Quotations about   writer

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A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.

Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982) American poet, writer, statesman
In Charles Poore, “Mr. MacLeish and the Disenchantmentarians,” The New York Times (25 Jan 1968)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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I’m convinced if I keep going one day I will write something decent. On very bad days I will observe that I must have written good things in the past, which means that I’ve lost it. But normally I just assume that I don’t have it. The gulf between the thing I set out to make in my head and the sad, lumpy thing that emerges into reality is huge and distant and I just wish that I could get them closer.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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There’s nothing like studying the bestseller lists of bygone years for teaching an author humility. You’ve heard of the ones that got filmed, normally. Mostly you realize that today’s bestsellers are tomorrow’s forgotten things.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 28-Aug-17 | Last updated 28-Aug-17
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There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 8 (1942)

Sometimes misattributed to Maya Angelou.
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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The writer … when he’s rejected, that paper is rejected, in a sense, a sizable fragment of the writer is rejected as well. It’s a piece of himself that’s being turned down. And how often can this happen before suddenly you begin to question your own worth and your own value? And even worse, fundamentally, your own talent?

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Added on 15-May-17 | Last updated 15-May-17
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The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus on the issues of his time.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Speech, Library of Congress (1968)
Added on 1-May-17 | Last updated 1-May-17
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A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

chesterton-good-novel-truth-bad-novel-truth-wist_info-quote

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Heretics, ch. 15 “On Smart Novelists and the Smart Set” (1905)
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Added on 25-Oct-16 | Last updated 25-Oct-16
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If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea I’ve realized, I have ten I sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.

Whedon - make - wist_info quote

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
“Dollhouse’s Joss Whedon Answers Your Questions,” Hulu Blog (9 Mar 2009)
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Added on 17-Jun-16 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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Wouldst thou find my ashes? Look
In the pages of my book;
And, as these thy hands doth turn,
Know here is my funeral urn.

Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914) American poet
“The Immortal Residue” (1915)
Added on 26-May-16 | Last updated 26-May-16
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Never does a man portray his own character more vividly than in his manner of portraying another’s.

Richter - portray his own character - wist_info quote

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
Titan, “Twenty-Eighth Jubilee” (1800-03)
Added on 19-May-16 | Last updated 19-May-16
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It is impossible to discourage the real writers — they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Dec-15 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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Fortune has dealt with me rather too well. I have known little struggle, not much poverty, many generosities. Now and then I have, for my books or myself, been somewhat warmly denounced — there was one good pastor in California who upon reading my Elmer Gantry desired to lead a mob and lynch me, while another holy man in the state of Maine wondered if there was no respectable and righteous way of putting me in jail. And, much harder to endure than any raging condemnation, a certain number of old acquaintances among journalists, what in the galloping American slang we call the “I Knew Him When Club,” have scribbled that since they know me personally, therefore I must be a rather low sort of fellow and certainly no writer. But if I have now and then received such cheering brickbats, still I, who have heaved a good many bricks myself, would be fatuous not to expect a fair number in return.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1930)
Added on 18-Aug-15 | Last updated 18-Aug-15
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To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Specimen Days and Collect, “Ventures, on an Old Theme,” closing paragraph (1882)
Added on 22-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Apr-15
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Journalism is a good place for any writer to start — the retelling of fact is always a useful trade and can it help you learn to appreciate the declarative sentence. A young writer is easily tempted by the allusive and ethereal and ironic and reflective, but the declarative is at the bottom of most good writing.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
“Post to the Host” (Jul 2005)
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Added on 4-Dec-14 | Last updated 4-Dec-14
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JOYCE: An artist is the magician put among men to gratify — capriciously — their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought down around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyrants, yes even in the celebration of nonentities. What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist’s touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots. But it is we who stand enriched, by a tale of heroes, of a golden apple, a wooden horse, a face that launched a thousand ships —– and above all, of Ulysses, the wanderer, the most human, the most complete of all heroes — husband, father, son, lover, farmer, soldier, pacifist, politician, inventor and adventurer.

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) Czech-English playwright and screenwriter
Travesties. Act 1 (1974)

Stoppard called this "the most important" speech in the play.
Added on 3-Oct-14 | Last updated 3-Oct-14
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Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
Orlando: A Biography, ch. 4 (1928)
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Added on 1-Sep-14 | Last updated 1-Sep-14
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It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them. What chance is there that any book will make its way among that multitude? And the successful books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours’ relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone into their composition; to some even has been given the anxious labour of a lifetime. The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thoughts; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Moon and Sixpence (1919)
Added on 19-Aug-14 | Last updated 19-Aug-14
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Once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
“A Letter to a Young Poet,” The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942)
Added on 18-Aug-14 | Last updated 18-Aug-14
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The best fame is a writer’s fame: it’s enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough that you get interrupted when you eat.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
In The Observer (30 May 1993)
Added on 5-Aug-14 | Last updated 5-Aug-14
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The only happy author in this world is he who is below the care of reputation.

Washington Irving (1783-1859) American author [pseud. for Geoffrey Crayon]
Tales of a Traveler, Part 2 “The Poor-Devil Author” (1824)
Added on 29-Jul-14 | Last updated 29-Jul-14
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Those authors into whose hands nature has placed a magic wand, with which they no sooner touch us than we forget the unhappiness in life, than the darkness leaves our soul, and we are reconciled to existence, should be placed among the benefactors of the human race.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) French editor, philosopher
(Attributed)

Attributed in Maturin M. Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884 ed.).
Added on 15-Jul-14 | Last updated 15-Jul-14
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Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.

Alison Louise "A. L." Kennedy (b. 1965) Scottish writer and comedian
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 10-Jul-14 | Last updated 10-Jul-14
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Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

Anne Enright (b. 1962) Irish writer
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 19-Jun-14 | Last updated 19-Jun-14
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If you liked a book, don’t meet the author.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jun-14 | Last updated 17-Jun-14
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Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer — however happy, however tragic — is ever wasted.

P.D. James (b. 1920) British mystery writer [Phyllis Dorothy James White]
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 5-Jun-14 | Last updated 5-Jun-14
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The truth is, as every one knows, that the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man — that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense — has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Blushful Mystery: Art and Sex,” Prejudices: First Series (1919)
Added on 3-Jun-14 | Last updated 2-May-16
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Think before you speak is criticism’s motto; speak before you think, creation’s.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Raison d’E’tre of Criticism in the Arts,” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 12-May-14
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Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Wealth,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 25-Nov-15
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And perhaps there is no advice to give a writer more important than this: — Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 2-Dec-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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And perhaps there is no advice to give a writer more important than this: Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 5-Aug-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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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 splendour, 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 1750)
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Added on 18-Jan-13 | Last updated 31-May-19
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I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. ‘The first thing,’ I said, ‘is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.’

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Sermons in Cats,” Music at Night and Other Essays (1931)
Added on 20-Sep-11 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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I ask for your indulgence when I march out quotations. This is the double syndrome of men who write for a living and men who are over forty. The young smoke pot — we inhale from our Bartlett’s.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Speech at Moorpark College, California (3 Dec 1968)
Added on 24-Jun-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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