A hidden nerve is what every writer is ultimately about. It's what all writers wish to uncover when writing about themselves in this age of the personal memoir. And yet it's also the first thing every writer learns to sidestep, to disguise, as though this nerve were a deep and shameful secret that needs to be swathed in many sheaths.
Andre' Achman - A Literary Pilgrim Progresses to the Past, NYT, 8-28-2000

Writers the most learned, the most accurate in details, and the soundest in tendency, frequently fall into a habit which can neither be cured nor pardoned,—the habit of making history into the proof of their theories.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) - History of Freedom and Other Essays, Ch 8, (1907)

A true critic ought to dwell rather upon excellencies than imperfections, to discover the concealed beauties of a writer, and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.
Joseph Addison (1672-1719) - The Spectator (1711-12), No. 291 February 2, 1712.

Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.
A. Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) - Quoted in Solace and Companionship of Books, ed. A. Ireland, London, 1883, p. 265.

The great artist is the simplifier.
Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) - Amiel's Journal, 1849-1872, 25 Nov, 1861, pub 1883, tr. Mrs. Humphrey Ward

I'm a bit of a grinder. Novels are very long, and long novels are very, very long. It's just a hell of a lot of man-hours. I tend to just go in there, and if it comes, it comes. A morning when I write not a single word doesn't worry me too much. If I come up against a brick wall, I'll just go and play snooker or something or sleep on it, and my subconscious will fix it for me. Usually, it's a journey without maps but a journey with a destination, so I know how it's going to begin and I know how it's going to end, but I don't know how I'm going to get from one to the other. That, really, is the struggle of the novel.
Martin Amis( (1949-) - "The Pros and Cons of Martin Amis," Graham Fuller interviews Amis in Interview magazine (v. 25.5, May 1995)

The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) - Poetics (1459a4)

A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) - The art of Rhetoric

In general, what is written must be easy to read and easy to speak; which is the same.
(384 BC - 322 BC)
- The Art of Rhetoric, tr H.C. Lawson-Trancred, Ch 3, Sect. 5

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I’d type a little faster.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) -Life, Jan. 1984

A word after a word
after a word is power.
Margaret Atwood (1939- ) "Spelling," Margaret Atwood: works and impact ed. Reingard M. Nischik, Camden House, 2000

Our sufferings and weaknesses, in so far as they are personal, are of no literary interest whatsoever. They are only interesting in so far as we can see them as typical of the human condition.
W.H. Auden - The Dyer’s Hand, (1962)

Before you begin to write a sentence, imagine the scene you want to paint with your words. Imagine that you are the character and feel what the character feels. Smell what the character smells, and hear with that character’s ears. For an instant, before you begin to write, see and feel what you want the reader to see and feel.
Othello Bach - How to Write a Great Story, Choice Books, 1999.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) - Essays - "Of Studies," (1597-1625).

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.
Walter Bagehot (1826 - 1877) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, Volume 10, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915, p217

Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders.
Walter Bagehot (1826 - 1877) – The first Edinburgh Reviewers, in Estimates of Some Englishmen and Scotsmen, London, 1858, p34.

I am a galley slave to pen and ink.
Honore de Balzac - letter to Madame Zulma Carraud, 2 July 1832

Once the grammar has been learned, writing is simply talking on paper and in time learning what not to say.
Beryl Bainbridge (1932-2010) - Contemporary Novelists, 2nd edition, James Vinson & D. L. Kirkpatrick (eds.),  (London: St. James Press, 1976)

Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze: let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands.
Jacques Barzun, “A Writers Discipline,” in Jacques Barzun on Writing, Editing and Publishing, (University of Chicago Press), 1971.

Say what you want about it, Hell is story-friendly… The mechanisms of hell are nicely attuned to the mechanisms of narrative. Not so the pleasures of Paradise. Paradise is not a story. It’s about what happens when the stories are over.
Charles Baxter (1947 - ) - Burning Down the House

I began to see that about half the student's battle is learning basic skills, while the other half involves tapping into imagination, memory and a singular view of life and the world, a view no one else shares until you put it into words.
Annie Bernays (1930 - ) - Pupils Glimpse an Idea, Teacher Gets a Gold Star, NYT, 2-38-2000.

You must be able to step inside your character's skin and at the same time to remain outside the dicey circumstances you have maneuvered her into. I can't remember how many times I advised students to stop writing the sunny hours and write from where it hurts: "No one wants to read polite. It puts them to sleep."
Annie Bernays (1930 - ) - Pupils Glimpse an Idea, Teacher Gets a Gold Star, NYT, 2-38-2000.

It’s very hard to write about that which is always beautiful and pleasant and good. You don’t get anywhere with it. There’s no friction in it. There’s no trouble. You have to have trouble. Somebody’s got to get in trouble, or no one wants to read it.
Paul Bowles (1910-1999) - Quoted in Advice to Writers, ed John Winokur, web edition: Website: http://www.advicetowriters.com/home/2012/11/6/you-have-to-have-trouble.html

Publishers are thieves, they are on the other side of the barricade.
Paul Bowles (1910-1999) - Interview, "Tired in Tangier," Asshole Magazine, 1998. http://www.asshole.org/interview/indexe.htm

A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
Jorge Luis Borges, Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems : Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983 (1984)

And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation. So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
Ray Bradbury - Zen in the Art of Writing (1990) Preface

It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do this do not remain amateurs.
Gerald Brenan (1894-1987) - quoted in Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom, ed. Jon Winokur, Random House, 1999.

When I write a page that reads badly I know that it is myself who has written it. When it reads well it has come through from somewhere else.
Gerald Brenan (1894-1987) -

I'm just going to write because I cannot help it.
Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) -

It is human nature to imagine, to put yourself in another's shoes. The past may be another country. But the only passport required is empathy.
Geraldine Brooks - Timeless Tact Helps Sustain a Literary Time Traveler, NYT July 2, 2001

I chart a little first—list of names, rough synopsis of chapters, and so on. But one daren’t overplan; so many things are generated by the sheer act of writing.
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) - Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 48, Interview by John Cullinan, Spring 1973, No. 56.

I wrote much because I was paid little. I had no great desire to leave a literary name behind me.
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) - Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 48, Interview by John Cullinan, Spring 1973, No. 56.

A man can write one book that can be great, but this doesn’t make him a great writer—just the writer of a great book. . . I think a writer has to extend very widely, as well as plunge very deep, to be a great novelist.
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) - Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 48, Interview by John Cullinan, Spring 1973, No. 56.

And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust, with those impurities which we call meaning.
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) - Enderby Outside, London, (1968) p. 234

There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence-an overwhelming determination to succeed.
Sophy Burnham quoted in Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom, ed. Jon Winokur, Random House, 1999, p 147.

The human desire to know why is as powerful as the desire to know what happened next, and it is a desire of a higher order.
Janet Burroway - Writing Fiction, 8th ed. 2010.

In literature only trouble is interesting.  It takes trouble to turn the great themes of life into a story: birth, love, sex, work, and death.
Janet Burroway - Writing Fiction, 8th ed. 2010.

Right now—whether you're in writing courses getting "paid" in credit for writing, or burdened and distracted by earning a living and changing diapers—figure out how to make writing an integral part of your life. Publication is good, and gives you the courage to go on, but publication is not as important as the act of writing.
Janet Burroway (1936 -) - Interview by Jocelyn Cullity, The Writer's Chronicle, Volume 44, Number 1, September 2011

But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
Lord Byron (1788-1824) - Don Juan (1818-1824), Stanza 88

It's immoral not to tell.
Albert Camus (1913-1960)

A character is never the author who created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) - As quoted in Albert Camus : The Invincible Summer (1958) by Albert Maquet, p. 86; a remark made about the Marquis de Sade.

[Finishing a book] It's like suddenly taking some beautiful animal, say, or a child, some lovely child you just took it out in the yard and shot it in the head.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) - Conversations, ed. Thomas Inge, University Press of Mississippi, 1987, Interview with Jan Werner, 1973, p 302

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) - Quoted in A Writer's Coach, ed Jack Hart, Anchor Books, 2007

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) - Conversations, ed. Thomas Inge, University Press of Mississippi, 1987, Interview with Gloria Steineman, 1967, p 87

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) - Conversations, ed. Thomas Inge, University Press of Mississippi, 1987, Interview with Patti Hill, 1957, p 22

All writing, all art, is an act of faith. If one tries to contribute to human understanding, how can that be called decadent? It's like saying a declaration of love is an act of decadence. Any work of art, provide it springs from a sincere motivation to further understanding between people, is an act of faith and therefore is an act of love.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) -Conversations, ed. Thomas Inge, University Press of Mississippi, 1987, Interview with Harvey Breit, 1952, p. 19

Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong.
Jeffrey A. Carver - From the web site of Jeffrey A. Carver, Writing Advice, http://www.starrigger.net/advice.htm

Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal.
Jeffrey A. Carver

The novel can’t compete with cars, the movies, television, and liquor. A guy who’s had a good feed and tanked up on good wine gives his old lady a kiss after supper and his day is over. Finished.
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) - Castle to Castle, Penguin, 1976, p vii.

The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written.
Miguel de Cervantes - Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615) Part II, Book III, ch. 16, as translated by Henry Edward Watts (1895)

The moment a man begins to talk about technique, that's proof he is fresh out of ideas.
Raymond Chandler

Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.
Raymond Chandler

L’écrivain original n’est pas celui qui n’imite personne, mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.
The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.
François-René de Chateaubriand, Le génie du Christianisme (1802)

To a chemist, nothing on earth is unclean. A writer must be as objective as a chemist; he must abandon the subjective line; he must know that dungheaps play a very respectable part in a landscape, and that evil passions are as inherent in life as good ones.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) - Letter from Chekhov to his brother in May, 1886. In The Unknown Chekhov: Stories and Other Writings Hitherto Untranslated by Anton Chekhov, Translated by Avrahm Yarmolinsky, Section: Introduction, p14, Noonday Press, New York., 1954. The following is attributed to Chekov which may be a paraphrase of the passage above: Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint on the broken glass.

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying...one must ruthlessly suppress everything that is not concerned with the subject.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) - Engle, 1982, p55

Write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you are writing, and aren't writing particularly well.>
Agatha Christie

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy, then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last state, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) - November 2, 1949, Grosvenor House, London (Churchill Archives Center), quoted in Churchill by Himself, ed Richard Langworth, Perseus Books, 2008. Taken from the original speaking notes for Churchill's address after receiving the Times Literary Award.

Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) - November 2, 1949, Grosvenor House, London (Churchill Archives Center), quoted in Churchill by Himself, ed Richard Langworth, Perseus Books, 2008.

When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.
Cicero - (106 BC - 43 BC)

There are three difficulties in authorship;—to write any thing worth the publishing—to find honest men to publish it —and to get sensible men to read it. Literature has now become a game; in which the Booksellers are the Kings; The Critics the Knaves; the Public, the Pack; and the poor Author, the mere table, or the Thing played upon.
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) - Lacon: or Many things in few words addressed to those who think, Volume 1, Bridgeport, M. Sherman, 1828, Preface

We should have a glorious conflagration, if all who cannot put fire into their works would only consent to put their works into the fire.
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832)- Lacon (1828) Preface, p. x.

With books, as with companions, it is of more consequence to know which to avoid, than which to choose, for good books are as scarce as good companions, and in both instances, all that we can learn from baad ones is, that some much time has been worse than thrown away.
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) - Lacon (1828) Preface, p 13.

Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason, —they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) - Lacon vol. II (1828), # 248.

A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) - Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897)

Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) - Under Western Eyes, Harper & Brothers, NY, 1911, p. 3

Words have to be crafted, not sprayed. They need to be fitted together with infinite care.
Norman Cousins (1915-1990) - Quoted in Advice to Writers, 2000

A book is like a piece of rope; it takes on meaning only in connection with the things it holds together.
Norman Cousins (1915-1990) - Saturday Review, April 15, 1978

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.
Hart Crane (1899-1932)

Yet technique matters, even so. God uses it, for a buffalo is not a leopard.
James Dickey (1923-1997) - Sorties, p168, 1971

When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.
Annie Dillard (1954 - ) - The Writing Life, Harper Books, 1989, p. 3.

Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
Annie Dillard (1954 - ) - The Writing Life, Harper Books, 1989, p. 26.

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case.
Annie Dillard (1954 - ) - The Writing Life, Harper Books, 1989, p. 68.

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place…. Something more will arise for later, something better.
Annie Dillard (1954 - ) - The Writing Life, Harper Books, 1989, p. 78.

It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick.
Annie Dillard (1954 - ) - The Writing Life, Harper Books, 1989, p. 71.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - ) - Writers at Work, (1988)

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - )- The New York Times (1985-10-20)

Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - )

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. 
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - ) Quoted in Stein on Writing, S. Stein, St. Martin's Press, NY, NY, 1995, p8.

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - ) - Writers at work (1988)

I've known several cases of writers who decide to write about something and they research the hell out of it and when they're ready to write, they can't move because they are so burdened. I start writing. Whatever I need somehow comes to hand.
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - ) - Billy Bathgate Discussion With EL Doctorow at the Gotham Gazette's Reading NYC Book Club - http://www.gothamgazette.com/books/Doctorowtranscript.php

A writer’s life is so hazardous that anything he does is bad for him. Anything that happens to him is bad: failure’s bad, success is bad; impoverishment is bad, money is very, very bad. Nothing good can happen... Except the act of writing.
E. L. Doctorow (1931 - ) - The Paris Review, E. L. Doctorow, the Art of Fiction No. 94, Interviewed in front of a live audience by George Plimpton.

If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works, with all the misconceptions, the omissions, the failures that any finished work of art implies.
John Dos Passos (1896-1970) - Quoted in The Essential Guide to getting your Book Published, eds Eckstut, Sterry, Workman Publishing, NY, NY, 2010, p.226.

The more you know, the more unflinchingly you deny casual beliefs and Accepted Wisdom when it flies in the face of reality, the more carefully you observe the world and its people around you, the better chance you have of writing something meaningful and well-crafted.
Harlan Ellison

In good writing, words become one with things.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) - "Good Writing," Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, vol III, eds Edward W. Emerson, Waldo Emerson Forbes, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston, 1910,, July, 8, 1 831,

He who makes a good sentence or a good verse exercises a power very strictly analogous to his who makes a fine statue, a beautiful cornice, a staircase like that in Oxford, or a noble head in painting. One writes on air, if he speaks; but no, he writes on mind more durable than marble, and is like him who begets a son, that is, originates a begetter of nations.

The maker of a sentence, like the other artist, launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) - Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, vol III, eds Edward W. Emerson, Waldo Emerson Forbes, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston, 1910, December 19, 1834, p. 395.

So in writing, there is always a right word, and every other than that is wrong. There is no beauty in words except in their collocation. The effect of a fanciful word misplaced, is like that of a horn of exquisite polish growing on a human head.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) - "Good Writing," Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, vol III, eds Edward W. Emerson, Waldo Emerson Forbes, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston, 1910,, July, 8, 1 831,

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) - Paris Review interview (1958) 

Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) - Paris Review interview (1958) 

Read, read, read. Read everything— trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) - Lion in the garden: interviews with William Faulkner, 1926-1962, James B. Meriwether, University of Nebraska Press, 1980, p. 55.

Writers aren't exactly people.... they're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity. (Translation from French)
Gustave Flaubert 1881-1880

What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote, and brings to birth in us also the creative impulse.
E.M. Forster - Two Cheers for Democracy (1951) "Anonymity: An Enquiry"

Writing is a difficult lonely endeavor, and every writer is a perpetual beginner. Therefore, don’t be ungenerous with another person’s attempts. Such an act will only reflect on you.
Isabella Franconati

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Poor Richard's Almanac, 1738.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) - The Figure a Poem Makes (1939) Preface to Collected Poems

It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound—that he will never get over it.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) - The Poetry of Amy Lowell, From the Christian Science Monitor (May 16, 1925)

I'd just as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) - quoted in Newsweek, January 30, 1956, p. 56:

One wants to tell a story, like Scheherazade, in order not to die. It's one of the oldest urges of mankind. It's a way of stalling death.
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)

You start by writing to live. You end by writing so as not to die.
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)

The contract between the author and the reader is a game. And the game . . . is one of the greatest inventions of Western civilization: the game of telling stories, inventing characters, and creating the imaginary paradise of the individual, from whence no one can be expelled because, in a novel, no one owns the truth and everyone has the right to be heard and understood.
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)- Myself with Others: Selected Essays

In literature, you know only what you imagine
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012)

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.
Neil Gaiman - somewhat less sinister ducks Blog entry. (23 April 2004)

Art Gropes. It stalks like a hunter lost in the woods, listening to itself and to everything around it, unsure of itself, waiting to pounce.
John Garnder

Out of the artist’s imagination, as out of nature’s inexhaustible well, pours one thing after another. The artist composes, writes, or paints just as he dreams, seizing whatever swims close to the net. This shimmering mess of loves and hates—fishing trips taken long ago with Uncle Ralph, a 1940 green Chevrolet, a war, a vague sense of what makes a novel, a symphony, a photograph—this is the clay the artist must shape into an object worthy of our attention; that is, our tears, our laughter, our thought.
John Gardner - On Moral Fiction

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) - Sand and Form: A Book of Aphorisms (Alfred K. Knopf, 1959)

C'est avec de beaux sentiments qu'on fait de la mauvaise littérature.
It is with noble sentiments that bad literature gets written.
AAndré Gide (1869-1951) - Letter to François Mauriac (1929)

The first thing a writer has to do is find another source of income. Then, after you have begged, borrowed, stolen or saved up the money to give you time to write and you spend all of it staying alive while you write, and you write your heart out, after all that, maybe no one will publish it, and if they publish it, maybe no one will read it. That is the hard truth, that is what it means to be a writer.
Ellen Gilchrist - Falling Through Space, the Journals of Ellen Gilchrist.

Nouns and verbs are almost pure metal; adjectives are cheaper ore.
Marie Gilchrist - quoted in The Saturday Review of Literature, 1946

To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.
Allen Ginsberg - Quoted in On Being a Writer, Bill Strickland and Will Blythe, 1992

The unsaid, for me, exerts great power.
Louise Gluck - "Disruption, Hesitation, Silence," Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry (New York: Ecco, 1994) 74-75.

If any man wishes to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.
Goethe - Literature - Poetry, in Wisdon of Goethe

Sometimes people say to me, “I want to write, but I have five kids, a full-time job, a wife who beats me, a tremendous debt to my parents,” and so on.
I say to them, “There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes once a week.”
Natalie Goldberg - quoted in Advice to Writers A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom ... Jon Winokur ed.

The best advice on writing I've ever received is to take it seriously, because to do it well is all-consuming.
David Guterson

I write because something inner and unconscious forces me to. That is the first compulsion. The second is one of ethical and moral duty. I feel responsible to tell stories that inspire readers to consider more deeply who they are.
David Guterson

Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.
Anthony Hope Hawkins (1863-1933) - The Narrator (Mr. Carter), in The Dolly Dialogues, no 15, 1894

Easy reading is damned hard writing.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) - Disputed - See discussion here.

The greatest possible mint of style is to make the words absolutely disappear into the thought.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) - Quoted in Dictionary of Quotations in Communications, ed. Schilling and Fuller, 1997, p225.

Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) - The American Notebooks(1835 - 1853) 1848.

Romance and poetry, ivy, lichens and wallflowers need ruin to make them grow.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) - The Marble Faun (1860), Preface

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.
William Hazlitt (1778-1830) - The Sick Chamber," The New Monthly Magazine (August 1830), reprinted in Essays of William Hazlitt, ed, Frank Carr, London, 1889

Good writers indulge their audience; great writers know better.
Tom Heehler, The Well-Spoken Thesaurus

Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.
Heidegger (from "Building Dwelling Thinking", 1951)

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Interview of Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald by Dan Simmons, http://www.dansimmons.com/writing_welll/archive/2007_03.htm

Real seriousness in regard to writing is one of two absolute necessities. The other, unfortunately, is talent.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter, Esquire, October 1935

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - The First Forty-Nine Stories, Preface, 1944

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Quoted in: A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway

Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Quoted in Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to using Brain Science to Hook Readers, Lisa Cron, 2012, p237.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - New York Journal-American, July 11, 1961

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - A Moveable Feast, Scribners, 1964

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Banquet Speech, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Banquet Speech, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954

The good parts of a book may be only something a writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life — and one is as good as another.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Sept 13, 1929), published in Ernest Hemmingway, Selected Letters 1917-1961, ed Carlos Baker.

Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) - Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Sept 13, 1929), published in Ernest Hemmingway, Selected Letters 1917-1961, ed Carlos Baker.

Good composition is like a suspension bridge, each line adds strength and takes none away. . . Making lines run into each other is not composition. There must be motive for connection.
Robert Henri (1865-1929 ) - The Art Spirit: Notes, Articles, fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Lippincott Co, 1923, Basic Books Edition, 2007, p. 265. Speaking of the art of El Greco.

What a blessed thing it is that nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left!
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894) - The Professor at the Breakfast Table, Ch. 1, 1882

Don't write with a pen. Ink tends to give the impression the words shouldn't be changed.
Richard Hugo - The Triggering Town, Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, 1992 p. 37

By speech first, but far more by writing, man has been able to put something of himself beyond death. In tradition and in books an integral part of the individual persists, for it can influence the minds and actions of other people in different places and at different times: a row of black marks on a page can move a man to tears, though the bones of him that wrote it are long ago crumbled to dust.
Julian Huxley - "The Individual in the Animal Kingdom" (1912); quoted in From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Writings in the Life Sciences (1992) by Connie Barlow, Ch. 6 "Blurred Bounds of Individuality"

To write well, one must utterly abandon oneself to it. You cannot keep secrets or hold anything back. You must spill your heart out on paper.
Carla Iacovetti - http://www.carlaiacovetti.com/

There rise authors now and then, who seem proof against the mutability of language, because they have rooted themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature.
Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, "The Mutabilities of Literature" (1819–1820)

Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read.
Susan Isaacs

Publishers look upon authors simply as a butcher looks upon Southdown mutton, with merely an eye to the number of pounds to be got out of them.
Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857) - Specimens of Douglas Jerrold's Wit, ed Blanchard Jerrold, 3rd ed, Ticknor and Fields, 1859, p. 88.

I do think that the quality which makes a man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and is masochistic. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.
James Ramon Jones

Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything that they do not make more clear.
Joseph Joubert

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
Samuel Johnson

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
Samuel Johnson, Life of Samuel Johnson

"Yeah, well, artists are a lot like gangsters. They both know that the official version, the one everyone else believes, is a lie."
Jocko - Quoted by Russell Banks in Time Can Transform the Fantasies of Youth, NYT, December 6, 1999.

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
Franz Kafka- Letter to Oskar Pollak (27 January 1904)

You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved.
Tracy Kidder

Kids: Fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.
Stephen King - It, Dedication, 1986.

Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) - C.V. 15

The idea that the creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time. . . . Substance abusing writers are just substance abusers--common garden variety drunks and druggies, in other words. Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit. I've heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink to still the demons.
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) - C.V. 36

Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It's not just a question of how-to, you see; it's also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) - On Writing, 6

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair — the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling - Speech, quoted in The Times (February 15, 1923)

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
Anne Lamont (1954 - ) - Bird by Bird, Anchor Books, 1994

Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.
Anne Lamont (1954 - ) - Bird by Bird, Anchor Books, 1994

Like the combination of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon in the human body, craft features combine to form a sum greater than their parts—a sum that, in the end, cannot be divided.
Fred Leebron - CREATING FICTION: a Writer's Companion

I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And, if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work. Nobody ever said it was easy. What they said is: “Life is short, art is long.”
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 - ) - Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, Author of Voices, Harcourt Trade Publishers, http://www.harcourtbooks.com/Voices/interview.asp

I have never heard a dancer asking for advice about how to stay focused on her footwork, or a painter complaining about the dull day-to-day task of painting. What task worth doing isn’t worth daily effort? Do you think Michelangelo was having fun the whole time he was on his back painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 - ) - Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, Author of Voices, Harcourt Trade Publishers, http://www.harcourtbooks.com/Voices/interview.asp

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

I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.
Gordon Lish

Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.
Jack London - 'Getting into Print', first published in 1903 in The Editor magazine

If I were to offer any advice to young writers, it would be this: be discriminating and be discerning about the work you set for yourself. That done, be the untutored traveler, the eager reader, the enthusiastic listener. Put what you learn together carefully, and then write thoughtfully, with respect both for the reader and your sources.
Barry Lopez (1945 - ) - "Statements of Purpose," Barry Lopez website, http://barrylopez.com/blog/htm

The writer works on the inside and the critic works on the outside. I don't know what it looks like on the outside, sometimes. It's not that I'm not interested--it's not where I live. I live inside the story.
Barry Lopez (1945 - ) - quoted in Words from the Land, S. Trimble, ed, Introduction, University of Nevada Press, 1995, p. 4.


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