Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Quotes - updated 7/15/2012

A list of my favorites: 

"We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand."  (Cecil Day-Lewis; quoted in Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick)

"I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart." (Anne Frank; quoted in Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick)

"Writers do not live one life, they live two.  There is the living and then there is the writing.  There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction."  (Diary of Anais Nin Vol I)

"It is what I do with the journal, carrying it everywhere, writing on cafe tables, while waiting for a friend, on the train, on the bus, in waiting rooms at the station, while my hair is washed, at the Sorbonne when the lectures get tedious, on journeys, trips, almost while people are talking."  (Diary of Anais Nin Vol I)

"I've always said that I write for the reader, but the fact that I continue writing today, when readers (whole-hearted, full-bloodied readers) have vanished, proves irrefutably that I write simply for myself."  (Bioy Casares; quoted by Alberto Manguel in A Reading Diary)

"My task, is to chronicle those little daily lacerations upon the spirit."  (Anthony Trollope)

"The act of writing always made me feel centered and whole.  It is my meditation, my medicine, my prayer, my solace.  If you are relentlessly honest about what you feel and fear, you can become a mouthpiece for something more than your own feelings."  (Erica Jong)

"I find it curious that sometimes the words fall precisely into place as I follow a thought in my writing, as if, in the unraveling of that thought, shapes and sounds returned to a pre-established order that seems exactly right.  It is as if the words were clustered from the very beginning into a shape that, from a distance, I can only vaguely make out, and which, as I approach it, reveals itself fully formed, distinct and apprehensible.  On such occasion, it is as if writing consisted in seeing clearly something that was there from the start." (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"There are only two ways, really, to become a writer: One is to write.  The other is to read." (Anna Quindlen: How Reading Changed My Life)

"Writing is a negative game.  Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the second or third time.  Even the best writers are initially .300 hitters, struggling against heavy odds to say what they want to say."  (William Zinsser: Writing About Your Life)

"Clarity is the responsibility of the writer.  Not the reader." (Laura Kalpakian: The Memoir Club)

"Good writing is the hardest form of thinking.  It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear.  If the writing is good, then the result seems effortless and inevitable.  But when you want to say something life-changing or ineffable in a single sentence, you face both the limitations of the sentence itself and the extent of your own talent.  When you come close to succeeding, when the words pour out of you just right, you understand that these sentences are all part of a river flowing out of your own distant, hidden ranges...."  (Pat Conroy's essay Stories in Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction)

"Writing is helping me mature.  As long as I'm not bullshitting myself, the act itself forces me to face and understand my flaws and weaknesses and strengths, and if I'm honest - really f-ing honest - then writing is like a wake-up call.  I become my own therapist.  Because nobody knows me better than me..."  (Terry McMillan's essay Easing my Heart Inside in Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction)

"I write.  The longer I live, the more convinced I become that I cultivate my truest self in this one way.  I pay more attention when I'm writing, and I hear myself most clearly when I'm writing."  (Tom Chiarella's essay Collecting Myself in Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction)

"A writer studies literature...He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write.  He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know." (Annie Dillard in The Writing Life)

"Only after the writer lets literature shape her, can she perhaps shape literature." (Annie Dillard in The Writing Life)

In answer to a question, could I be a writer?  "I don't know. Do you like sentences?" (Annie Dillard in The Writing Life)

"What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon?  What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?" (Annie Dillard in The Writing Life)

"A writer only becomes a true writer by practicing his craft, by experimenting constantly with language, as a great artist may experience with clay or oils until the medium becomes second nature, to be moulded however the artist may desire."  (Christabel LaMotte to Sabine De Kercoz in Possession by A.S. Byatt)

"Truth is what literature is about: the conviction that through words, not just any words but the right words, and whatever else accompanies them, I might reach the essence of things" (Ilan Stavans' essay, "Using My Notebook" in Writers and Their Notebooks)

"My journal became a safe place where my voice and my feelings could finally be heard, and my perceptions transforms into a combination of trusted friend, therapist, and spiritual journal becomes a form of written meditation - where I let go of all inhibition until what's important is sifted from what is not.  In essence, I purge some of the emotional clutter piling up inside of me until I finally clear the decks enough to illuminate my soul."  (Kathleen Gerard's essay "Clearing the Decks" in Writers and Their Notebooks)

"The writer, at his desk alone, must create his own momentum, draw enthusiasm up out of his own substance, not just once, when he may feel inspired, but day after day when he does not" (May Sarton in The Hidden Writer).

I would say that a deep, early love of poetry should be mandatory for all writers.  A close examination of language did me nothing but good. (Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car)

Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft.  If you want to write, practice writing. (Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car)

Over the years I've come to realize that I write the book I want to read, the one I can't find anywhere. (Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car)

What I like about the job of being a novelist, and at the same time what I find so exhausting about it, is that it's the closest thing to begin God that you're ever going to get.  All the decisions are yours.  You decide when the sun comes up.  You decide who gets to fall in love and who gets hit by a car.  You have to make all the leaves and all the trees and then sew the leaves onto the trees.  You make the entire world. (Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car)

All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence you know.  (Ernest Hemingway in A Movable Feast)

Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about.  I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.  (Ernest Hemingway in A Movable Feast)

He learned "never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it." (Ernest Hemingway in A Movable Feast)

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