Thursday, June 26, 2008

Writers on Writing: Quotations

These quotations about writing are from my private stock. In other words, while some items may appear in anthologies somewhere, I gleaned this collection from my own reading. We get used to the idea of looking thing up online, but not everything is online, no, not even now. It's possible some of these quotes are nowhere else on the web. For some reason, that idea tickles me.

All writing is infidelity…..Martin Amis

Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.…. James Baldwin

...I have never been able to believe that anything had really and thoroughly happened to me until I had written it down.......Gerald Brenan

(A boy reveals his hope to become a writer. His father reminds him of the escape of Odysseus from the Sirens.) "He did what you must do now, whenever anybody tells you that you have an artistic gift of any kind....Plug your ears with wax, my boy, - and lash yourself to the mast."……Robertson Davies (I think so, anyway. A character in a novel says it.)

If I didn't have writing, I'd be running down the street hurling grenades in people's faces…. Paul Fussell

Given the choice, a writer, if sincere, would rather see his book thrown into the trash can with irate conviction than politely relegated, with gentle oblivion, to the shelves of infinite boredom….. F. Gonzalez-Crussi

Even sovereigns need people to write about them, and they fear their pens more than the ugly fear the brushes of the portrait painter.. …. Baltasar Gracian

I know at least fifty people who earn their keep by their varying literary skills, and I never heard of a single one among them who was looking for other peoples' ideas. Ideas are cheaper than dirt. I myself always have a couple of hundred to spare on any subject from adultery to xenophobia, and I know they won't do anybody else a damned bit of good…..Alexander King

There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers…..H. L. Mencken

The pleasure is the rewriting. The first sentence can't be written until the final sentence is written…..Joyce Carol Oates

You have to be utterly vulnerable on the page, and utterly ruthless in revision….. Chris Offutt

It is true that fiction is a much more powerful weapon to sell ideas than non-fiction. …..Ayn Rand
She's right, you know. In 1991, responding to a Library of Congress survey, a majority of Americans named _Atlas Shrugged_ as most the influential book in their lives, second only to the Bible, which always comes in first.)

I don't believe in the individual Writer so much as in Writing. It uses you and throws you away when you are not useful any longer. But it does not do this until you are useless and quite useless too. Meanwhile there is nothing to do but plod along line upon line…. Jean Rhys

Literature: proclaiming in front of everyone what one is careful to conceal from one's immediate circle….. Jean Rostand

I discovered that a talent for writing was a gift of fate bestowed on very few people, that the poor fools whose intention was to make a career or a hobby of it were nothing more than wretched desecrators….. Francoise Sagan

A keen reader can spot the difference between a work whose narrator and characters are boldly moving toward a predetermined goal, boxed in by the author's clear determination to get a message across, and a work that unfolds in a fluid, spontaneous way, with its own sense of inevitability….. Faith Sale

If you can get the truth into a story, then you don't need to be polemical The reality of the human condition is its own polemic….. Edward Saxon

I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters….. Solomon Short

Meeting people, receiving a large number of letters and invitations, and feeling under an obligation to reply to them, these are perhaps greater dangers to the writer than debauchery….. Stephen Spender

The good stories are not about the conflict between good and evil but the conflicts between different concepts of good….. Norman Spinrad

Writing is a serious business with me, and there isn't much play there. Writing's a killer. It's difficult and obsessive. It's possessive. It's heartbreaking. But I wouldn't have it otherwise….. William Trevor

He used to complain, you know, that nobody took a writer's writing seriously. I mean that they think what a writer does is really a hobby, that it's not a job, and that it can be dropped for something else at any time, can be interrupted at any time….. Barbara Vine

One reason fiction writers seem creepy in person is that by vocation they really are voyeurs. They need that straightforward visual theft of watching somebody who hasn't prepared a special watchable self….. David Foster Wallace

I have a distinct feeling about people who think of writing. It is this. If anything can stop them it is probably no great loss….. Alexander Woollcott

The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fiber of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver….. Virginia Woolf

1 comment:

Andrew said...

"(A boy reveals his hope to become a writer. His father reminds him of the escape of Odysseus from the Sirens.) "He did what you must do now, whenever anybody tells you that you have an artistic gift of any kind....Plug your ears with wax, my boy, - and lash yourself to the mast."……Robertson Davies (I think so, anyway. A character in a novel says it.)"

Otto Waltz said it in Kurt Vonneguts "Deadeye Dick"