be silenced or ignored. Writing is brave.

  • Endings are the hardest parts to write. This is because they are false. Nothing truly ends; it transforms. Still, the novel must have a last page, the poem a final line. So it is helpful when writing ends to remember that you are really constructing a passageway, a birth canal, a place where the writer lets go and the work becomes part of the reader's consciousness, understanding, and imagination.

  • In a way, all creative writing is about the unexpected. Speakers in poems and essays and characters in narratives are coping with a series of surprises as they move through life, just as we are. The unexpected happens or the expected happens but the reaction is a surprise. We surprise ourselves and we surprise one another. The only thing that isn't surprising is that we continue to be surprised.

  • If you avoid what is dangerous, you avoid life. If you throw yourself into a dangerous place without preparation, you devalue life. Writing is one of the crossroads where what is most disturbing can be explored and investigated without destroying yourself or others. This is one of the highest purposes of the arts.

  • Writing is a border town between experience, imagination, and understanding. Borders are wild and unstable places so it's a good idea to be as centered as possible when visiting them. The reasons writers often surround their writing time with rituals such as jumping rope, making coffee, or rearranging piles of paper is that these are ways to prepare for the trip.

  • I believe that with enough practice and good faith, you can learn to recognize when the work is achieved.

  • Learning when 'enough is enough' is the discipline of a lifetime.

  • Much of the activity we think of as writing is, actually, getting ready to write.

    • Gail Godwin,
    • "Rituals and Readiness: Getting Ready to Write," in Neil Baldwin and Diane Osen, eds., The Writing Life ()
  • Writing is the crack through which you can crawl into a bigger world, into your wild mind.

  • Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.

  • If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.

  • Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write.

  • Often I am asked, who taught me how to write? Everything, I want to say. Everything taught me, everything became my teacher, though at the time I was not aware of all the tender shoots that helped me along, that came up in Mr. Clemente's class, in Mr. Cates's, with all the teachers I can't remember anymore, with all the blank times, the daydreaming, the boredom, the American legacy of loneliness and alienation, my Jewish background, the sky, the desk, a pen, the pavement, small towns I've driven through. The list could go on and on until I named every moment I was alive ... And we can't avoid an inch of our own experience; if we do it causes a blur, a bleep, a puffy unreality. Our job is to wake up to everything, because if we slow down enough, we see we are everything.

  • When we write we begin to taste the texture of our own mind.

  • Ultimately, writing is about trusting your own mind. It is an act of discovery.

  • If I had to give up performing, it wouldn't bother me too much. But I couldn't live without my writing. I put all my feelings, my very soul, into my writing. I tell the world in my songs things I wouldn't even tell my husband.

    • Dolly Parton,
    • in Lola Scobey, Dolly, Daughter of the South ()
  • Writing novels is an essentially amateur activity.

  • The desire to write a novel is the single required prerequisite for writing a novel.

  • The process of writing a poem represents work done on the self of the poet, in order to make form.

  • One writes in order to feel ...

  • I do so hate finishing books, I would like to go on with them for years.

  • The shorter and the plainer the better.

    • Beatrix Potter,
    • in Judy Taylor, Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: The Artist and Her World ()
  • 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.

  • All my writing has been an effort to sort out the paradoxes of my life.

  • ... our finest writing will certainly come from what is unregenerate in ourselves. It will come from the part that is obdurate, unbanishable, immune to education, springing up like grass.

  • Writing teaches writing. Your writing will teach you how to write if you work hard enough and have enough faith.

  • I used to think when I had children that somebody else had the rule book and they hadn't given it to me, and everybody else knew how to do it right except me. I find the same thing in writing: you think that everybody knows what they're doing and that you don't.

    • Danielle Steel,
    • in Barnaby Conrad, The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction ()
  • If you let anything infringe on your writing time, it will. And you won't get the writing done. Taking one day off can cost me five days of getting back in the mood. Going out to lunch can cost me anywhere from five hours to three days. And for me it's not worth it. For my own sense of well-being I have to finish my work before I can play.

    • Danielle Steel,
    • in Barnaby Conrad, The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction ()
  • The desire to confess ... lies at the root of most fiction writing ...

  • To me, all the juice of a book is in an unpublished manuscript, and the published book is like a dead tree — just good for cutting up and building your house with.

  • I only wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget one thing while I am saying another.

  • ... great villains make great movies.

  • It is always difficult to get across to people who are not professional writers that a talent to write does not mean a talent to write anything at all.

  • Writing is like flirting: if you can't do it, no one can teach you how, and if you can do it, no one can keep you from it.

  • A story has to have muscle as well as meaning, and the meaning has to be in the muscle.

  • Success means being heard and don't stand there and tell me that you are indifferent to being heard. You may write for the joy of it, but the act of writing is not complete in itself. It has to end in its audience.

  • The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it.

  • When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls, or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business.

  • You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don't, probably nobody else will.

    • Flannery O'Connor,
    • "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, ed., Mystery and Manners ()
  • Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't write fiction. It isn't grand enough for you.

    • Flannery O'Connor,
    • "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, ed., Mystery and Manners ()
  • I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.

  • Many times I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing: if an idea does come between nine and twelve, I am there ready for it.

  • Elizabeth Hardwick told me once that all her first drafts sounded as if a chicken had written them. So do mine for the most part.

  • I write every day. Even if I'm not writing well, I write through it. I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one.

  • ... write out of desire, out of your own longing to write, because of a yearning, or lack, or desire in yourself. Also you need to love language, to love words for their own sake, not use language just as a transparent medium for ideas.

  • For me writing is a way of trying to connect the outside world and the inside world.

  • The only people who think writing is easy are people who don't write. Writing's a difficult, courageous act. Bravery is required, as well as a great deal of slogging along. A lot of our work is work.

  • Writing time has to be created.

  • I write about the things that disturb me, the things that won't let me alone, the things that are eating slowly into my brain at three in the morning, the things that unbalance my world. Sometimes these are things I've said or done; something they're things I've heard about or seen. Sometimes they're only sentences, sometime scenes, sometimes complete narratives. I carry these things around inside my head until I'm compelled to write them down to get rid of them. I sit down and begin.

  • I wrote almost all of it in the deepest hope and conviction. Sifting my thoughts and choosing my words. Trying to say what was true. And I'll tell you frankly, that was wonderful.

  • Many times when I stop working on a problem consciously, my mind continues to work on it below the surface. Often solutions come on me quite by surprise. I've learned over time to allow that to happen, rather than to feel that I can simply solve the problem by continuous, grueling effort.

  • Writing is often wasteful. If I counted the pages I've torn up, of how many volumes am I the author?

  • When one can read, can penetrate the enchanted realm of books, why write?

  • This is the nth time I have started again on a certain page of my miserable novel. I work with ferocious patience, I who am usually so impatient! It's a battle between my two halves. Oh, what a métier writing is! It seems to me that when you've practiced any other craft for over thirty years, you feel a little confidence, a little mastery. With writing, it's the opposite.

    • Colette,
    • in Robert Phelps, ed., Belles Saisons: A Colette Scrapbook ()
  • ... it is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble the foe ...

  • I saw the business of writing for what it truly was, and is, to me. It is your penance for not being lucky. It is an attempt to reach others and to make them love you. It is your instinctive protest, when you find you have no voice at the world's tribunals, and that no one will speak for you. I would give my entire output of words; past, present, and to come, in exchange for easier access to the world — for permission to state, 'I hurt' or 'I hate' or 'I want.' Or, indeed, 'Look at me!' And I do not go back on this. For once a thing is known it can never be unknown. It can only be forgotten. And writing is the enemy of forgetfulness, of thoughtlessness. For the writer there is no oblivion. Only endless memory.

  • ... when I talk about a writing life, I'm talking about a life in which writing is the dominant response to living.

  • When writing becomes too dominant, it gets leached of its own power. We spend more and more time writing, and we have less and less to write about.

  • We don't often talk about the fact that writing is all about rhythm. When you get too up in your head, you can lose a lot of your writing. Sometimes what a writer really needs to do is go dancing.

  • Writing is a combination of being alert to your outer surroundings and alive to your inner reality ...

  • Off fall the wife, the mother, the lover, the teacher, and the violent artist takes over. I am I alone. I belong to no one but myself. I mate with no one but the spirit. I own no land, have no kin, no friend or enemy. I have no road but this one.

  • ... writing is lonely work and the writer, particularly of fiction, needs constant contact with other people or he begins to feed upon his own heart with all the morbid indigestion this entails.

  • I think writing is a process that starts long before the writers are actually writers and probably goes on long afterward. It's rather like the way the Arabs weave rugs. They don't stop. They just cut them off at a certain spot on the loom. There is no particular beginning or end.

  • ... the power of a text is not time-bound. The words go on doing their work.

  • ... there is no 'feminine writing' ... and one makes a mistake is using and giving currency to this expression.

    • Monique Wittig,
    • "The Point of View: Universal or Particular" (1980), The Straight Mind ()
  • ... writing is about doing something very close to the bone. It's about shocking yourself. When I write, I like to make myself cry, laugh — I like to give myself an experience. I see a lot of writing out there that's very safe. But if you're not scaring yourself, why would you think that you'd be scaring anybody else? If you're not coming to a revelation about your place in the universe, why would you think anyone else would?

    • Kate Braverman,
    • in Lisa Schiffman, "Sabotage in the Writing Place," The San Francisco Review of Books ()
  • ... I knew a book of mine was finished when I was in intensive care.

    • Kate Braverman,
    • in Lisa Schiffman, "Sabotage in the Writing Place," The San Francisco Review of Books ()
  • I write a lot by sound. One sound leads me to another. These sounds aren't random; they have their own logic.

    • Kate Braverman,
    • in Lisa Schiffman, "Sabotage in the Writing Place," The San Francisco Review of Books ()
  • To be a nonfiction writer is never to let a story get in the way of good facts.

  • ... you want to write a book for so many reasons ... The main reason ... is because it will make you well-known and beloved and popular and successful and famous and respected. You also write ... to make money, but that motivation is not first on the list.

  • We speak naturally but spend all our lives trying to write naturally.

  • ... writing is not a choice I have — it's a joyful affliction. I live with it like a terminal condition, like a blessing.

    • Elizabeth Brundage,
    • "Thicker Than Blood," in Constance Warloe, ed., I've Always Meant to Tell You ()
  • To write is to stretch a hand over the chasm.

  • One doesn't 'get' an 'idea' for a novel. The 'idea' more or less 'gets' you. It uses you as a kind of culture, the way a pearl uses an oyster.

    • Diana Chang,
    • "Woolgathering, Ventriloquism and the Double Life," in Dexter Fisher, ed., The Third Woman ()
  • Writing is the passageway, the entrance, the exit, the dwelling place of the other in me.

  • Other-Love is writing's first name.

  • Writing is storytelling. No matter how you slice it, you're saying, 'Once upon a time.' That's what writing is all about.

  • Everyone thinks writers must know more about the inside of the human head, but that is wrong. They know less, that's why they write. Trying to find out what everyone else takes for granted.

  • You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer, an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a river.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • A book, while it is being written, has an intense life of its own which you share.

  • 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.

  • I know this much: if you gotta write, honey, you gotta write. Some call it a disease, some a madness. Ah, but I call it love.

  • ... art happens. It happens when you have the craft and the vocation and are waiting for something else, something extra, or maybe not waiting; in any case it happens. It's the extra rabbit coming out of the hat, the one you didn't put there.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "An End to Audience?" Second Words: Selected Critical Prose ()
  • It is my contention that the process of reading is part of the process of writing, the necessary completion without which writing can hardly be said to exist.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "An End to Audience?" Second Words: Selected Critical Prose ()
  • If you're worried about your own talent, remember this: If you choose to honor the fear, it will weaken your work. If you choose to honor the work, it will weaken your fear.

  • You will find your own rhythms as a writer. But unless you are one of the very few, you'll face resistance [from yourself] every day. Why? Nobody really knows. It seems to be an integral part of the drive to write — a shadow you can never shake.

  • The only way to write is to write today.

  • Slow down and elaborate. My problem was telling too much too fast so that my first draft read more like a synopsis than a novel. Smell the flowers. Build characterization — get inside their head.

  • Writing doesn't get easier just because you make that first sale. I had this fantasy where I would be initiated into an exclusive club, shown the secret handshake, and all my previous insecurities and doubts would be left behind in coach class. But you still have to write, work and struggle.

  • There isn't a thought or feeling that doesn't alter or deepen when written. We are a writing animal. That is why all of us feel we have a book inside us. It isn't an illusion. We have got a book inside us.

    • Carol Bly,
    • Never Like You Plan: An Anthology of Writing by Elder Minnesotans From the COMPAS Literary Post Program ()
  • The secret of literature, which conventional people don't guess, is that writers are forever looking for the surprising revelation — not for reinforcement of collective wisdom.

  • For a short-story writer, a story is the combination of what the writer supposed the story would likely be about — plus what actually turned up in the course of writing.

  • The more original a short-story writer, the odder looking the assortment of things he or she puts together for a story.

  • Perhaps few people realize that this gift is life itself. I would give up almost everything else in the world for my pen!

  • ... when I say 'work' I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.

  • Ideas brush past fleeting and insubstantial as moths. But I let them go, I don't want them. What I want is a voice.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "Selections from a Journal: January 1985-January 1988," in Daniel Halpern, ed., Antaeus ()
  • Not even the most devastating truth can be told; it must be evoked.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "Selections from a Journal: January 1985-January 1988," in Daniel Halpern, ed., Antaeus ()
  • Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • in Robert Compton, "Joyce Carol Oates Keeps Punching," The Dallas Morning News ()
  • I am inclined to 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.

  • ... time stood still. I fell into that beloved space that writers fall into, the reason most write, as it's better than drugs or alcohol ... a high without hangover, an affair without pain.

  • For me to write I have to be, a, alone, and b, know that nobody is going to question me. I write the way a thief steals; it's a little covert.

  • My hand does the work and I don't have to think; in fact, were I to think, it would stop the flow. It's like a dam in the brain that bursts.

  • Nobody has time to write a book. Some people just do it anyhow.

  • A writer soon discovers he has no single identity but lives the lives of all the people he creates and his weathers are independent of the actual day around him. I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

  • The writing itself is the thing that generates stories for me.

  • The good writer and the good actor are always searching for what is essential. It is a never-ending task because what is essential is always elusive and, therefore, fascinating.

  • My function as a writer is not story-telling but truth-telling: to make things plain.

  • ... it is through the ghost [writer] that the great gift of knowledge which the inarticulate have for the world can be made available.

  • Art is selection and symmetry: it creates the illusion of wholeness within its own strictly imposed outlines.

  • In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It's an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions — with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating — but there's no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer's sensibility on the reader's most private space.

    • Joan Didion,
    • "Why I Write," in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

    • Joan Didion,
    • "Why I Write," in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • Mere words will not do. They must convey the color, charm, and pulse of life. They must have a private twinkle of wit in them that makes a good-natured noise like laughter through the keyhole of the reader's mind.

  • The writer who gets published is the writer who finishes the book.

    • Ellen Hart,
    • in Larry Beinhart, How to Write a Mystery ()
  • It's a nervous work. The state that you need to write is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.

  • All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in David Plante, Difficult Women ()
  • ... fiction is what an author makes out of looking at life ...

  • A plot is like the bones of a person, not interesting like expression, or signs of experience, but the support of the whole.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • "A Conversation Between Ivy Compton-Burnett and M. Jourdain," in Orion ()
  • Most of the pleasure of making a book would go if it held nothing to be shared by other people. I would write for a few dozen people, and sometimes it seems that I do so, but I would not write for no-one.

    • Ivy Compton-Burnett,
    • in Elizabeth Proctor, "The Quip Modest and the Smashing Return," in Harper's Bazaar ()
  • I hope I may Live to Spend my time better And have Beter Imployment for my Pen ... Sometimes after our people is gone to Bed I get my Pen for I Dont know how to Content myself without writing Something.

  • The plot is not very important to me, though a novel must have one, of course. It's just a line to hang the washing on.

  • [On writing:] What a difficult kind of work to choose! But of course one did not choose it. There was no choice.

  • I am building a stairway to the stars. I have the authority to take the whole of mankind up there with me. That is why I write.

    • Bessie Head,
    • in Charles R. Larson, ed., Under African Skies ()
  • ... power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories will be told ...

  • You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn't care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can't be a way of life; the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.

  • The whole process of writing is a setting at a distance. That is the value of it — to the writer, and to the people who read the results of this process, which takes the raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into the realm of the general.

  • Writing is primarily a sensuous and creative expression of life.

  • I write every day. Writing is a necessity — like eating.

  • What successful authors have in common, besides talent, is tenacity. Both qualities are good to have, but if you must pick only one, choose the latter. A writer without talent who persists is far more likely to succeed than a talented writer who gives up.

  • Some writers swear by outlines. Some writers swear at them.

  • You love it because writing is more fun than anything else you can think of (except maybe sex). And sometimes, it's even better than that.

    • Peggy Rynk,
    • "The Romance of Being a Writer," in Writer's Digest ()
  • I am dissatisfied with everything I have ever written and regard it all only as a preparation for that one work which probably I don't have it in me to write but which I hope I can go on trying for.

  • You make a success at writing by hitting 'em in the eye a number of times. You keep hitting 'em in the eye and after awhile they say 'What's this?' Write a great many things.

  • Don't scatter your fire! You are a prose writer: stick to your own tool!

    • Sarah Orne Jewett,
    • advice to Laura E. Richards, in Laura E. Richards, Stepping Westward ()
  • The thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper — whether little or great, it belongs to Literature.

    • Sarah Orne Jewett,
    • letter to Willa Cather (1908), in Elizabeth Silverthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett ()
  • You must find your own quiet center of life, and write from that to the world.

    • Sarah Orne Jewett,
    • letter to Willa Cather (1908), in Elizabeth Silverthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett ()
  • Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To 'Why am I here?' To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.

  • Writers talk about the agony of writing; I talk about the agony of not writing.

  • ... I lived with the mental restlessness of wanting to write, the inner nauseas of the half-finished, the great releases of the completed poem.

  • My writing arises out of erotic impulse toward an other: it is an act of love. And I want terribly to be loved in return, as a sign that I have loved well enough.

  • Writing is not, alas, like riding a bicycle: it does not get easier with practice.

  • Mostly it's lies, writing novels. You set out to tell an untrue story and you try to make it believable, even to yourself. Which calls for details; any good lie does.

    • Anne Tyler,
    • in Susan Cahill, ed., New Women & New Fiction ()
  • I expect that any day now, I will have said all I have to say; I'll have used up all my characters, and then I'll be free to get on with my real life.

    • Anne Tyler,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • It seems to me that since I've had children, I've grown richer and deeper. They may have slowed down my writing for a while, but when I did write, I had more of a self to speak from.

    • Anne Tyler,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • I have spent so long erecting partitions around the part of me that writes — learning how to close the door on it when ordinary lfe intervenes, how to close the door on ordinary life when it's time to start writing again — that I'm not sure I could fit the two parts of me back together now.

    • Anne Tyler,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 1 ()
  • My family can always tell when I'm well into a novel because the meals get very crummy.

  • Though I love to hear writers talk about inspiration, I've found that work is the key to keeping my creativity flowing. [That entails] sitting at the desk every day, whether I feel like it or not. Of course, some days are better than others, but honestly, I never know which kind of day I'm going to have until I plant myself in my chair and get started.

  • I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.

    • Anne Tyler,
    • in Alice Hall Petry, ed., Critical Essays on Anne Tyler ()
  • Growth in the ability to write comes in spurts.

  • Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.

  • If I write nothing but fiction for some time I begin to get stupid, and to feel rather as if it had been a long meal of sweets; then history is a rest, for research or narration brings a different part of the mind into play.

  • Every day I write. If there is ever an interruption, like an electric-meter man or a doorbell ringing, it drives me crazy. I don't care how many people call me up, but I don't want anyone near me physically. I don't want to see anyone. I'm just absolutely closed in, and I get more so as the years go by, more and more loving of privacy.

  • I don't make outlines or plans because whenever I do, they turn out to be useless. It is as if I am compelled to violate the scope of any outline or plan; it is as if the writing does not want me to know what is about to happen.

  • ... writing is how I understand everything that happens. Writing is the only way I know to move on.

  • Writing is something that I am ever driven to do, and concerning which I am never satisfied.

  • ... writing, like living, is lonely work.

  • If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Helen Benedict, "A Writer's First Readers," The New York Times Book Review ()
  • One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • in Tom Teicholz, "The Art of Fiction No. 95," The Paris Review ()
  • I draw from life — but I always pulp my acquaintance before serving them up. You would never recognize a pig in a sausage.

  • If you tell an amateur that his story is not good, he always declares indignantly: 'Oh, but it really happened just like this!' The writer who doesn't understand that this is beside the point is not a writer at all.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1944, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • Do not set out to write with your eyes on the box office. It can't be done.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1944, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • You don't build for the way people live, but for the way they should live. I don't write about people as they are, but as they could be and should be.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • to Frank Lloyd Wright (1944), in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • The plot of a movie is its motor. It is not an accident that people call pictures 'vehicles' for stars. A vehicle has to move. A plotless story is like an expensive car with a wonderful body design, luxurious seats, upholstery, headlights (production, direction, cast) — and no motor under its hood. That is why it gets nowhere.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1949, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • Writing enables me to speak without being interrupted!

  • If I don't enjoy what I'm writing I put it in the wastebasket. Because if I don't enjoy writing it, why would anybody enjoy reading it?

  • I still do not know what impels anyone sound of mind to leave dry land and spend a lifetime describing people who do not exist. If it is child's play, an extension of make believe — something one is frequently assured by people who write about writing — how to account for the overriding wish to do that, just that, only that, and consider it as rational an occupation as riding a bicycle over the Alps?

  • I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks.

  • I keep going over a sentence. I nag it, gnaw it, pat it and flatter it.

  • If you want to write, you have to be willing to be disturbed.

  • With writing ... you must keep in the habit. After a lapse it will take you not an hour, but a week, a month, maybe, to find your mood again — that mood in which things drop from heaven. There's no forcing it; you can't set your notions in front of you, and stare at them till they take shape; they have to come to you whether you ask them or not. ... And you have to be in the habit of that mood! Of inspiration!

  • Perhaps one would be wise when young even to avoid thinking of oneself as a writer — for there's something a little stopped and satisfied, too healthy, in that. Better to think of writing, of what one does as an activity, rather than an identity — to write, I write; we write; to keep the calling a verb rather than a noun; to keep working at the thing, at all hours, in all places, so that your life does not become a pose, a pornography of wishing.

    • Lorrie Moore,
    • in Clare Boylan, ed., The Agony and the Ego ()
  • ... the compulsion to read and write — and it seems to me it should be, even must be, a compulsion — is a bit of mental wiring the species has selected, over time, in order, as the life span increases, to keep us interested in ourselves.

    • Lorrie Moore,
    • in Clare Boylan, ed., The Agony and the Ego ()
  • Nighttime is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.

  • To know when a book is finished is as difficult as knowing when a calf becomes a cow.

  • The story is so easy that I hold off on it as long as I can, dealing exhaustively with those elements that are underneath; testing the abstractions at every step, for it is they which, in the last analysis, will provide the meaning and the truth of all that is to come, and the whole weight and authority of the book.

  • A novel which has been too much worked over often goes flat, and no amount of laborious revision can take the place of careful planning beforehand.

  • The grand canyon which yawns between the writer's concept of what he wants to capture in words and what comes through is a cruel abyss.

  • ... writing is the loneliest job in the world. There's always that frustrating chasm to bridge between the concept and the writing of it. We're a harassed tribe, we writers.

  • A piece of writing is the product of a series of explosions in the mind.

  • My vocation is to write and I have known this for a long time. I hope I won't be misunderstood; I know nothing about the value of the things I am able to write. I know that writing is my vocation. When I sit down to write I feel extraordinarily at ease, and I move in an element which, it seems to me, I know extraordinarily well; I use tools that are familiar to me and they fit snugly in my hands. But when I write stories I am like someone who is in her own country, walking along streets that she has known since she was a child, between walls and trees that are hers.

  • I resent people who say writers write from experience. Writers don't write from experience, though many are hesitant to admit that they don't. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.

    • Nikki Giovanni,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • [On her writing:] The way I do it is the way women have babies. You don't know it's going to be like that. If you did, there's no way you would go through with it.

  • We can never write better than we can think.

  • I've always claimed that success in writing — provided of course one had what it takes to make a writer — is like success in marriage, largely a question of good sportsmanship, of keeping on keeping on, of giving one's best and trying, everlastingly trying to make that best, better.

  • If writing is your job, you have to write — just as you have to go to the office every day, if you are in business. The more days that you do not write, the more difficult it becomes to write again.

  • Writing every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty ... like a dry shell on the beach, waiting for the tide to come in again.

  • Ideas for stories began to crowd thick and fast, like people waiting for a train.

  • Writing is alchemy. Dross becomes gold. Experience is transformed. Pain is changed. Suffering may become song. The ordinary or horrible is pushed by the will of the writer into grace or redemption, a prophetic wail, a screed for justice, an elegy of sadness or sorrow. ... There is always a tension between experience and the thing that finally carries it forward, bears its weight, holds it in. Without that tension, one might as well write a shopping list.

  • ... I sometimes mistake my typewriter for my teeth, because the more I bite the more my column will be read.

  • I write because, exacting as it may be to do so, it is still more difficult to refrain, and because — however conscious of one's limitations one may be — there is always at the back of one's mind an irrational hope that this next book will be different: it will be the rounded achievement, the complete fulfilment. It never has been: yet I am still writing.

  • Each time I write, each time the authentic words break through, I am changed. The older order that I was collapses and dies. I do not know what words will appear on the page. I follow language, I follow the sound of the words, and I am surprised and transformed by what I record.

  • You can't be blocked if you just keep on writing words. Any words. People who get 'blocked' make the mistake of thinking they have to write good words.

  • [On her and husband Michael Dorris:] We both have title collections. I think a title is like a magnet. It begins to draw these scraps of experience or conversation or memory to it. Eventually, it collects a book.

  • A good title holds magic, some cognitive dissonance, a little grit between the teeth, but above all it is the jumping-off place into wonder.

  • I imagine the proverb about too many cooks spoiling the broth can be applied to writing as well as anything else. The poetical or literary broth is better cooked by one person.

  • Writing forces consciousness.

  • Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire. Don't let the pen banish you from yourself.

    • Gloria Anzaldúa,
    • in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • ... the world I create in writing compensates for what the real world does not give me.

    • Gloria Anzaldúa,
    • in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • In a story, the craftsmanship is fully exposed. A novel is like charity; it covers a multitude of faults.

    • Thea Astley,
    • in Valerie Miner, Rumors From the Cauldron ()
  • The most important thing is to write in your own blood. I bare intimate feelings because people should know how other people feel.

  • I hang my laundry on the line when I write.

  • I create by feeling rather than by intellectualizing.

  • Express everything you like. No word can hurt you. None. No idea can hurt you. Not being able to express an idea or a word will hurt you much more. As much as a bullet.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • speech (1991), in Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me -- But Not for Thee ()
  • You write for the people in high school who ignored you. We all do it.

  • How shall I make love go through the sieve of words and come out something besides a pulp?

  • The writer's advantage, in some respects, over those whose expression lies in other fields, is in the privilege of a double — sometimes a triple — living. Pleasure multiplied in the mirrors of words, and pain siphoned off in words.

    • Josephine Johnson,
    • "A Time for Everything," in Jean Beaven Abernethy, Meditations for Women ()
  • I have always wanted to write in such a way that will make people think, 'Why, I've always thought that but never found the words for it.'

  • I have to be by myself when I write, and I never know how long it will take. It is like making butter. Sometimes it will come in a few minutes, and sometimes I have to churn away for hours.

  • I read it one more time before I sent it off to my agent, and I said: 'Oh no! I thought I was writing about a dysfunctional family and all I've done is write a dysfunctional book.'

  • [On writing:] Dazzle me with clarity.

  • It often seems to me that the biggest single issue for a writer is how to stay buoyant enough to go on writing. How not to drown.

  • ... I've found you can go on writing in the dark, and that the act of writing itself, that mysterious, dangerous, intoxicating, absorbing, nourishing magician's trick, that act of creation is its own light.

  • There is always a gap between conception and execution. We keep writing in the burning hope of closing that gap before we die.

  • Many friends have said to me, 'I never know when you write your books, because I've never seen you writing, or even seen you go away to write.' I must behave rather as dogs do when they retire with a bone; they depart in a secretive manner and you do not see them again for an odd half hour. They return self-consciously with mud on their noses. I do much the same.

  • One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work.

  • I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning.

  • To write is to inform against others.

  • Writing generates writing.

  • The only thing worth writing is that which is hard to write.

  • I have a basic indolence about me which is essential to writing. ... It's thinking time, it's hanging-out time, it's daydreaming time. You know, it's lie-around-the-bed time, it's sitting-like-a-dope-in-your-chair time. And that seems to me essential to any work.

    • Grace Paley,
    • 1981, in Gerhard Bach and Blaine H. Hall, eds., Conversations With Grace Paley ()
  • [On current copyright law:] If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.

  • Every time you finish something ... you figure you've finally learned to write, right? Then you start something else and it turns out you haven't. You have learned how to write that story, or that book, but you haven't learned how to write the next one.

  • Writing the short story is essentially an act of grace. It's not a matter of will so much as trust. I try to let the story do some of the work for me. It knows what it wants to do, say, be. I try not to stand in its way.

  • The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself. If you can amuse yourself for the length of time it takes to write a book, the publisher and the readers can and will come later.

  • When I am thickening my plots, I like to think 'What if ... What if ... ' Thus my imagination can move from the likely, which everyone can think of, to the unlikely-but-possible, my preferred plot.

  • It was always an adventure to write for the Pall Mall in those days. ... Even the payment was an adventure. The editor paid as he liked the poem, so that one received all manner of sums and never knew what to expect. It was so much more interesting.

  • Writing fiction is a good way to inhabit other minds, if not other lives.

  • To be successful you must have talent joined with the willingness, the eagerness, to work like a dog. I write seven days a week from ten until four, and I begrudge every minute I have to spend on the phone or away from my typewriter. Also, you've got to be willing to take a chance on something that could be unsuccessful. Thousands of people plan to be writers, but they never get around to it. The only way to find out if you can write is to set aside a certain period every day and try. Save enough money to give yourself six months to be a full-time writer. Work every day and the pages will pile up.

  • My writing time needs to surround itself with empty stretches, or at least unpeopled ones, for the writing takes place in an area of suspension as in a hanging nest that is almost entirely encapsulated.

    • Maxine Kumin,
    • in Jack Heffron, ed., The Best Writing on Writing, vol. 2 ()
  • Conflict is the place where character and plot intersect.

  • Characterization is not divorced from plot, not a coat of paint you slap on after the structure of events is already built. Rather characterization is inseparable from plot.

  • Writing was the soul of everything else ... Wanting to be a writer was wanting to be a person.

  • Writing about why you write is a funny business, like scratching what doesn't itch. Impulses are mysterious, and explaining them must be done with mirrors, like certain cunning slight-of-hand routines.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, vol. 2 ()
  • ... it still comes as a shock to realize that I don't write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Memory and Imagination," I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory ()
  • I believe that one of the most sound ideas in dramatic writing is that in order to create the universal, you must pay very great attention to the specific. Universality, I think, emerges from truthful identity of what is.

  • Writing is hard for everybody except fools.

  • Figure out what depletes you creatively and get it out out of your life. (This doesn't apply to spouse and kids.) Give yourself permission to put garbage on the screen. A lot of days it's the only way you'll be able to keep going. You can clean it up later.

  • E-mail creates the illusion that you're writing. You're not.

  • ... I was most incorrigibly devoted to versifying, and all my spouse's wholesome admonitions had no manner of effect on me; in short, I believe this scribbling itch is an incurable disease ...

  • You ask me why I spend my life writing? / Do I find entertainment? / Is it worthwhile? / Above all, does it pay? / If not, then, is there a reason? / I write only because / There is a voice within me / That will not be still.

    • Sylvia Plath,
    • 1948, in Aurelia Schober Plath, ed., Letters Home ()
  • Anyone who has a choice and doesn't choose not to write is a fool. ... The work is hard, the perks are few, the pay is terrible, and the product, when it's finally finished, is pure joy.

  • You build a novel the same way you do a pyramid. One word, one stone at a time, underneath a full moon when the fingers bleed.

    • Kate Braverman,
    • in Mickey Pearlman and Katherine Usher Henderson, A Voice of One's Own: Conversations With America's Writing Women ()
  • I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

  • It's very difficult to write a novel that's easy to read.