The Quote Garden ™
I dig old books. ™
Quotations about Writing
BOOKS & READING,
COLOR OF WORDS,
INTERESTING PEN NAMES,
PEN IS MIGHTIER,
In literature, when nine hundred and ninety-nine souls ignore you, but the thousandth buys your work, or at least borrows it — that is called enormous popularity. ~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931)
...if I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~Lord Byron, 1821
Writing to me is an advanced and slow form of reading. If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison, quoted in Ellen Brown, "Writing Is Third Career For Morrison," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1981 September 27th
Every writer has to compose life into the unity of a picture, and, if he cannot do so, he is a mere scribbler of things that do not matter. ~Robert Lynd, "The Old Game," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923
Never use the word, 'very.' It is the weakest word in the English language; doesn't mean anything. If you feel the urge of 'very' coming on, just write the word, 'damn,' in the place of 'very.' The editor will strike out the word, 'damn,' and you will have a good sentence. ~William Allen White (quoteinvestigator.com)
Most contemporary fiction, like most contemporary theater, is designed to corroborate your fantasies and make you walk out whistling. I don't want you to whistle at my stuff, baby. I want you to be sitting on the edge of your chair waiting for nurses to carry you out. ~James Baldwin
The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say. ~Mark Twain
Write to me frequently & the longest Letters possible; never mind whether you have facts or no to communicate; fill your paper with the breathings of your heart... ~William Wordsworth, letter to wife Mary, 1812
Literature is the art of using words. This is not a platitude, but a truth of the first importance, a truth so profound that many writers never get down to it... ~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931), How to Become an Author: A Practical Guide, 1903
A metaphor is like a simile. ~Author unknown
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888 ["Don't mistake vivacity for wit, thare iz about az mutch difference az there iz between lightning and a lightning bug." ~Josh Billings' Farmer's Allminax for January 1871 —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~Author unknown
Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson
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
We write to remember our nows later. ~Terri Guillemets, "Paper doesn’t forget," 1994
A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963
Some critics are like chimney-sweepers; they put out the fire below, and frighten the swallows from their nests above; they scrape a long time in the chimney, cover themselves with soot, and bring nothing away but a bag of cinders, and then sing from the top of the house as if they had built it. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), "Drift Wood, A Collection of Essays: Table-Talk," Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1857
Writing is a solitary and rather self-absorbed way to occupy vast tracts of time, but it can be immensely rewarding. ~Cliff McNish, 2012, www.CliffMcNish.com
The formula of George Bernard Shaw: to put the obvious in terms of the scandalous. ~H. L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major, 1916
[I]n the hands of a master of music, the words and the air have been specially adapted, and when sung together make the most delightful music one could wish to hear. In this species of prose-melody [Alexander] Smith excels. ~"Books, Catalogues, &c." (review of Smith's Dreamthorp), The Gardener's Monthly, April 1864
The pen sometimes builds a more enduring monument than can the hammer or chisel. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
A man may speak with his tongue and only be heard around the corner; but another man may speak with his pen and be heard around the globe. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
The influence of the platform is much more potent than that of the pen. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
The ablest writer is only a gardener first, and then a cook: his tasks are, carefully to select and cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts; and when they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and yet so that they may have a relish. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
Is a stolen copyright a copywrong? ~Anonymous
Author: a dancer of typewriter keys. ~Terri Guillemets
[T]he author who has not made warm friends and then lost them in an hour by writing things that did not agree with the preconceived ideas of these friends, has either not written well or not been read. ~Elbert Hubbard, "Harriet Martineau," Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Women, 1897
[W]riting is a product of silence and solitude. ~Comparison, Graduate School of Comparative Literature, University of Warwick, 1979
You write so seldom, scarce four sheets a year,
A lazy Writer, but a Judge severe!
Still mending, and revising every Line,
Still vex't that after all thy Sleep and Wine,
Yet nothing comes that doth appear to be
Worth public view: What will become of Thee?
You here at Winter's first approach did come,
And left the Mirth, and drunken Feasts of Rome:
Then sober now write something as you vow'd,
Write something that may make thy promise good.
Begin, nought comes, thou dost in vain accuse
Thy Paper, Pen, and Ink, and angry Muse:
And yet you seem'd to promise something great
If e'er you came to your warm Country Seat.
Why comes Menander, Plato, Sophocles?
And why such Learned Company as These?
If Thou design'st to spend thy time in Ease?
What, wilt Thou write no more to live exempt
From Envy? Blockhead, Thou shalt meet Contempt:
The Siren Sloth thou must resolve to shun,
Or lose that Fame thy better Life has won.
~Horace (65–8 BCE), Satyrs, Book II, Satyr III: The Stoicks chide him for his Laziness, done into English by Thomas Creech, 1684
All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil. Let the oil get clear again. You get clear. This is a very wholesome place to write from. It brings you back to remembering the essentials: sky out the window, feet on a cushion, ceiling above your head, ground below... The benefits of a lazy will feed your writing for a long time. ~Natalie Goldberg, "Lazy," Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, 1990, nataliegoldberg.com
I have no doubt at all the Devil grins,
As seas of ink I spatter.
Ye gods, forgive my "literary" sins—
The other kind don't matter.
~Robert W. Service (1874–1958) [James A. Mackay's biography of Service was titled "Vagabond of Verse" — that phrase was actually first used by Charles Kennett Burrow in an 1896 poem "Blind Mæonides." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
As a writer, I have mistaken how to use words. I write too much. I write like some people talk to fill silence. When I write, I am trying through the movement of my fingers to reach my head. I'm trying to build a word ladder up to my brain. Eventually these words help me come to an idea, and then I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite what I'd already written (when I had no idea what I was writing about) until the path of thinking, in retrospect, feels immediate. ~Heidi Julavits, The Folded Clock: A Diary, 2015
Let your pen faithfully reflect the glint of light from your soul. ~Terri Guillemets
The pen wherewith thou dost so heavenly sing
Made of a quill from an angel's wing.
~Henry Constable (1562–1613)
[P]oets' Pens, pluckt from Archangels' wings... ~John Davies of Hereford (c.1565–1618)
...The feather, whence the pen
Dropped from an Angel's wing...
~William Wordsworth (1770–1850), "Ecclesiastical Sketches: Walton's Book of Lives"
If often seems as if inspired minds had penned their words of wisdom and beauty with quills plucked from the wings of angels. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
Goosequill.— A little tube which, in the hands of modern dramatists, seems to have the power of reproducing its parental hisses. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824
Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline. ~Gowan McGland (character written by Peter De Vries), Reuben, Reuben, 1964 [According to Greek historian Herodotus, ancient Persians would deliberate while drunk then re-evaluate while sober. And vice versa. In vino veritas! "Write drunk; edit sober" trace-down credit: quoteinvestigator.com –tg]
I suggested that he should write out the whole affair from beginning to end, knowing that ink might assist him to ease his mind. When little boys have learned a new bad word they are never happy till they have chalked it up on a door. And this also is Literature. ~Rudyard Kipling
Any real writer — or reader — has had a papercut on the forehead at least once. ~Terri Guillemets
It is a pity that we cannot examine an author's literary entrails, so as to see on what wisdom he has been feeding. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908
It is not my sentence that I polish, but my thought. I pause until the drop of light that I need is formed and falls from my pen. ~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824), translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866
Dear little children of my pen,
The editors too often spank you,
And send you flying home again
With little notes that say, "No, thank you."
They never seem to comprehend
How much of love it took to rear you...
However that may be, my dears,
Though in a darkened desk he shoves you,
Just go to sleep and dry your tears—
Remember that your daddy loves you.
~James P. Haverson (1880–1954), "Pen Prodigals," Sour Sonnets of a Sorehead & Other Songs of the Street, 1908
If Mr. Carnegie really wants to die poor he might pay all the postage on returned manuscripts. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor
A writer is successful not because he writes paragraphs but because he writes emotions. ~Terri Guillemets, "Conduit," 2007
The writer who uses weak arguments and strong epithets is like the landlady who gives weak tea and strong butter. ~"Wit and Humor," Gleason's Monthly Companion, March 1879
Let me sometimes dance
Or stand perchance
Fixed and free
In a rhyme,
As poets do.
~Edward Thomas (1878-1917), "Words"
Pen.— The silent mouthpiece of the mind, which gives ubiquity and immortality to the evanescent thought of a moment. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824‑5
With many readers, brilliancy of style passes for affluence of thought; they mistake buttercups in the grass for immeasurable gold mines under ground. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh: A Tale, 1849
The first goal of writing is to have one's words read successfully. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Your writing chamber isn't the office or the study — it's your heart. ~Terri Guillemets
Most editors are failed writers — but so are most writers. ~T.S. Eliot
Human language may be polite and powerless in itself, uplifted with difficulty into expression by the high thoughts it utters, or it may in itself become so saturated with warm life and delicious association that every sentence shall palpitate and thrill with the mere fascination of the syllables.... There may be phrases which shall be palaces to dwell in, treasure-houses to explore; a single word may be a window from which one may perceive all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them. Oftentimes a word shall speak what accumulated volumes have labored in vain to utter: there may be years of crowded passion in a word, and half a life in a sentence. ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Letter to a Young Contributor," The Atlantic Monthly, April 1862
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring...
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "The Joy of Writing," No End of Fun, 1967, translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh
The traditional sacrifices of a writer are soul and sleep. ~Terri Guillemets
Between the two windows stood the writing-table, covered with heaps of newspapers, stacks of letters, mountains of ledgers, bound in canvas or leather, and tipped with brass at the corners; a chaos for every eye and every hand but the master's. ~Franz von Dingelstedt, Die Amazone: Novelle, 1869, translated from German by J.M. Hart
Get a pen that makes a sensuous line, get a comfortable typewriter, a friendly word processor — whichever feels easy to the hand. ~Garrison Keillor, "How to write a personal letter," 1987, from Power of the Printed Word advertising campaign by Billings S. Fuess, Jr. at Ogilvy & Mather for International Paper Company
My mind has thunderstorms,
That brood for heavy hours:
Until they rain me words;
My thoughts are drooping flowers
And sulking, silent birds.
Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
And brood your heavy hours;
For when you rain me words,
My thoughts are dancing flowers
And joyful singing birds.
~William H. Davies, "Thunderstorms," Foliage, 1913
With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs. ~James Thurber, 1954
Never use a figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut out a word, cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word, or jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. ~George Orwell, 1946, "Politics and the English Language" [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn't telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say — and to feel — "Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that's the way I feel it. You're not as alone as you thought." ~John Steinbeck, 1956
To finish is sadness to a writer — a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done. ~John Steinbeck, 1956
But books there are with nothing fraught,—
Ten thousand words, and ne'er a thought;
Where periods without period crawl,
Like caterpillars on a wall,
That fall to climb, and climb to fall;
While still their efforts only tend
To keep them from their journey's end.
~James Montgomery (1771–1854), "The Pleasures of Imprisonment: In Two Epistles to a Friend"
I write because... every writer has only one story to tell, really, and I haven't told mine yet. ~James Baldwin
Journal: fitting your heart and soul into ruled lines. ~Terri Guillemets, "Inside the lines, outside the box," 1998
A journal is a journey — our own personal passages of self. ~Terri Guillemets, "Voyages," 1993
To journal is a present of the past to your future self. ~Terri Guillemets, "Nights not standing," 1996
Lists are the butterfly nets that catch my fleeting thoughts... ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, betsygarmon.com [And a resounding INFJ-hallelujah! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
It is plagiarism when you take something out of a book and use it as your own. If you take it out of several books then it is research. ~Quoted by Ralph Foss, 1932 (quoteinvestigator.com)
Some writers collect their disjointed ideas from all authors within their reach, just as the paper they write on is made from the tattered rags of all the stuff on earth. ~George Denison Prentice, Prenticeana; Or, Wit and Humor in Paragraphs, 1859
Before using a beautiful word, make a place for it. ~Joseph Joubert, translated by George H. Calvert
As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out. ~Mark Twain
Writing is both a sacrificing and a saving of soul. ~Terri Guillemets
I just think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer, 1963 interview with Steven Marcus, in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Third Series, 1967, edited by George Plimpton
...the wonderful poems interpreting with equal magic the romance of strange lands and times, or the modern soul, naked and unashamed, as if clothed in its own complexity; the humorous-tragic questionings of the universe; the delicious travel-pictures and fantasies; the lucid criticisms of art, and politics, and philosophy, informed with malicious wisdom, shimmering with poetry and wit. ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897 [of the magic pen of Heinrich Heine —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
My prose style at this time was a stomach-twisting blend of the Bible, Carl Sandburg, H.L. Mencken, Jeffrey Farnol, Christopher Morley, Samuel Pepys, and Franklin Pierce Adams imitating Samuel Pepys. I was quite apt to throw in a "bless the mark" at any spot, and to begin a sentence with "Lord" comma. ~E.B. White (1899–1985)
Winter is best for writing, when I'm held willing captive by howling snowstorms, with nothing to lure or distract from the typewriter. ~Ethel Pochocki (1925–2010), quoted in Something about the Author, Volume 76, edited by Diane Telgen, 1994 [a little altered —tg]
Other than actually putting pen to paper, I can't think of another more important duty of the writer than to stare wistfully out a window. ~Terri Guillemets, “A’musing,” 2005
A well-disposed research librarian is a writer's best friend, as essential as ink. ~Barbara Rogan, Suspicion, 1999
The words of the world want to make sentences. ~Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie, 1960
There is a zone to writing. It takes some effort, some hours of struggle to reach, but once you're there, the words flow as if from a spigot. Thoughts fill up the page. Your fingers function independently of your body and brain as you tap out the poetry. It's the groove that baseball hitters speak of. The hot hand that basketball players relish. It is that sweet moment in a race car when everything slows down despite the speedometer reading 175 miles per hour. Everything doable in life has a zone like this. Find it and get into it. ~Joseph Kita, "What I Know" (Heaven on Earth), Wisdom of Our Fathers, 1999
Alternating the thoughtful task of writing with the mindless work of laundry or dish washing will give you the breaks you need for new ideas and insights to occur. If you don't know what comes next in the story… clean your toilet. Change the bed sheets. For Christ sakes, dust the computer. A better idea will come. ~Chuck Palahniuk, "13 Writing Tips," 2006
Writers are just people who have a whole lot on the inside that they need to get to the outside, with pen and paper their preferred method of transport. Same with dancers, artists, and singers — all the same urges with differing transportation. ~Terri Guillemets
I write at midnight because I am dark. Angela writes by day because she is almost always happy light. ~Clarice Lispector (1920–1977), A Breath of Life: Pulsations, written 1974–1977, published posthumously 1978, edited by Olga Borelli and Benjamin Moser, translated from the Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz, 2012 [Author —tg]
Strictly speaking, we have only layers of novels and comedies; few are grown from the seed. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1851 August 19th
As is invariably noted at the beginning of positively all literary biographies, the little boy was a glutton for books.... For his first writing exercise he painstakingly reproduced: "Obey your sovereign, honor him and submit to his laws," and the compressed ball of his index finger thus remained ink-stained forever. Now the thirties are over and the forties have begun. ~Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift, 1963, translated from Russian by Michael Scammell
...a writer is, by trade, a talkative fellow on paper and appreciates an audience. ~Hal Borland
When I stop the rest of the day is posthumous. I'm only really alive when I'm writing. ~Tennessee Williams, 1960
I take joy in what I do. I have a wonderful relationship with my waking self every morning and that hour around 7:30 when your brain is not connected to your ears, when it's floating around inside your head full of metaphors. I lie in bed and I watch the metaphors collect and drift and when they reach a certain point of collision, I jump out of bed and get them down before they go away. ~Ray Bradbury, National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters acceptance speech, 2000 November 15th
[T]he author writes as a race-horse runs, for the sake of it. He feels like it, and kindles just because he enjoys burning. ~The Living Way, edited and published by S.D. Simonds, Volume III, 1872, referring to Joaquin Miller and his poem "Isles of the Amazons"
Writing is easy. You just sit down and focus — but not too hard. ~Terri Guillemets
So Friar Jerome began his Book.
From break of dawn till curfew-chime
He bent above the lengthening page,
Like some rapt poet o'er his rhyme.
~T.B. Aldrich (1836–1907), "Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book," A.D. 1200
As children, some of us liked magic and fantasy, more than reality. So, we became writers. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
I have succeeded in arresting some casual wing of thought as it flew, some transient wave of emotion as it subsided... ~William Watson, "A Note on Epigram," 1883
An author plants the alphabet — and harvests flowers, nourishment, and weeds. ~Terri Guillemets
Dialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs. ~Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction, 1991
How can a man freshen and enrich his style? Read and reread the Bible and Shakespeare and Defoe and Swift and Bunyan and Tennyson, for all of these have a genius for pouring the water of life into the clay jugs of Saxon speech. ~Charles Edward Jefferson, "Thy Speech Bewrayeth Thee," Quiet Hints to Growing Preachers in My Study, 1901
"And when once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen."
"But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any other way you can."
"To be sure... I have seen a litherary gentleman in a sponging house do crack things on the wall, with a bit of burnt stick..."
~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1841
I want to make a literary confession now... Of course I write some lines or passages which are better than others; some which, compared with the others, might be called relatively excellent... Now I never wrote a "good" line in my life, but the moment after it was written it seemed a hundred years old. Very commonly I had a sudden conviction that I had seen it somewhere. Possibly I may have sometimes unconsciously stolen it, but I do not remember that I ever once detected any historical truth in these sudden convictions of the antiquity of my new thought or phrase. I have learned utterly to distrust them, and never allow them to bully me out of a thought or line.
This is the philosophy of it... Any new formula which suddenly emerges in our consciousness has its roots in long trains of thought; it is virtually old when it first makes its appearance among the recognized growths of our intellect... Here is one theory.
But there is a larger law which perhaps comprehends these facts... The rapidity with which ideas grow old in our memories is in a direct ratio to the squares of their importance. Their apparent age runs up miraculously, like the value of diamonds, as they increase in magnitude. A great calamity, for instance, is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened. It stains backward through all the leaves we have turned over in the book of life, before its blot of tears or of blood is dry on the page we are turning. For this we seem to have lived... After the tossing half-forgetfulness of the first sleep that follows such an event, it comes upon us afresh, as a surprise, at waking; in a few moments it is old again, — old as eternity. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
An author's means of livelihood.
~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914
I have given up writing and married a farmer.... He has to hire "a help," and do the chores himself, while I, sure of food and shelter for the first time in my life, sit by the fire, and think. ~Malheureuse, "Four For a Cent," in The Overland Monthly, January 1893 ["On the whole, it is all rubbish your going to a farm. The soul is more than flesh, etc. You had better much come up to London." ~Ezra Pound, letter to Iris Barry, 1916 September 22nd —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Writing did not save my life... but it has continued to do what it always has done: it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place.
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, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000
A taste for literature, however, is a very different thing from a determination to undertake the art in person as a means of livelihood. It takes brisk stimulus and powerful internal fevers to reduce a healthy youth to such a contemplation. ~Christopher Morley (1890–1957), "The Autogenesis of a Poet," c.1920
Writer's block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite. ~Terri Guillemets
The author, as a rule, dearly loves every line of his work, from the first stroke down to the dotlet on the i, and certainly has a right to it. ~Gustav Boehm, "A Discourse on Title Page Composition," in The Inland Printer (Chicago), March 1886
Pen and ink is wit's plough. ~Proverbs, ed. John Ray, 1737
For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008
"Mr. Harte, what books shall I read to acquire a perfect style?"
"Oh, lord!" he groaned, swinging around in his chair, "for pity's sake, don't read anything! Just write! Write! Write!"
~Josephine Clifford McCrackin
Writing is a trade, and writers who do not avail themselves of the best tools obtaining for their purpose, must always work at a disadvantage. Few of them try to get along without paper, pen, and ink; but many seem to think that no other tools are necessary. For shears and mucilage, particularly, some writers seem to have an unconquerable aversion. Pinned manuscripts are a common cause of vigorous comment in editorial offices. Along with rolled manuscripts they are the detestation of every editor. Women pin together the palely-written sheets of their scented manuscript when sending a poem to the printer. Men are often guilty of diverting pins from their proper use in the place of missing suspender buttons to their improper use where what the children call "gum-stickum" would be so much more appropriate.
There is no prejudice against the use of paste and shears. When you want to fasten two bits of paper together, stick the two pieces permanently together with the mucilage-brush. By trimming and pasting you can make the separate sheets of your copy all the same size, and that editors regard as a desideratum. For example, if you want to insert ten lines in the middle of page 19 of your closely-written manuscript, cut the page in two at the place in question, write the addition on a new sheet and paste it on, cutting off the lower portion so as to make the sheet of uniform size with the rest. Then paste the rest of the original sheet 19 on a blank sheet of your copy paper and number it "19½," or "19A," then "19B," "19C," &c. All this is a very simple matter, of course, but it is just what every editor wishes every one of his contributors would do every time in such a case.
Pencils with red and blue leads, and a bottle of red ink are cheap and handy tools that are seldom found on writers' desks. A blotter, a large pad of blotting-paper, box of rubber bands, a foot rule with bevelled edges, all save time, are always a convenience, and will be constantly appreciated. Scrap-books, pigeon-hole cases, reference books, envelope files, and such helps to writers deserve more special attention.
Stylographic pens, fountain pens, type-writers, manifold books, and such inventions are extremely desirable, of course; but they cost a good deal of money.
~William H. Hills, "Tools for Writers," in The Writer: A Monthly Magazine for Literary Workers, August 1887, wording slightly altered [Oh, how we take for granted our Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
I really would like to stop working forever — never work again, never do anything like the kind of work I'm doing now — and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends... Just a literary and quiet city-hermit existence. ~Allen Ginsberg
I took my paper and ink into the garden, looking up to God for assistance, and wrote freely for two hours. I find all the difference in writing out of doors, with quiet and pleasing objects before my eyes, and within, where I can do nothing without closing my eyes upon the things before me. ~Henry Martyn (1781–1812), journal, 1804 May 4th
I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind. ~Patrick Dennis, 1956
writing is knitting
colors and stories
a map of soul
and glint of madness
~Terri Guillemets, "Ink knitting," 2019, blackout poetry created from Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar, 1989, page 178
A nom-de-plume is an affectation and is not calculated to impress an editor favorably. There is no more reason why a writer should sign a fictitious name to his work, than for a painter to do so with his canvases or for John Smith to put the name of Roderick Random over the store where he sells pork and molasses. ~James Knapp Reeve, Practical Authorship, 1910
Kafka became a model for me, a continuing inspiration. Not only did he exhibit an irrepressible originality—who else would think of things like this!—he seemed to say that only in one's most personal language can the crucial tales of a writer be told. Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel a particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share. ~Anne Rice, 1995
There is but one element that is constant in the flux of fashions. No matter what cut or what cloth the style of the day imposes, flesh and blood must wear the garment. So with fiction. Now flowery and flowing, now tailor-made and unadorned, words and their weaving follow many models. ~J.B. Kerfoot, "A Row of Books," Everybody's Magazine, July 1909 [review of Eden Phillpotts' "The Three Brothers" —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
I have just finished reading Conrad's old novel, Romance. Marvelous thing, to me. I read it breathless and laid it down with cold hands and a fluttering heart... It takes robustness to write a novel like that. Conrad must write at a pitch of feeling that would exhaust an ordinary person completely. ~Dorothy Thompson, letter to Rose Wilder Lane, 1921, edited by William V. Holtz
It is a sacramental matter, this filling the ink-well. Is there a writer, however humble, who has not poured into his writing poet, with the ink, some wistful hopes or prayers for what may emerge from that dark source? ~Christopher Morley, "On Filling an Ink-Well"
I like to think as I look along book shelves, that every one of these favorites was born out of an ink-well. I imagine the hopes and visions that thronged the author's mind as he filled his pot and sliced the quill. ~Christopher Morley, "On Filling an Ink-Well"
There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966, © Thomas Paine McLaughlin
When describing people, stay away from hair and eye color, as well as height and weight. Many writers make the mistake of describing their characters like the people in a police blotter. Think, instead, about the way you might describe your friends. Do you know the height and weight of your friends? Do you ever think about their eye color? These features are not as interesting as other, more complex descriptors. Consider your characters' gestures, the shape of their facial features, their gait, their dimples, their scars, the way they laugh, the quality of their teeth, their stance, their fashion sense, their odor, their vocal tone, and so on. ~Abby Geni, "Description," 2016
The brain that bubbles with phrases has hard work to collect its thoughts. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Thought," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940
Writing isn't hard; no harder than ditch-digging. ~Patrick Dennis, 1962
Some writers have beautiful poetry inside that explodes from the pen into prose. Others hold their inner prose until it implodes to poetry. ~Terri Guillemets
The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. ~Samuel Johnson
Boswell was the father of all Press Agents. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor
As there are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write, so the heart is a secret even to him (or her) who has it in his own breast. ~William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., 1852
REASONS TO KEEP A WRITER IN YOUR HOME
· they know weird facts
· they're low maintenance because all they do is eat and write
· great for midnight chats because they don't sleep
· if they have to edit they'll procrastinate by cleaning your whole house
~C.G. Drews, @PaperFury, tweet, 2018
Sometimes the vague word is preferable to the accurate... Let not the word clasp the thought too closely... ~Joseph Joubert, translated by George H. Calvert
I read in order to write. I read out of obsession with writing. ~Cynthia Ozick, interview with Tom Teicholz, 1985, for The Paris Review, theparisreview.org
Most first novels are disguised autobiographies. This autobiography is a disguised novel. ~Clive James (1939–2019), Unreliable Memoirs, 1980, clivejames.com
The printing press is the mother of errors. ~Italian proverb
Those who have had experience with type are aware of its satanic persistence towards error. ~Author unknown
But words are finer tools; they give
A meaning, hid in form and hue;
In them a subtler truth may live
Than brush or pencil ever drew.
~Hannah R. Hudson, "Word-Painting," Poems, 1874 [alternatively published as "Poet and Painter" —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
An author, behind his words, is naked. ~Terri Guillemets, "Wordcloth," 2006
Papa is a literary person—he will do it, although so many people have told him that it is not the profession of a gentleman—and I do not see why I should not write for publication also. He is gone down to the beach for the afternoon; and here are his pens, ink, and foolscap paper, and his big slanting stand-up desk—which he would drag down with him to the sea-side, in spite of mama's protestations—and here is his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases without which, he was owned to me in private, he could never write a line. I stand upon the footstool, to give me the requisite height; I tap my forehead with my forefinger, in the most approved literary manner; I frown a frown of concentrated intellect, and become a 'We'—an authoress—for the first time. ~Lucy Penfeather, "Friends of the Swellingtons," in Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, 1864 November 26th
Poe played on one key-bank of a church organ, Whittier on a meeting-house melodeon, Walt Whitman on a Salvation Army bass drum. ~Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought, 1914
No sooner do I get interested than bang! goes my sleep, and I have to stop a week or ten days, during which my ideas get all cold again. ~William James, 1886
Sometimes when I look at a thing I've written I get the feeling that I must have gone out of the room and left the typewriter running. ~Gene Fowler (1890–1960), to Cecil Smith, Los Angeles Times
I sometimes get up at night when I can't sleep and walk down into my library and open one of my books and read a paragraph and say My God, did I write that? ~Ray Bradbury, National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters acceptance speech, 2000 November 15th
When at times I come across a good idea of mine in one of my old notebooks, I am astonished how foreign it has become to me and my system, and am as delighted with it as if it were the thought of one of my predecessors. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), "The Character of a Person of my Acquaintance" [Lichtenberg's unfinished "autopsychography" (Norman Alliston, 1908). —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
A health to the Knight of the Pencil,
A health to the Lord of the Quill;
A health to the writers of fiction,
A health to the gleaners of fact;
A health to the slaves of the ink-pot,
A health to them all, the disciples of gall!
~James P. Haverson (1880–1954), "Dedicatory: To Newspaper Men — By One of Them," Sour Sonnets of a Sorehead & Other Songs of the Street, 1908 [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Reading in bed is a gateway drug to writing in bed. ~Terri Guillemets
I should be very glad if they would send me Books, Paper, Quills, and all Kinds of stationary... ~John Adams, letter to Isaac Smith, Jr., 1771
Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull. ~Rod Serling, 1957
[K]now ye, know ye, that I would write like Mrs. Browning or George Eliot if I could. Would it not be prettier to write of moonlight and love, to murmur of the sheen of midnight rivers and the matin chant of virginal souls? Would I, think you, gyre and gimble in the wabe of print as I do, could wishes make me a sweet little unspankable cherub, grown moon-cheeked upon a diet of air? ~Malheureuse, "Four For a Cent," in The Overland Monthly, January 1893
Remember to use all five senses... Smell, in particular, can be incredibly evocative when written well. Think about temperature, ambient sounds, the feel of the ground, the taste of the air. ~Abby Geni, "Description," 2016
Some authors write with a grave ink, of a dramatic pen dipped into their dark souls. ~Terri Guillemets
I was once interviewed by Barbara Walters... and while we were off-camera, she seemed very interested in my prolificity and wondered whether I didn't sometimes want to do other things, rather than writing. "No," I said. She said, "What if the doctor gave you six months to live. What would you do?" I said, "Type faster." ~Isaac Asimov, "Prolificity," I. Asimov: A Memoir, 1994 ["It happened. He didn't brood. He did try to write faster, but eventually I had to type for him because his hands wouldn't work. Nevertheless, he was a writer to the end." ~Janet Jeppson Asimov, "Compulsive Writing," Notes for a Memoir on Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, 2006 —tg]
I was learning then that the terrible thing about being a writer is that you don't decide to be one, you discover that you are one. ~James Baldwin
With scraps of paper, scribbled o'er,
Strew'd are the table, desk, and floor,
And one else vacant chair.
Its master in the other sits;
Ransacks his memory, racks his wits,
For simile, or rhyme;
Now writes a line, now rubs it out;
Now o'er another hangs in doubt;
Nor heeds, nor thinks of time....
'Tis past the noon of night, and yet
He seems, while writing, to forget
The silent lapse of hours;
And that a tenement of clay,
Prone to derangement and decay,
Contains his mental powers.
But he is happy, for the time,
Thus bodying forth in simple rhyme...
~Bernard Barton, "Stanzas on the Approach of Winter" (from stanzas XIV, XV, XVII, and XVIII), Napoleon and Other Poems, 1822 [Barton (1784–1849) was known as The Quaker Poet. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
An author can be just a writer, but a translator must always be a poet. ~Terri Guillemets, "Word altar," 2002
Molière — The comic half of Shakespeare. ~Charles Searle, Look Here!, 1885
It's the professional deformation of many writers, and has ruined not a few. (I remember Kingsley Amis, himself no slouch, saying that he could tell on what page of the novel Paul Scott had reached for the bottle and thrown caution to the winds.) ~Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: Some Confessions and Contradictions, 2010, about alcohol
These things sift through our minds, with the years, like sand, and find their way out in ink. ~Terri Guillemets
Some books come to you.... They are bonuses, gifts. You do not have to kill some little part of your flesh to dredge them up. This is a fatal shade mystical, but it is almost as if you are serving as agent for a book which wants to get itself written. So the author never knows what to think of such books when he is done. His real fondness — since writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing — is more for those books he delivered out of his own flesh, torn and deadened by the process, but able at least to use all art and craft, all accumulated lore. ~Norman Mailer, "Mr. Mailer Interviews Himself," in The New York Times Book Review, 1967 September 17th
A certain college professor whose classes turned out many successful writers, began each new course in creative writing with the statement: “If you can think, you can learn to write.” Almost everybody can think. Almost everybody can also learn to write, because writing is thinking on paper. ~H. Phelps Gates, "Easy Ways," You Know You Can Write, 1949
I am a very particular person about having all I write printed as I write it. I require to see a proof, a revise, a re-revise, and a double re-revise, or fourth-proof rectified impression of all my productions, especially verse. A misprint kills a sensitive author. An intentional change of his text murders him. No wonder so many poets die young! ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear — and devils, too. ~Terri Guillemets
I'm a singer-songwriter... If I'm not writing songs, I'm like a flower without water. When I'm writing songs, I'm a sunflower six feet tall... It is like free therapy. Instead of paying a guy 125 bucks an hour to pull stuff out of me, I pull it out of myself and put it on paper. And then I own it, but it doesn't own me. ~Rob from Tucson, Arizona, Intervention, 2009 [S8, E4 —tg]
WHERE WRITERS GET INSPIRATION
· while in shower
· absorbing other art, like books, music or photos
· anytime you have NOTHING to write it down on
· when it's 50% off to buy and comes in a nice box
· if you scream into the void enough it gets sick of you and offers book ideas
~C.G. Drews, @PaperFury, tweet, 2019
[G]usto thrives on freedom, and freedom in art, as in life, is the result of a discipline imposed by ourselves. Moreover, any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others. ~Marianne Moore (1887–1972), lecture, 1948
a book in his hand
and ten in his pen
~Terri Guillemets, "Markham Portrait with Book"
At the point of the pen is the focus of the mind. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
The pen is a tree whose fruit is expression. ~Oriental proverb
There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008
But now and then there comes up the aisle a new Perfect Reader, and all the ghosts of literature wait for him, starry-eyed, by the altar. And as long as there are Perfect Readers, who read with passion, with glory, and then speed to tell their friends, there will always be, ever and anon, a Perfect Writer. ~Christopher Morley (1890–1957), "The Perfect Reader," c.1920
If I ever write the perfect book, I'll stop writing. ~Jane Yolen, "For Writers," JaneYolen.com, 2007
My only cure for writer's block is insomnia. ~Terri Guillemets
If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop. If I'm trying to write, there appears a barren nothingness. ~Terri Guillemets
[A good novelist] must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done...
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, 1956 interview with Jean Stein, in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, edited by Malcolm Cowley, 1958
Writers are just thinkers with ink. ~Terri Guillemets, "Philosophy flashback," 1995
When her work was done, she ran away to her books with the greatest possible delight. Even when very young, she would hide away with books, pen, ink, and paper, rather than play with her schoolmates. Her father and mother used to wonder what she did with so much paper; but she was too bashful to show what she wrote. Her mother, therefore, was much surprised, when searching in a dark closet, she found a number of little books, made of writing paper, evidently done by a child. The writing consisted of little verses, written to the pictures she had drawn on the opposite page. She cried when she found her treasures had been discovered, and then they were given to her, she took an early opportunity to burn them secretly; this shows how natural it is for people of good sense to be bashful about their own productions. ~"Lives of Celebrated Children, No. 2," Monthly Repository and Library of Entertaining Knowledge, July 1830, of Lucretia Maria Davidson (1808–1825)
The reason why many people are so fond of using superlatives, is, they are so positive that the poor positive is not half positive enough for them. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827
WRITING: A week-long business meeting with a single word. Being on a committee with a thick dictionary, thesaurus, red pen, and cup of strong coffee. Arguing with an obstinate piece of punctuation. Bleary-eyed inkstorms at 3AM, answering the call of duty whenever inspiration strikes. ~Terri Guillemets, "Blotting paper," 2010
I'm writing a book. I have the page numbers done, now I just have to fill in the rest. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com
I've written several children's books. Not on purpose. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com
Authorship is exhibitionism, and readers a species of voyeur. ~Terri Guillemets
Well-chosen words are abridged sentences. ~Joseph Joubert, translated by George H. Calvert
Let the pen perspire
When the mind's afire.
~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. ~Jules Renard, Journal, 1895 April 10th
(1) All writers, who understand human nature, are clever;
(2) No one is a true poet unless he can stir the hearts of men;
(3) Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet";
(4) No writer, who does not understand human nature, can stir the hearts of men;
(5) None but a true poet could have written "Hamlet."
~Lewis Carroll, Symbolic Logic, 1897
Being an author is being in charge of your own personal insane asylum. ~Terri Guillemets
How to find blog post typos:
1. Click publish.
He could write, all right. Like Raymond Carlson, the editor against whom we're all measured, Don Dedera did with vowels and consonants what Mozart did with G minor. ~Robert Stieve, "In Memoriam: Donald Everett Dedera, 1929–2020," Arizona Highways, May 2020, arizonahighways.com
around my heart
like a cozy blanket
Quills in my brain
ink running through
gray matter rivulets
Dead authors ghosting
through my soul...
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, [$h¡t] detector. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008
Interviewer: You are suffering from pre-publication schizophrenia with accompanying megalomania on the manic side of the moon.
Mailer: Not the first author to be so afflicted.
~Norman Mailer, "Mr. Mailer Interviews Himself," in The New York Times Book Review, 1967 September 17th
[Walt Whitman] spent many nights drinking at Pfaff's Beer Hall in Manhattan, a popular spot for New York's young bohemians, freethinkers, and sarcastic literati. ~Zachary Turpin, "Introduction to Walt Whitman's 'Manly Health and Training,'" 2016 [Wouldn't that be a fun place to hang out, or at the least, be a fly on the wall‽ —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Author by night,
Editor by sun.
~Terri Guillemets, "Candlelit words," 1992
A typical Mailer bon mot: an impeccable thought and an elegant formulation, preceded by seven words of needless mush. ~Jim Lewis, "The Pugilist at Rest: Norman Mailer's Performance Comes to a Close," 2007 November 12th [And not just Mailer! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
In writing, you either stick with it and keep revising until it's done, no matter how long it takes — or set it aside a few years until you've distanced yourself enough to get it right. The wait is just as excruciating as the work. ~Terri Guillemets
I was admittedly a third-rater, although there were some kind critics who insisted that I was really second rate. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "The poetry in my past," If I May Say So, The Bennington Banner, 1974 November 4th
[I]f you make love while you are jamming on a novel, you are in danger of leaving the best parts of it in the bed... ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008
I'll tell you, I just sit at the typewriter and curse a bit. ~P.G. Wodehouse, interview, Collier's, 1956 [his method for writing —tg]
Writing helps keep me sane — or at least a pen's length from insane. ~Terri Guillemets
I am tempted to call this section Economics, for it concerns the loss and gain (economically, psychically, physically) of living as a writer. Let's settle, however, for a term that may be closer to the everyday reality: Lit Biz. Spend your working life as a writer and depend on it—your income, your spirit, and your liver are all on close terms with Lit Biz. ~Norman Mailer, "Lit Biz," The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing, 2003
The best writers always make poetry, whether it comes out prose or verse. ~Terri Guillemets
My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I'd never have written a line. ~Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894–1961), Death on the Installment Plan, 1936, translated from French by Ralph Manheim, 1966 [This title — Mort à crédit — has also been published in English as "Death on Credit." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies. ~Terri Guillemets
And I dream of the days when work was scrappy,
And rare in our pockets the mark of the mint,
When we were angry and poor and happy,
And proud of seeing our names in print...
~Gilbert K. Chesterton, "A Song of Defeat," Poems, 1915
And when you get an eminent journal like Time magazine complaining, as it often has, that to the young writers of today life seems short on rewards and that what they write is a product of their own neuroses, in its silly way the magazine is merely stating the status quo and obvious truth. The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads. ~William Styron, interview with Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton, in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, edited by Malcolm Cowley, 1958
My pen has multiple personalities. ~Terri Guillemets, "Named & maimed," 2000
I write with great difficulty.... Don't like to write, but like having written. Hate the effort of driving pen from line to line, work only three hours a day, but work every day. ~Frank Norris (quoteinvestigator.com)
He transforms every bottle of ink into a scrolling trail of metaphors. ~Terri Guillemets
But he, sad-eyed and ashy-cheeked,
When slips the pen from grasping,
Sees, as he struggles, gasping,
With fame the far horizon streaked
Behind Death's raven gory-beaked.
~J.J. Britton, "A Bookworm"
The universe will do the writing for you, if you just listen closely enough. ~Terri Guillemets
For, to speak my private Opinion, I am for every Man's working upon his own Materials, and producing only what he can find within himself, which is commonly a better Stock than the Owner knows it to be. I think Flowers of Wit ought to spring, as those in a Garden do, from their own Root and Stem, without Foreign Assistance. I would have a Man's Wit rather like a Fountain, that feeds it self invisibly, than a River, that is supply'd by several Streams from abroad.
Or if it be necessary, as the Case is with some barren Wits, to take in the Thoughts of others, in order to draw forth their own, as dry Pumps will not play till Water is thrown into them; in that Necessity, I would recommend some of the approv'd Standard-Authors of Antiquity for your Perusal, as a Poet and a Wit; because Maggots being what you look for, as Monkeys do for Vermin in their Keepers Heads, you will find they abound in good old Authors, as in rich old Cheese, not in the new; and for that Reason you must have the Classicks, especially the most Worm-eaten of them, often in your Hands.
But with this Caution, that you are not to use those Ancients as unlucky Lads do their old Fathers, and make no Conscience of picking their Pockets and pillaging them. Your Business is not to steal from them, but to improve upon them, and make their Sentiments your own; which is an Effect of the great Judgment; and tho difficult, yet very possible, without the scurvy Imputation of Filching: For I humbly conceive, tho' I light my Candle at my Neighbour's Fire, that does not alter the Property, or make the Wyck, the Wax, or the Flame, or the whole Candle, less my own.
Possibly you may think it a very severe Task, to arrive at a competent Knowledge of so many of the Ancients, as excel in their Way; and indeed it would be really so, but for the short and easie Method lately found out of Abstracts, Abridgments, Summaries, &c. which are admirable Expedients for being very learned with little or no Reading; and have the same Use with Burning-Glasses, to collect the diffus'd Rays of Wit and Learning in Authors, and make them point with Warmth and Quickness upon the Reader's Imagination. And to this is nearly related that other modern Device of consulting Indexes, which is to read Books Hebraically, and begin where others usually end; and this is a compendious Way of coming to an Acquaintance with Authors: For Authors are to be used like Lobsters, you must look for the best Meat in the Tails, and lay the Bodies back again in the Dish....
~Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet: Together With a Proposal for the Encouragement of Poetry in this Kingdom," 1721
Love letters and poems aren't the least bit difficult to write, if you write directly from your heart into the ink and don't channel through your brain first. ~Terri Guillemets
Though Pens have other Views, the Blotters think
That Ink was made for Blotter Pads to drink.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Boasters," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924
Generally speaking, modern writers have lost the conception of drama. Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man's life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that, when it is untied, the whole man is visible. ~Leo Tolstoy, quoted in A. B. Goldenveizer, Talks with Tolstoi, translated by S. S. Koteliansky and Virginia Woolf, 1923
a race to the typewriter keys
before that brilliant idea flees
Whenever the extracts from a living writer begin to multiply fast in the papers, without obvious reason, there is a new book or a new edition coming. The extracts are ground-bait. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
The majority of writers ought to translate themselves; there are but few thoughts that are born translated, that is, clothed with the power best fitted alike to express and transmit them. What we have in the first instance written for ourselves, should be written a second time for others. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847), Literature. First Section: Literature in General. Chapter III.—Literary Precepts. II. Literary Precepts— 3. Literary Precepts and Miscellaneous Observations—Rage for Reading, Outlines of Philosophy and Literature, edited by Jean Frédéric Astié, 1865
The truth is that if we are to have translation at all we must have periodical retranslation. There is no such thing as translating a book into another language once and for all, for a language is a changing thing. If your son is to have clothes it is no good buying him a suit once and for all: he will grow out of it and have to be reclothed. ~C. S. Lewis
I must confess I did not always relish his misquotations, which sometimes made absolute nonsense of the passages; but what author stands upon trifles when he is praised? ~Washington Irving
The hallway was deserted,
There was terror in the air;
I stood alone and trembled
On the seven-hundredth stair;
My throat was parched and breathless,
And the speech I'd learned had fled;
I knew my quest was hopeless
In this "Temple of the Dead."
'Twas but an office building,
Where a grim man sat in state,
With shears and active pencil
To decide his callers' fate.
The dead were budding poets,—
And they all took silent journeys
In the literary hearse.
~W. Dayton Wegefarth (1885–1973), "The Literary Hearse," Smiles and Sighs, 1910
Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains — God composes, why shouldn't we? ~Terri Guillemets
A catless writer is almost inconceivable; even Ernest Hemingway, manly follower of the hunting trophy and the bullfight, lived waist-deep in cats. 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), The Name of the Cat, 1988
EDITOR... a bit of sandpaper applied to all forms of originality by the publisher-proprietor... ~Elbert Hubbard, 1914
Ink surrounds me all the time
On my bed sheets, recorded in rhyme
Quills 'ever scribbling in my head
Sometimes damnit I forget what they said.
Ink has settled into my fingerprints
But to keep the words I fear to rinse...
~Terri Guillemets, "Ink well," 2010
Manuscripts either moulder in your drawer, or mature there. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882
If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand, don't remove it — I may be writing in my dreams. ~Terri Guillemets
The book's idea or theme or meaning has been stirring about in your consciousness for months and probably years. When the idea first hits you you feel enormously stimulated and heightened. Then you wish you could get away from it, but now nothing but death can separate you from it. It's no use.... Now everything else in your life takes second place or fades out of your consciousness altogether. Clothes are unimportant, letters go unanswered for days or even weeks, parties you regard with a lackluster eye, travel is a lure to be avoided like death, for it is ruin to the sustained rhythm of your work day. Teeth go unfilled, bodily ills run unchecked, your idea of bliss is to wake up on Monday morning knowing that you haven't a single engagement for the entire week. You are cradled in a white paper cocoon tied up with typewriter ribbon. Awake and asleep the novel is with you, haunting you, dogging your footsteps. Strange formless bits of material float out from the ether about you and attach themselves to the main body of your story as though they had hung suspended in air for years, waiting. ~Edna Ferber (1885–1968), A Peculiar Treasure, 1939
There are living days and there are writing days. But you can never have the writing without the living. And if you've got writer's block you'd better go have yourself a day of living to fix it, rather than beating on an idling brain. ~Terri Guillemets
Blood & Ink, Sweat & Tears
Writing can wreck your body. You sit there on the chair hour after hour and sweat your guts out to get a few words. ~Norman Mailer (1923–2007)
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader; no grief without grievance. ~Robert Frost (1874–1963) [Mash‑up of a 1949 quotation and one from 1960. And a smidge altered. –tg]
Writing... is easy. You just sit at your typewriter until little drops of blood appear on your forehead. ~Red Smith (1905–1982) [quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/14/writing-bleed]
If the writer doesn't sweat, the reader will. ~Carl Becker (1873–1945), unverified
Of all that is written I love only that which the writer wrote with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt learn that blood is spirit. It is not easily possible to understand other people's blood... He who writeth in blood and apophthegms seeketh not to be read, but to be learnt by heart. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, "Of Reading and Writing," Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1883, translated by Alexander Tille, 1896
Our live experiences fixed in aphorisms stiffen into cold epigram. Our heart's blood, as we write with it, darkens into ink. ~F. H. Bradley (1846–1924)
It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don't feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you're wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories. ~Paul Gallico, "Confessions of a Story Writer," 1946
For with me writing is not a means of livelihood, not an occupation or trade, but a disease. I was born not with blood, but with printer's ink in my veins. To me, to write is an imperative necessity which may not be denied. ~Time and Tide, 1955 March 12th
You're not going into the I'm-a-born-newspaperman-with-ink-in-my-veins-instead-of-blood speech, are you? ~Whit Masterson, The Death of Me Yet, 1970
This work shop had a grim look, as if the laborer within it would sacrifice everything to the demands of his toil; changing his life blood into ink if necessary; and his soul into a pen. ~Anna McClure Sholl, "His Heartache," 1904
When she could no longer have Maurice within the bound of vibrating speech, she would gladly have converted her life-blood into ink, that she might send to him the whole course of her life as it flowed. ~Kate Vannah, "Eugénie de Guérin," in The Catholic World, August 1886
One ought to write only when one leaves a piece of one's flesh in the inkpot each time one dips one's pen. ~Leo Tolstoy
When I don't make any progress, it is because I have bumped into the wall of language. Then I draw back with a bloody head. And would like to go on. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn
If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. ~Henry Rollins, Do I Come Here Often?, 1996
It has been said, time and time repeated, that once you get ink in your blood, running strong in your veins, you can never get it out... You never grow too old to write when the ink is in your blood. Your fingers still itch to record the ideas you have. Your eye is still proud to read a bit of work that you have created. Your mind is still capable of being astonished at the power it holds. No, you are never too old to see a new adventure and get it down, quick. Men have left writing for other positions and they have always been restless until they are back at the desk, with their pens, their typewriters, and their inky hands. Their desire for creation and their pride in their product can find no outlet, and you know what happens to things that are bottled up too long. They can't be satisfied until they can hear that scratch or that tap, and feel that they are once again in the inner circle of those with ink in their blood. ~Elizabeth R. Hartman, "Ink in the Blood," 1936
A harsh critique is a pen stab through the heart — and the resultant inkbleed. ~Terri Guillemets
The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies, to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it. He persuades women that they may do this for their own purpose whilst he really means them to do it for his. He steals the mother's milk and blackens it to make printer's ink to scoff at her and glorify ideal women with... Since marriage began, the great artist has been known as a bad husband. ~Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy, 1903 [Tanner —tg]
Shaw is unquestionably an artist, and I think that the foregoing is an accurate description of the artistic instinct... He has sacrificed everything for his plays. Shaw gives the impression of a man who long since parted with every temptation, except that of turning his blood into ink, in order to reveal his soul. ~Robert Loraine, "Where Does Shaw Leave You?," 1906
They'll find ink in my veins and blood on my typewriter keys. ~Terri Guillemets
published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2016 Apr 25
last saved 2022 Jun 9