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Marta Randall
Quotations about Writing
and life
and etc.
 
A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all. Rita Mae Brown 
A fluent writer always seems more talented than he is. To write well, one needs a natural felicity and an acquired difficulty. Joseph Joubert 
Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease. Abelard
A great novelist excels on the small scale and the large, the individual leaf and root as well as the forest; good fiction convinces us that the imaginary is real by selecting exactly the right detail and rendering it perfectly.  Laura Miller, Salon.com
All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that it all happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so you can give that to people, then you are a writer. Ernest Hemingway
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) 
A good science fiction story is a story with a human problem, and a human solution, that would not have happened without its science content. Theodore Sturgeon
A good title is the title of a successful book. Raymond Chandler
All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value. Carl Sagan 
A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it. Samuel Johnson 
An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children. Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) 
An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture. Jean Cocteau
...and before I knew what I was doing, I had kicked the typewriter and threw it around the room and made it beg for mercy. At this point the typewriter pleaded for me to dress him in feminine attire but instead I pressed his margin release over and over again until the typewriter lost consciousness. Presently, I regained consciousness and realized with shame what I had done. My shame is gone and now I am looking for a submissive typewriter, any color, or model. No electric typewriters please! Rick Kleiner 
A novelist must preserve a childlike belief in the importance of things which common sense considers of no great consequence. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) 
Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.  Kurt Vonnegut 
Anyone who has got a book collection/library and a garden wants for nothing. Cicero
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Virginia Woolf
A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer. Karl Kraus 
Any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic. Arthur C. Clarke
A writer is one for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Thomas Mann 
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Mark Twain (1835-1910) 
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Cyril Connolly (1903-74) 
Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned. Oscar Wilde
But who am I to give lessons? There are no real messages in my fiction. The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone. Donna Tartt
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov
Easy reading is damned hard writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne
E. L. Doctorow once said that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way."  Anne Lamott
Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by  which he is to be relished. William Wordsworth 
Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast. Logan Pearsall Smith 
Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.  Russel Lynes 
Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads. Erica Jong 
Everything has been said, but not everything has been said superbly, and even if it had been, everything must be said freshly over and over again. Paul Horgan
Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again. Goethe
Everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless. Blaise Pascal (1623-62) 
Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle  enough of them. Flannery O'Connor 
Forget the room of one's own -- write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping or waking. While you wash the floor or clothes listen to the words chanting in your body. Gloria Anzaldua
From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it. Groucho Marx 1890-1977 
Genre is a useful concept only when used not evaluatively but descriptively. Ursula LeGuin
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good. William Faulkner
Get black on white. Guy deMaupaussant
Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings. W.H. Auden.
He swears to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance or effect or originality to hang in the way between me and the rest like curtains.... What I tell I tell for precisely what it is.... What I experience or portray shall go from my composition without a shred of my composition. You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with me.  Walt Whitman
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. Winston Churchill (1874-1965) 
How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter? Woody Allen
How do I know what I think until I see what I say? Graham Wallas
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. Henry David Thoreau 
Human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from stars. Gustave Flaubert
I am always reading immoral books on the sly, and then selfishly trying to prevent other people from having the same wicked good time. Mark Twain, Letter to the Denver Post
I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. Groucho Marx  1890-1977 
I picked up a pencil and held it over a sheet of white paper, but my feelings stood in the way of my words. Well, I would wait, day and night, until I knew what to say. Humbly now, with no vaulting dream of achieving a vast unity, I wanted to try to build a bridge of words between me and that world outside, that world which was so distant and elusive that it seemed unreal. Richard Wright
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human. Richard Wright
I felt like poisoning a monk. Umberto Eco on why he wrote the novel "The Name of the Rose." 
I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead. Mark Twain (1835-1910) 
I must say, though, that anyone who wants to avoid reading his [Richard Wagner's] prose has my sympathy. He writes like an autodidact, with flowery expressions, a vocabulary intended to impress, unnecessary abstractions and elaborate sentence structures....One forms the conviction that the prose was improvised, poured out without forethought or discipline--that when Wagner embarked on each individual sentence he had no idea how it was going to end. Many passages are intolerably boring. Some do not mean anything at all. It always calls for sustained effort from the reader to pick out meaning in the cloud of words. Often one has to go on reading for several pages before beginning to descry, like solid figures in a mist, what it is he is saying. Bryan Magee, Aspects of Wagner 
I read the book of Job last night - I don't think God comes out well in it. Virginia Woolf 
I don't think anyone should write their autobiography until after they're dead.  Samuel Goldwyn 
I take the view, and always have, that if you cannot say what you are going to say in twenty minutes you ought to go away and write a book about it. Lord Brabazon 
I always like it at a war. There is always the chance that you will get up the next morning and be killed and not have to write. Ernest Hemingway
I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters. Solomon Short 
If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so. Andre Gide 
I write. I write that I am writing. Mentally I see myself writing that I am writing and I can also see myself seeing that I am writing. I remember writing and also seeing myself writing. And I see myself remembering that I see myself writing and I remember seeing myself remembering that I was writing and I write seeing myself write that I remember having seen myself write that I saw myself writing that I was writing and that I was writing that I was writing that I was writing. I can also imagine myself writing that I had already written that I would imagine myself writing that I had written that I was imagining myself writing that I see myself writing that I am writing. Salvador Elizondo - The Graphographer
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
If one waits for the right time to come before writing, the right time never comes. James Russell Lowell 
If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing. Kingsley Amis
If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers. Irvin S. Cobb 
"If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers... Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind."  Clarence Darrow, at the Scopes Monkey Trial.
The net effect of Clarence Darrow's great speech yesterday seemed to be precisely the same as if he had bawled it up a rainspout in the interior of Afghanistan. H. L. Mencken 
If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster. Isaac Asimov (1920-92) 
It always comes back to the same necessity: go deep enough and there is a bedrock of truth, however hard. May Sarton
It has come to be practically a short rule in literature that a man, having once shown himself capable of original writing, is entitled thenceforth to steal from the writings of others at discretion. Ralph Waldo Emerson 
It's a nervous work. The state that you need to be in to write is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of. Shirley Hazzard
It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead. Dame Rose Macaulay 
It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to fifty words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to havvvvveee learned dolphinese. Carl Sagan 
It is the writer's business not to accuse and not to prosecute, but to champion the guilty, once they are  condemned and suffer punishment. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) 
[John Kenneth Galbraith] continued to rise early and, despite the seeming effortlessness of his prose, revised each day's work at least five times. "It was usually on about the fourth day that I put in that note of spontaneity for which I am known," he said.  from the NY Times obit, 4/29/06
Just get it down on paper, then we'll see what to do with it. Maxwell Perkins
Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it. Mark Twain (1835-1910) 
Language is a form of human reason and has its reasons which are unknown to man. Claude Levi-Strauss
Leave the dishes unwashed and the demands on your time unanswered. Be ruthless and refuse to do what people ask of you. Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.  Nadia Boulanger
Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) 
Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all. Katherine Mansfield
Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up on rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. Meg Chittenden
No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft. H.G. Wells
Nothing, not love, not greed, not passion or hatred, is stronger than a writer's need to change another writer's copy. Arthur Evan

No woman was ever ruined by a book. Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York City.

Of our conflicts with others we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves we make poetry. William Butler Yeats
Of course truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction, after all, has to make sense. Mark Twain
One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny. Bertrand Russell
Originality is the art of concealing your source. Franklin Jones 
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx 1890-1977 
Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic. Jean Sibelius 
People do not deserve to have good writing; they are so pleased with bad. Ralph Waldo Emerson
People think I can teach them style! What stuff it is. Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. Matthew Arnold (1822-88) 
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. Abraham Lincoln, in a book review 
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. Audre Lorde
Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book. Ronald Reagan 
The puritanism of Christianity has played havoc with the moderation that an enlightened and tolerant critical spirit would have produced. I've noticed that in whatever country, county, town, or other region there is a regulation enjoining temperance, the population seems to be entirely composed of teetotallers and drunkards. There's a Bible on that shelf there. But I keep it next to Voltaire - poison and antidote. Bertrand Russell, from an interview with Kenneth Harris
Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. Samuel Johnson 
Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read. Frank Zappa 
Somebody said to me, `But the Beatles were antimaterialistic.' That's a huge myth. John and I literally used to sit down and say `Now, let's write a swimming pool'. Paul McCartney 
Sometimes stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up.  Stephen King
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very";  your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. Mark Twain 
Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book. Ralph Waldo Emerson 
Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it. Moses Hadas (1900-1966) in a book review 
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. Mark Twain
The business of the novelist is not to chronicle great events, but to make small ones interesting. Arthur Schopenhauer
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector. Ernest Hemingway
The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life or better to endure it. Samuel Johnson 
The way to write well is to live intensely. Virginia Woolf
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.  Thomas Jefferson 
The fight against bad English is not frivolous. George Orwell 
The (publishing) business is a cruel and shallow money trench. A long plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side. Hunter S Thompson
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. James D. Nicoll
The only reason people write is because they are not wonderful men. Anthony Carson
The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. Ray Bradbury
The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything. Walter Bagehot (1826-77)
The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. Mark Twain (1835-1910) 
The English language is an arsenal of weapons. If you are going to brandish them without checking to see whether or not they are loaded, you must expect to have them explode in your face from time to time. Donald Trefusis, in Stephen Fry's The Liar 
The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business. John Steinbeck
The writer has a grudge against society, which he documents with accounts of unsatisfying sex, unrealized ambition, unmitigated loneliness, and a sense of distress. Renata Adler
There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher's daughter. George Orwell (1903-1950) 
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. Oscar Wilde 
There is no need for the writer to eat a whole sheep to be able to tell you what mutton tastes like. It is enough if he eats a cutlet. But he should do that. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) 
There are two kinds of writers, those who are and those who aren't. With the first, content and form belong together like soul and body; with the second, they match each other like body and clothes. Karl Kraus 
There are only three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) 

There has been much posted here of late, and a good measure of heated debate, between the  Enlightened and the Ignorant. The Ignorant insist that their inability and sloth should be forgiven as simple  human failures, and that the Enlightened's insistance on correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling is  somehow a blight on the character of the remaining few who have the courage and skill to hold the flag  high though the cause be sinking in a swamp of mediocrity and effluvium. 

I find the stance of the Ignorant to be repugnant, not only intellectually, but morally. 

I despise the attitude that I must forgive the failings of those who are so lazy that they can not learn the  basic spelling and use of their native language. It is disgusting that anyone has ever defended the crass  flatulus of these people as legitimate expression. To write decently is not a task of insurpassable  difficulty, it requires only that most human of all traits -- desire. If you desire to be understood, you must  communicate. If you desire to convince, you must communicate expressively, eloquently, and with full  command of the English language. Even in these days of television (and other stupidities), to  communicate with people in positions of power and responsibility you must write and speak well. Here  on the 'net, you are ONLY what you write. Scott M. Hampton 


There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. Willa Cather
This book fills a much-needed gap. Moses Hadas (1900-1966) in a book review 
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. Dorothy Parker 
Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators. Albert Camus (1913-60)
Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) 
Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. Cicero
Tis very difficult to write like a madman, but 'tis a very easie matter to write like a fool. Nathaniel Lee
Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible. Anthony Hope Hawkins
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible. Jonathan Swift
We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates. Ralph Waldo Emerson 
What I have in mind when I start to write could fit inside an acorn--an acorn, moreover, that rarely if ever grows into an oak. Write fiction and you relinquish reason. You start with an acorn and you end up with a mackerel....Philip Roth
What is written without effort is read without pleasure. Samuel Johnson
What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books. Sigmund Freud
When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence. Samuel Butler (1835-1902) 
When you write in prose you say what you mean. When you write in rhyme you say what you must. Oliver Wendell Holmes 
When you write, don't say, "I'm going to write a poem." That attitude will freeze you right away. Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, "I am free to write the worst junk in the world." Natalie Goldberg
When I sit down to write a novel I do not at all know, and I do not very much care, how it is to end. Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
When I want to read a novel, I write one. Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) 
When a thing has been said and well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it. Anatole France

When one tugs at a single string in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. John Muir

With each book you write you should lose the admirers you gained with the previous one. Andre Gide
Words are all we have. Samuel Beckett
Writer's block? Don't worry about it. Either it goes away or you die. Joe Haldeman
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. Flannery O'Connor
Writing a short story is a little like walking into a dark room, finding a light and turning it on. The light is the end of the story. Dan Chaon
Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders. Walter Bagehot (1826-77) 
Writing is more than anything a compulsion, like some people wash their hands thirty times a day for fear of awful consequences. Julie Burchill
Writing is not a profession, occupation or job; it is not a way of life: It is a comprehensive response to life. Gregory McDonald
Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in the mirror which waits always before or behind. Catherine Drinker Bowen
Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. Gene Fowler 
Writing is really horribly hard and I mistrust writers why say it's fun. Writing is a lot of fun -- after you've done it. Beginning it is ppaiinful and you always think you've forgotten how. Roger Angell
Writinig is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness. Georges Simenon
Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself - it is the occurring which is difficult. Stephen Leacock 
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Martin Mull
Writing, when properly managed (as you may be sure I think mine is), is but a different name for conversation. Laurence Sterne 
Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them.  Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. Truman Capote
Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living. Gustav Flaubert
Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money. Moliere
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. George Orwell (1903-1950)
You can't want to be a writer, you have to be one. Paul Theroux
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Ray Bradbury 

You write from what you know, but you write in what you don't know. Grace Paley

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by. Mark Twain, Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878