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Etiquette tip: It’s okay, more or less, to ask an author to sign your arm, but not good manners to then nip around to the tattoo parlor next door and return half an hour later to show them the inflamed result.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, Foreword (2006 ed.) [with Neil Gaiman]
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Added on 20-Oct-22 | Last updated 15-Dec-22
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BREVILLE: And what do you want them to say about the writer Rod Serling a hundred years from now?

SERLING: I don’t care. I just want them to remember me a hundred years from now. I don’t care that they’re not able to quote any single line that I’ve written. But just that they can say, “Oh, he was a writer.” That’s sufficiently an honored position for me.

BREVILLE: Then that’s what it all boils down to really?

SERLING: I guess we all have a little vaunting itch for immortality, I guess that must be it.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” interview by Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Serling's last interview. He died less than four months later.
 
Added on 11-Oct-22 | Last updated 11-Oct-22
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KEATING: When you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.

Tom Schulman (b. 1951) American screenwriter, director
Dead Poets Society (1989)
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Added on 17-Jun-22 | Last updated 17-Jun-22
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All writers are born; they’re never made … I take off and write, out of a sense of desperate compulsion. I always write as if I’d gotten my X-ray back from the doctor on Monday, and I’d best check with the insurance man to see whether or not the house is free and clear.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Lecture notes, Creativity Seminar, Ithaca College (c. 1972)
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Added on 7-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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You see we make our writers into something very strange. […] We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their style of living and are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishment, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop. Or else they read the critics. If they believe the critics when they say they are great then they must believe them when they say they are rotten and they lose confidence. At present we have two good writers who cannot write because they have lost confidence through reading the critics. If they wrote, sometimes it would be good and sometimes not so good and sometimes it would be quite bad, but the good would get out. But they have read the critics, and they must write masterpieces. The masterpieces the critics said they wrote. They weren’t masterpieces, of course. They were just quite good books. So now they cannot write at all. The critics have made them impotent.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Green Hills of Africa, ch. 1 (1935)
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Speaking of American writers.
 
Added on 6-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Popular success is a palace built for a writer by publishers, journalists, admirers and professional reputation makers, in which a silent army of termites, rats, dry rot and death-watch beetles are tunnelling away, till, at the very moment of completion, it is ready to fall down. The one hope for a writer is that although his enemies are often unseen they are seldom unheard. He must listen for the death-watch, listen for the faint toc-toc, the critic’s truth sharpened by envy, the embarrassed praise of a sincere friend, the silence of gifted contemporaries, the implications of the don in the manger, the visitor in the small hours. He must dismiss the builders and contractors, elude the fans with an assumed name and dark glasses, force his way off the moving staircase, subject every thing he writes to a supreme critical court. Would it amuse Horace or Milton or Swift or Leopardi? Could it be read to Flaubert? Would it be chosen by the Infallible Worm, by the discriminating palates of the dead?

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 2, ch. 15 “The Slimy Mallows” (1938)
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Added on 19-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first call promising. Young writers if they are to mature require a period of between three and seven years in which to live down their promise. Promise is like the mediaeval hangman who after settling the noose, pushed his victim off the platform and jumped on his back, his weight acting a drop while his jockeying arms prevented the unfortunate from loosening the rope. When he judged him dead he dropped to the ground.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 2, ch. 13 “The Poppies” (1938)
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Added on 12-Apr-22 | Last updated 12-Apr-22
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Why don’t I send my book to you
Although you often urge me to?
The reason’s good, for if I did
You’d send me yours — which God forbid!

[Non donem tibi cur meos libellos
Oranti totiens et exigenti,
Miraris, Theodore? Magna causa est:
Dones tu mihi ne tuos libellos.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, epigram 73 (5.73) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “Return Favours”]
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Compare to Epigram 7.3. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Why I dole thee not my pieces,
Theodore, thou may'st devine.
Yet thy wond'ring zeal increases:
Lest thou should'st redole me thine.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 3, ep. 48]

"Why ne'er to me," the Laureat cries,
"Are poet Paulo's verses sent?"
"For fear," the tuneful rogue replies,
"You should return the compliment."
[tr. Hodgson (c. 1810)]

I give thee, friend, no works of mine,
For fear you should return me thine.
[tr. Lamb (1821)]

Do you wonder for what reason, Theodorus, notwithstanding your frequent requests and importunities, I have never presented you with my works? I have an excellent reason; it is lest you should present me with yours.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Though it's true, Theodorus, you frequently pray
For my book in a flattering tone,
No wonder I'm slow; I've good cause for delay
In my fear you'd then send me your own.
[tr. Nixon (1911), "Vendetta"]

Why don't I give you my works, although so often you beseech me for them, and press me? Do you wonder, Theodorus? There is great reason: that you may not give me your works.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Pompilianus asks why I omit
To send him all the poetry that is mine;
The reason is that in return for it,
Pompilianus, thou might'st send me thine.
[tr. Duff (1929), "Answer to a Poetaster"]

Ted, don't give me pleading looks,
And beg I send you all my books,
Your ask comes with a healthy fee:
You'll then send all of yours to me!
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Why, Theodorus, don't I send my books, though you demand and plead repeatedly? My answer's good: so you won't give me yours to read.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

You ask my verse, so here. This evens scores:
I had kept mine in hopes you would keep yours.
[tr. Young]

You wonder why I never ask you if you’ve read my book?
I’m not one of those narcissistic bores
who fishes around for praise with such a thinly baited hook.
Besides, I’m worried you’ll ask if I’ve read yours.
[tr. Clark, "A Good Reason"]

 
Added on 31-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-Sep-22
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The verse is mine but friend, when you declaim it,
It seems like yours, so grievously you maim it.

[Quem recitas meus est, o Fidentine, libellus:
sed male cum recitas, incipit esse tuus.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, epigram 38 (1.38) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
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"To Fidentinus." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

The verses, Sextus, thou dost read, are mine;
But with bad reading thou wilt make them thine.
[tr. Harington (fl. c. 1600)]

The verses, friend, which thou hast read, are mine;
But, as thou read'st so ill, 't is surely thine.
[tr. Fletcher (c. 1650)]

My living lays were those that you dispense:
But, when you murder them, they yours commence.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 12.14]

O Fidentinus! the book you are reciting is mine, but you recite it so badly it begins to be yours.
[tr. Amos (1858), ch. 2, ep. 33]

With faulty accents, and so vile a tone,
You quote my lines, I took them for your own.
[tr. Halhead (fl. c. 1800)]

The book which you are reading aloud is mine, Fidentinus but, while you read it so badly, it begins to be yours.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

The verses, friend, which thou has read, are mine;
But, as though read'st them, they may pass for thine.
[tr. Bouquet (<1879)]

You're reading my book to your friends as your own:
But in reading so badly your claim to it's shown.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]

That book you recite, O Fidentinus, is mine. But your vile recitation begins to make it your own.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Fame of how bad you read endures.
Though that's my book, just call it yours.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Although the lines are mine (their worth assures) --
By badly singing them, you make them yours.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Dear Rud, the book from which you are
giving a reading is mine
but since you read so badly
it's yours.
[tr. Kennelly (2008)]

The book that you recite from, Fidentinus, is my own.
But when you read it badly, it belongs to you alone.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

That little book you're reciting is one of mine, Fidentinus; but you're reciting it so badly, it's turning into one of yours.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

That verse is mine, you know, which you’re
Reciting, But you quote it
So execrably, that I believe
I’ll let you say you wrote it
[tr. Wender]

The poems thou are reading, friend, are mine;
But such bad reading starts to make them thine.
[tr. Oliver]

 
Added on 4-Feb-22 | Last updated 7-Aug-22
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Our profession is dreadful, writing corrupts the soul. Every author is surrounded by an aura of adulation which he nurses so assiduously that he cannot begin to judge his own worth or see when it starts to decline.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher
Letter to Nikolay Strakhov (1876)
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Quoted in Henri Troyat, Tolstoy (1967).
 
Added on 26-Jan-22 | Last updated 26-Jan-22
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Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.

Smith - Every author however modest keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast - wist.info quote

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) American-English essayist, editor, anthologist
Afterthoughts (1931)
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Added on 19-Jan-22 | Last updated 19-Jan-22
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An author, like any other so-called artist, is a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in. His overpowering impulse is to gyrate before his fellow men, flapping his wings and emitting defiant yells. This being forbidden by the police of all civilized countries, he takes it out by putting his yells on paper. Such is the thing called self-expression.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Fringes of Lovely Letters,” Prejudices: Fifth Series (1926)
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Added on 12-Jan-22 | Last updated 12-Jan-22
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The author always loads his dice, but he must never let the reader see that he has done so.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up (1938)
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Added on 5-Jan-22 | Last updated 5-Jan-22
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It is advantageous to an author, that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (11-19 Nov 1793), in James Boswell, Journey of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785)
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Added on 29-Dec-21 | Last updated 29-Dec-21
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A transition from an author’s book to his conversation is too often like an entrance into a large city after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #14 (5 May 1784)
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Added on 22-Dec-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-22
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A sick man that gets talking about himself, a woman that gets talking about her baby, and an author that begins reading out of his own book, never know when to stop.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast-Table, ch. 11 (1872)
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Added on 15-Dec-21 | Last updated 15-Dec-21
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I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

Kipling - Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind - wist.info quote

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Surgeons and the Soul,” speech, Royal College of Surgeons (14 Feb 1923)
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Added on 30-Nov-21 | Last updated 30-Nov-21
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At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves with all the complexity, self-doubt, extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and as artist, we have to know all we can abou each other, and we have to be willing to go naked.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitary, “January 5th” (1973)
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Added on 16-Nov-21 | Last updated 16-Nov-21
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     “Why did you kill Maurice Lennox?” she asked reproachfully.
     “He was the villain,” protested Anne. “He had to be punished.”
     “I like him best of them all,” said unreasonable Diana.
     “Well, he’s dead, and he’ll have to stay dead,” said Anne, rather resentfully. “If I had let him live he’d have gone on persecuting Averil and Perceval.”
     “Yes — unless you had reformed him.”
     “That wouldn’t have been romantic, and, besides, it would have made the story too long.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) Canadian author
Anne of the Island, ch. 12 (1915)
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A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
The Name of the Cat (1988)
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Added on 25-Oct-21 | Last updated 25-Oct-21
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Two people getting together to write a book is like three people getting together to have a baby. One of them is superfluous.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
(Attributed)
 
Added on 19-Oct-21 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

Toby Litt
Toby Litt (b. 1968) English writer and academic
“What makes bad writing bad?” The Guardian (20 May 2016)
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Added on 24-Aug-21 | Last updated 24-Aug-21
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However you disguise novels, they are always biographies.

William Golding
William Golding (1911-1983) British novelist, playwright, poet
“Universal Pessimist, Cosmic Optimist,” Interview by MaryLynn Scott, Aurora Online (1990)
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For indeed it is possible that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegantly; but for any one to publish thoughts which he can neither arrange skilfully nor illustrate so as to entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, and no one ever takes them up but those who wish to have the same licence for careless writing allowed to themselves.

[Fieri autem potest, ut recte quis sentiat et id quod sentit polite eloqui non possit; sed mandare quemquam litteris cogitationes suas, qui eas nec disponere nec inlustrare possit nec delectatione aliqua allicere lectorem, hominis est intemperanter abutentis et otio et litteris. Itaque suos libros ipsi legunt cum suis, nec quisquam attingit praeter eos, qui eandem licentiam scribendi sibi permitti volunt.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 3 (1.3) / sec. 6 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]
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Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

Now it is possible, that one may have true Conceptions, and yet not be able to express his Notions in proper Terms; but for a man to commit his thoughts to writing for the publick, who can neither put them in due method, nor illustrate them with clear Proofs, nor by any delightful Ornaments entertain his Reader, is the part of one that at no rate abuses his own time, and the benefit of Writing. Here∣upon they read their own Books among themselves, nor doth any one else meddle with them, but they that expect allowance to write after the same loose fashion.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For indeed it may be that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegant; but for any one ot publish thoughts which eh can neither methodize, nor illustrate nor entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, which were never taken up by any but those who claimed the same privilege of writing.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For it may very well happen, that a man may think rightly, and yet be unable to give utterance to his sentiments with sufficient elegance. But, for any one to consign his thoughts to letters, who can neither arrange them with method, nor make them intelligible by illustration, nor attract the reader with any delight, is the part of a man who rashly abuses both his leisure and literature. And, therefore, let them read their books themselves with their friends; nor let them be touched by any, except by those who are like to need the same indulgence for the same license in writing.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

One may think correctly, yet be unable to give elegant expression to what he thinks; and in that case for a man to commit his thoughts to writing when he can neither arrange them, nor illustrate them, nor attract readers by anything that can give them delight, is the part of a man who outrageously abuses both leisure and letters. Such writers read their own books with their intimate friends, nor does any one else touch them except those who crave for themselves like liberty of writing.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

Even when they have their arguments in order, they don't express them with any flair. They waste their free time -- and do a discredit to literature -- when they commit thoughts to writing without knowing how to arrange or enliven them or give any pleasure to the reader. And so they just end up reading each other's books! No one pays attention to them except people who hope to qualify for the same writer's licence.
[tr. Habinek (1996)]

But it can happen that someone may have a good thought which he cannot express well.
[tr. @sentantiq (2016)]

It is possible for a man to hold the right views but be incapable of expressing these with any elegance; but that anyone should entrust his thoughts to writing, without the ability to arrange them or to express them with clarity, or to attract the reader by offering him some pleasure, is characteristic of a man who is making an ill-disciplined misuse of both leisure and writing. The result is these fellows read their own books to their own circle and no one touches them except those who wish to be permitted the same freedom in writing.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

 
Added on 19-Jul-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Don’t ask a writer what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer about the progress of his disease.

Jay McInerney (b. 1955) American novelist, screenwriter, editor [John Barrett McInerney, Jr.]
Brightness Falls, ch. 1 (1985)
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Added on 10-Mar-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) American lawyer
(Attributed)
 
Added on 5-Mar-21 | Last updated 5-Mar-21
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Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. […] Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
On Writing (2000)
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Added on 4-Feb-21 | Last updated 4-Feb-21
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So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
“A Room of One’s Own,” ch. 6 (1929)
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Added on 4-Dec-20 | Last updated 4-Dec-20
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One does not go to the theater to see life and nature; one goes to see the particular way in which life and nature happen to look to a cultivated, imaginative and entertaining man who happens, in turn, to be a playwright.

George Jean Nathan (1892-1958) American editor and critic
The Critic and the Drama, ch. 2 (1922)
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Added on 9-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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Most artists, ashamed of their need for encouragement, try to carry their work to term like a secret pregnancy. … We bunker in with our projects, beleaguered by our loneliness and the terrible secret that we carry: We need friends to our art. We need them as desperately as friends to our hearts. Our projects, after all, are our brainchildren, and what they crave is a loving extended family, a place where “How’d it go today?” can refer to a turn at the keys or the easel as easily as a turn in the teller’s cage.”

Julia Cameron (b. 1948) American teacher, author, filmmaker, journalist
“Taking Heart,” The Sound of Paper (2005)
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Added on 10-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Sep-20
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I was a model child. It was the teacher’s mistake I am sure. The box was drawn on the blackboard and the names of misbehaving children were written in it. As I adored my teacher, Miss Smith, I was destroyed to see my name appear. This was just the first of the many humiliations of my youth that I’ve tried to revenge through my writing. I have never fully exorcised shames that struck me to the heart as a child except through written violence, shadowy caricature, and dark jokes.

Louise Erdrich (b. 1954) American author, poet
Interview with Lisa Halliday, “The Art of Fiction” #208, The Paris Review (Winter 2010)
    (Source)

On the inspiration behind Dot Adare's 1st Grade teacher putting her into the "naughty box" in The Beet Queen (1986).
 
Added on 8-Sep-20 | Last updated 8-Sep-20
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The wretched Artist himself is alternatively the lowest worm that ever crawled when no fire is in him: or the loftiest God that ever sang when the fire is going.

Caitlin Thomas (1913-1994) British author, wife of Dylan Thomas [née Macnamara]
Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
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Added on 27-Aug-20 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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To be a writer is to accept failure as a profession — which of us is Dante or Shakespeare? — and could they return, wouldn’t they fall at once to revising, knowing they could make the work better? In our own dwarfed way, we are trying for something like perfection, knowing it is unachievable (except of course that trying and failing is a better way of living than not trying).

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
In Vince Clemente, “‘A Man Is What He Does With His Attention’: A Conversation with John Ciardi,” Poesis, Vol. 7 #2 (1986)
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Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 26-Aug-20
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I am sure that in nine out of ten cases the original wish to write is the wish to make oneself felt … the non-essential writer never gets past that wish.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Letter to Graham Greene, quoted in Why Do I Write? (1948)

Ellipses in the original.
 
Added on 24-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Aug-20
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The writer, like a swimmer caught by an undertow, is borne in an unexpected direction. He is carried to a subject which has awaited him — a subject sometimes no part of his conscious plan. Reality, the reality of sensation, has accumulated where it was least sought. To write is to be captured — captured by some experience to which one may have given hardly a thought.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
The Last September, Preface (1929)
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As a novelist, I cannot occupy myself with “characters,” or at any rate central ones, who lack panache, in one or another sense, who would be incapable of a major action or a major passion, or who have not a touch of the ambiguity, the ultimate unaccountability, the enlarging mistiness of persons “in history.” History, as more austerely I now know it, is not romantic. But I am.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Pictures and Conversations, ch. 1 (1975)
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The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“The Art of Fiction,” Interview by Jean Stein, Paris Review #12 (Spring 1956)
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The importance to the writer of first writing must be out of all proportion of the actual value of what is written.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Encounters, Preface to the 1951 Edition (1923)
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To return to the matter of the persona, I repeat that one cannot wholly eliminate oneself for a second, and also sufficient, reason: any fiction (and surely poetry too?) is bound to be transposed autobiography. (True, it may be this at so many removes as to defeat recognition.) I can, and indeed if i would not I still must, relate any and every story I have written to something that happened to me in my own life. But here I am speaking of happenings in a broad sense — to behold and react, is where I am concerned a happening; speculations, unaccountable stirs of interest, longings, attractions, apprehensions without knowable cause — these are happenings, also.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Stories by Elizabeth Bowen, Preface (1959)
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Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for money.

Ferenc Molnár (1878-1952) Hungarian-American author, stage director, dramatist [a.k.a. Franz Molnar]
Quoted in George Jean Nathan, Intimate Notebooks (1932)
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Common form of a quote often misattributed to Molière. It original version actually appears to have originated with Molnar, who, when asked how he regarded his writing, answered, "Like a whore. First, I did it for my own pleasure. Then I did it for the pleasure of my friends. And now -- I do it for money."

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

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Book Reviews,” Esquire (1 Nov 1959)
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Review of William Strunk Jr and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, revised edition.
 
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An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) French writer, filmmaker, artist
Quoted in Newsweek (16 May 1955)
 
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If the artist does not throw himself into his work as Curtius sprang into the gulf, as a soldier leads a forlorn hope without a moment’s thought, and if when he is in the crater he does not dig as a miner does when the earth has fallen in on him; if he contemplates the difficulties before him instead of conquering them one by one, like the lovers in fairy tales, who to win their princesses overcome ever-new enchantments, the work remains incomplete; it perishes in the studio where creativeness becomes impossible, and the artist looks on the suicide of his own talent.

[Si l’artiste ne se précipite pas dans son oeuvre, comme Curtius dans le gouffre, comme le soldat dans la redoute, sans réfléchir; et si, sans ce cratère, il ne travaille pas comme le mineur enfoui sous un éboulement: s’il contemple enfin les difficultés au lieu de las vaincre une à une, à l’example de ces amoureux des féeries, qui pour obtenir leurs princesses, combattaient des enchantements renaissants, l’oeuvre reste inachevée, elle périt au fond de l’atelier où la production devient impossible, et l’artiste assiste au suicide de son talent.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Cousin Betty [La Cousine Bette] (1846) [tr. Waring (1899)]
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Curtius is the young Roman patrician, Marcus Curtius. In 362 BC, a chasm opened up in Rome's forum, and soothsayers proclaimed it could only be filled by Rome's greatest treasure. Curtius mounted his horse and leapt into the chasm, which then closed over him.

Alt. trans.:
  • "If the artist does not throw himself into his work, like Curtius into the gulf beneath the Forum, like a soldier against a fortress, without hesitation, and if, in that crater, he does not work like a miner under a fall of rock, if, in short, he envisages the difficulties instead of conquering them one-by-one, following the examples of lovers in fairy-tales who, to win their princesses, struggle against recurring enchantments, the work remains unfinished, it expires in the studio, wher production remains impossible and the artist looks on at the suicide of his own talent." [tr. Raphael (1992)]
  • "If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtius flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one ... he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent." [Source]
  • Original French.
 
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A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it.

Simone Weil (1909-1943) French philosopher
Gravity and Grace (1947)
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PHILINTE: A gentleman may be respected still,
Whether he writes a sonnet well or ill.
That I dislike his verse should not offend him;
In all that touches honor, I commend him;
He’s noble, brave, and virtuous — but I fear
He can’t in truth be called a sonneteer.”

On peut être honnête homme, et faire mal des vers,
Ce n’est point à l’honneur que touchent ces matières,
Je le tiens galant homme en toutes les manières,
Homme de qualité, de mérite et de cœur,
Tout ce qu’il vous plaira, mais fort méchant auteur.

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
Le Misanthrope, Act 4, sc. 1, ll. 1144-48 (1666) [tr. Wilbur (1954)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "A man can be a gentleman and make bad verses. Such matters do not touch his honor, and I hold him to be a gallant man in every other way; a man of quality, of courage, deserving of anything you please, but -- a bad writer." [tr. Wormeley (1894)]
  • "A man may be / A perfect gentleman, and write poor verse. / These matters do not raise the point of honor. / I hold him a true man in all respects, / Brave, worthy, noble, anything you will, / But still, a wretched writer." [tr. Page (1913)]
  • "Anyone may be an honorable man, and yet write verse badly." [Bartlett]
 
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What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010) American writer [Jerome David Salinger]
The Catcher in the Rye, ch. 3 (1951)
 
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business business business
grind grind grind
what a life for a man
that might have been a poet

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
“pete the parrot and shakespeare,” archy and mehtabel (1927)
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I always make the first Verse well, but I’m perplex’d about the rest.

[Je fais toujours bien le premier vers: mais j’ai peine à faire les autres.]

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
The Romantick Ladies [Les Précieuses Ridicules], Act 1, sc. 11 (1659)
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Alt. trans.: "I always make the first verse well, but I have trouble making the others."
 
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I hate writing. I love having written.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
(Spurious)

Not found in any of Parker's works, and not attributed to her until several years after her death. The earliest rendition of a thought like this ("Don't like to write, but like having written") comes from novelist Frank Norris in a posthumous letter published in "The Bellman's Book Plate: The Writing Grind," The Bellman (4 Dec 1915).

More discussion here: Don’t Like to Write, But Like Having Written – Quote Investigator.

See also Pratchett.
 
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Home is in every sentence of your writing.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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I never saw an author in my life — saving perhaps one — that did not purr as audibly as a full-grown domestic cat on having his fur smoothed the right way by a skillful hand.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 3 (1858)
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It isn’t easy for an author to remain a pleasant human being: both success and failure are usually of a crippling kind.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) English novelist [Henry Graham Greene]
“The Poker-Face,” The Spectator (15 Oct 1943)
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Reprinted in The Lost Childhood and Other Essays (1951).
 
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I have found that a story leaves a deeper impression when it is impossible to tell which side the author is on.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher
Letter

Writing to a friend about Anna Karenina, and how he had rewritten a conversation (Part 4, ch. 1) between Levin and the priest four times, to hide which one he favored.
 
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Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the number of books that were written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 4 “Consolation for Inadequacy” (2000)
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An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (9 Dec 1852)
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In a later letter to Leoroyer de Chanepie (18 Mar 1857), he repeated the sentiment: "The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him."
 
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