Best 190 of On writing quotes - MyQuotes
Never pump the well dry; always leave a bucket there.
- I don't want to be a writer so I can write about my life. I want to be a writer to escape from it. + Then you shouldn't be a writer.
Don’t beat yourself up, son. I’m sure there is a culture on this spinning ball of dirt where you can be pretty. If not, do rock ‘n roll, or practice words. That shit’s pretty as well.
P. D. James
Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious." [Ten rules for writing fiction, The Guardian, 20 February 2010 (with Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, and AL Kennedy)]
In my long career in this historical fiction business, though, I've found that the most effective storytelling concept is this: Once upon a time it was now. That has become my credo and my method as a longtime historical novelist. It's quite simple, if you see as Janus sees: Today is now. Yesterday was now. Tomorrow will be now. Three hundred years ago, the eighteenth century was now. You, as a historical novelist, can make any time now by taking your reader into that time. Once you grasp that, the rest is just hard work. Stay with me, and you'll see how such work is done.
The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings - words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.
Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite—getting something down.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.
As you become a better writer, the writing becomes more difficult. You toil harder to tell a story in a smaller number of words.
R. M. Engelhardt
Pay attention, and use your imagination.
A novel rough draft is like bread dough; you need to beat the crap out of it for it to rise.
The free-lance writer is one who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.
And you have to realize that you cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing. You cannot deceive yourself by hoping for caresses and lullabies from your vocation. In my life there have been interminable, desolate empty Sundays in which I desperately wanted to write something that would console me for my loneliness and boredom, so that I could be calmed and soothed by phrases and words. But I could not write a single line. My vocation has always rejected me, it does not want to know about me. Because this vocation is never a consolation or a way of passing the time. It is not a companion. This vocation is a master who is able to beat us till the blood flows, a master who reviles and condemns us. We must swallow our saliva and our tears and grit our teeth and dry the blood from our wounds and serve him. Serve him when he asks. Then he will help us up on to our feet, fix our feet firmly on the ground; he will help us overcome madness and delirium, fever and despair. But he has to be the one who gives the orders and he always refuses to pay attention to us when we need him.
Most of us have a soundtrack running in the background of our lives. I access that soundtrack when I write.
A book is not completed till it's read.
Helvy Tiana Rosa
Sejak kecil dekat dengan Allah, saat dewasa jangan pernah sedetik pun kita bergantung pada selain Allah! Ketika menulis, pena dan jemari kita gerakkan karena Allah, untuk Allah. Maka tulisan kita tak hanya jadi manfaat dan rahmat di bumi, tapi insya Allah menjelma cahaya akhirat kita.
There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.
The enemy is noise. By noise I mean not simply the noise of technology, the noise of money or advertising and promotion, the noise of the media, the noise of miseducation, but the terrible excitement and distraction generated by the crises of modern life. Mind, I don't say that philistinism is gone. It is not. It has found many disguises, some highly artistic and peculiarly insidious. But the noise of life is the great threat. Contributing to it are real and unreal issues, ideologies, rationalizations, errors, delusions, nonsituations that look real, nonquestions demanding consideration, opinions, analyses in the press, on the air, expertise, inside dope, factional disagreement, official rhetoric, information—in short, the sounds of the public sphere, the din of politics, the turbulence and agitation that set in about 1914 and have now reached an intolerable volume.
If you don't know what those old occupations were, how they were done, and how they interacted with the passersby, you're not prepared to write a historical novel. A historical figure doesn't pass through a blank countryside. That means you, the novelist, must learn by research what the whole place was like in those times. As much as you can, you must be like someone who has lived there, because you're going to be not just the storyteller but also the tour guide taking your readers through the past.
I had come to the conclusion - based on experience - that the only real way of learning to write a novel was probably to write a novel.
Write to your fear.
The most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn't very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don't get carried away with the rest. Life stories are best received in bars, and only then an hour or so before closing time, and if you are buying.
One of the few things I know about writing is this:spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is a signal to spend it now. Something more will arise later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.
I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea, as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked. There were more doors than one person could ever open in a lifetime, I thought (and still think).
Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she walked away from thinking, "I can do better that this. Hell, I am doing better than this!" What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize that his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff? Good writing on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling. A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy--"I'll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand"--but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher. Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing--of being flattened, in fact--is part of every writer's necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience different styles.
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
Writing on dark themes is not as easy as one might think; you have to live the worst and the most terrifying nightmares, again and again, till they consume you entirely and become an inseparable part of you that you start dreading.
It’s like adoring the open sea, the clash of elemental forces, the overpowering scale of water and sky, the sleek majesty of sloops, the billow of sail and pull of line—and wanting to study and pay homage to it all by building a model of a favorite boat—and then deciding to do it inside a bottle.
We need good titles.
There may be a Nurse Ratched-like listing of things that must be done right this moment: foods that must come out of the freezer, appointments that must be canceled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. But you hold an imaginary gun to your head and make yourself stay at the desk.
Ideas either age like fine wine or rot like potatoes over time.
The final advantage is the same that applies in every other competitive venture. If you would like to write better than everyone else, you have to want to write better than everyone else. You must take an obsessive pride in the smallest details of your craft. And you must be willing to defend what you've written against the various middlemen--editors, agents, and publishers--whose sights may be different from yours, whose standards are not as high. Too many writers are browbeaten into settling for less than their best.
I don’t know why the publishers in New York don’t take a tip from Hollywood and just publish the outlines of novels rather than the completed books. Let the audience use their imaginations, as my Maw always says about radio. I would much prefer to read an outline of War and Peace than slog through eight hundred thousand words. Why do I need Tolstoy to describe snow? I can imagine snow, whether Russian snow or just regular snow. But book publishers seem to think that the authors should do all the work, and the readers should be waited on hand-and-foot like a buncha goddamn prima donnas.
To write a book is to suspend the present and create a new reality.
A writer gets to live yet another life every time he or she creates a new story.
Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess.
Zora Neale Hurston
While I was in the research field in 1929, the idea of Jonah's Gourd Vine came to me. I had written a few short stories, but the idea of attempting a book seemed so big that I gazed at it in the quiet of the night, but hid it away from even myself in daylight.
The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.
There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.
Your passion as an artist is a magnet that draws you at all times, but if you don’t follow, it will suffocate your heart.
The first draft of your book is not something you are going to want to show anyone. Sorry! As much as you have sweated and toiled over it… it is most likely a crude assembly of scenes with a bit of a mishmash plot at best.
David Foster Wallace
It's not what you lift, it's where you carry it.
I don't sit here and make these stories up. They are delivered to me, over time, by some relentless and shadowy demand. Trust me, if I wasn't compelled to write then I wouldn't; it doesn't generally make me happy, it certainly doesn't bring any fame or fortune, and the more I think about it the more I struggle to find the positives in it. And yet I cannot help but continually do it. It is like a whisper on a warm breeze from the heart of a portentous sunset: It promises so much, but, ultimately just draws you into the stormy waters.
Writing is a prayer.
I have found that a writer is formed not so much by their experiences but by the way in which they view and capture those experiences.
Art is supposed to reflect your journey through real life.
Don’t interrupt when your characters take a flight of their own.
The pain in my hip was just short of apocalyptic. And the first five hundred words were uniquely terrifying—it was as if I’d never written anything before them in my life. All my old tricks seemed to have deserted me. I stepped from one word to the next like a very old man finding his way across a stream on a zigzag line of wet stones. There was no inspiration that first afternoon, only a kind of stubborn determination and the hope that things would get better if I kept at it.
My reason for being an author? Because I love to write - it fulfills me. But the fact that I entertain others by doing it is a lovely bonus.
Getting an idea is not enough. But when you get two ideas, and they collide and have a bastard love child, that's when true stories are born.