Over-certified adjectives are the mark of most best-seller writing
Norman Mailer (1923-2007) - The Naked and the Dead, 50th An. Ed. Introduction, Owl Books, 1998.

Amateurs... venture into scenes that a writer with more experience (and more professional concern) would bypass or eschew altogether.
Norman Mailer (1923-2007) - The Naked and the Dead, 50th An. Ed. Introduction, Owl Books, 1998.

I write at eighty-five for the same reasons that impelled me to write at forty-five; I was born with a passionate desire to communicate, to organize experience, to tell tales that dramatize the adventures which readers might have had. I have been that ancient man who sat by the campfire at night and regaled the hunters with imaginative recitations about their prowess. The job of an apple tree is to bear apples. The job of a storyteller is to tell stories, and I have concentrated on that obligation.
James Michner - The World is My Home

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.
probably first constructed by Ferenc Molnár around 1930 and reported by George Jean Nathan in 1932. See Quote Investigator article here

I had to learn, as I soon did, that one must give up everything and not do anything else but write, that one must writer and write and write, even if everybody in the world advises you against it, even if nobody believes in you.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) - Henry Miller on Writing, New Directions Publishing Co. NY, NY, 1964, p.19.

The truly great writer does not want to write: he wants the world to be a place in which he can live the life of the imagination. The first quivering word he puts to paper is the word of the wounded angel: pain.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) - Henry Miller on Writing, New Directions Publishing Co. NY, NY, 1964, p.22.

Words, sentences, ideas, no matter how subtle or ingenious, the maddest flights of poetry, the most profound dreams, the most hallucinating visions, are but crude hieroglyphs chiseled in pain and sorrow to commemorate an event which is untransmissible.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) - Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion I, Grove Press, NY, NY, 1962, p.20

Whatever i do is done out of sheer joy. I drop my fruits like a ripe tree. What the general reader or the critic makes of it is not my concern. I am not establishing values: I deficate and nourish. There is nothing more too it.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) - The Henry Miller Reader, New Direction Books, NY, NY, 1959, pp 244-245.

A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
John Milton (1608-1674) - Areopagitica: A speech of Mr John Milton for the liberty of unlicenced printing to the Parliament of England is a prose tract by John Milton, published 23 November 1644.

Dream dreams, then write them. Aye, but live them first.
Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976) -

Remember: Writing can get you fed to a lion whose teeth draw your whole face into its foul wet breath and cut your skull with knives. There's no soft way to put this. A black hole swallows you up. Willpower's no help. Getting in print is like beating cancer but losing a lung, staying in print is hopeless. Your best work goes begging.....Today's paragraph comes, a word from the heart of the universe, and shines in the darkness, unquenched. And you ask for power, wisdom, and love as you make the anvil sing.
Donald Newlove

The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)- The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5, Feb 1954

I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)- The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5, Feb 1954

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) - The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5, Feb 1954

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) - The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5, Feb 1954

The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer. The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) - as quoted in French Writers of the Past (2000) by Carol A. Dingle, p. 126

The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart.
Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) - House of Incest, (1936)

When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.
Flannery O'Connor - Letter to Eileen Hall, March 10, 1956, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

I know well enough that very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well. They are interested in publishing something, and if possible in making a "killing." They are interested in being a writer not in writing. . . If this is what you are interested in, I am not going to be much use to you.
Flannery O'Connor - Mystery and Manners, Occasional Prose, "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," 1957, p. 64.

Nothing is less real than realism.  It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meanings of things.
Georgia O'Keefe - "Art is not Photography, it is expression of inner life! Miss Georgia O'Keefe Subjective Aspect of Her Work," New York Sun, December 25, 1922

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
George Orwell - Why I Write, Essay, 1946.

I can't write five words but that I change seven.
Dorothy Parker - Interview with Marion Capron "Dorothy Parker, The Art of Fiction No. 13," The Paris Review, Summer 1956, No. 13.

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.
Blaise Pascal -Lettres Provinciales (1656-1657), no. 16.

When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man.
Blaise Pascal - Pensees

Take the whole range of imaginative literature, and we are all wholesale borrowers. In every matter that relates to invention, to use, or beauty or form, we are borrowers.
Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) - Lecture: The Lost Arts, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

When I say artist I don’t mean in the narrow sense of the word—but the man who is building things—creating molding the earth—whether it be the plains of the west—or the iron ore of Penn. It’s all a big game of construction—some with a brush—some with a shovel—some choose a pen.
Jackson Pollock -Letter written in 1932, referenced in Jackson Pollock

Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.
J.B. Priestly (1894-1984) International Herald Tribune January 3, 1978

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.
Anna Quindlen (1952 - ) - How Reading Changed My Life, Random House, 1998, p. 70.

Words are a lens to focus one's mind.
Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged, 1957

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 (1941 - ) - The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, Translation to English by Willa and Edwin Muir, Foreword by Anne Rice, 1995, Schocken Books, Foreword.

Recollection is the only paradise from which we cannot be turned out.
Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) - As quoted in The Cyclopaedia of Practical Quotations: English and Latin,1889

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten, the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.
Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) - Twelve Days, 1928, (Reprint London, Michael Haag, 1987)

Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.
Lillith St. Crow (1976 - ) lillithsaintcrow.com, Journal entry August 3, 2011, http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/journal/2011/08/valuable-skills-learned-by-telling-lies-for-a-living/

I have an object, a task, let me say the word, a passion. The profession of writing is a violent and almost indestructible one.
George Sand pseudonym for Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant (1804-1876) - Letter to Jules Boucoiran, (4 March 1831), published in Georges Lubin (ed.) Correspondance (Paris: Garnier Freres, 1964-95) vol. 1, pp. 817-18

Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.
George Sand pseudonym for Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant (1804-1876) - Metella, ch. 1 (1833); Robert J. Ackerman Perfect Daughters (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: HCI, 2002) p. 31

A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes.
William Sansom (1912-1976) - Blue skies, brown studies, "From a Writers Notebook," 1971, p 13

The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
William Saroyan (1908-1981) - After thirty years: the daring young man on the flying trapeze.

The purpose of writing is both to keep up with life and to run ahead of it. I am little comfort to myself,
although I am the only comfort I have, excepting perhaps streets, clouds, the sun,
the faces and voices of kids and the aged, and similar accidents of beauty, innocence, truth and loneliness.
William Saroyan (1908-1981) - My Heart's in the Highlands, 1939

My work is writing, but my real work is being.
William Saroyan (1908-1981) - Obituaries, 1979

When one’s not writing poems — and I’m not at the moment — you wonder how you ever did it. It’s like another country you can’t reach.
May Sarton

It hinders the creative work of the mind if the intellect examines too closely the ideas as they pour in.
Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)

An absolutely necessary part of a writer's equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts on himself.
Irwin Shaw

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos ; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded : it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself.
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) - Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818, Introduction

Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness.
Georges Simenon - Interview with Carvel Collins, "Georges Simenon, The Art of Fiction No. 9," The Paris Review, Summer 1955, No.9

What I like in a good author isn't what he says, but what he whispers.
Logan Pearsall Smith

Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
Attributed to Red Smith - but per the Quote Investigator, the credit goes to Paul Gallico in 1946 for the origin of the idea, Confessions of a Story Writer, Paul Gallico.

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.
Sydney Smith (1771-1845) - Lady Holland's Memoir

If you would be pungent, be brief, for it is with words as with sunbeams--the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
Robert Southey (1774-1843)

Look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.
Tom Stoppard (1937- ) - Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Grove Press, NY, 1967, p. 28.

Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
William Strunk, Jr. - Elements of Style, rule 17

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.
William Styron

If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) - A Week on the concord and Marrimack Rivers, 1849, Thursday.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) - Journals - August 19, 1851

I put a piece of paper and a pencil under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) - Essay: A Plea for Captain John Brown, October 30, 1859

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Mark Twain - October 15, 1988 letter to George Bainton

Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
Mark Twain in Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar (1897)

To hold a pen is to be at war.
Voltaire (1694-1778)- Letter to Jeanne-Grâce Bosc du Bouchet, comtesse d'Argental (October 4, 1748)

L'adjectif est l'ennemi du substantif.
The adjective is the enemy of the noun. Variant: The adjective is the enemy of the substantive.
Voltaire (1694-1778) - attributed in Arthur Schopenhauer (translated by Mrs Rudolf Dircks), Essays of Schopenhauer (2004), Kessinger Publishing, p. 31.

In a longish life as a professional writer, I have heard a thousand masterpieces talked out over bars, restaurant tables and love seats. I have never seen one of them in print. Books must be written, not talked.
Morris L. West

Books –lighthouses erected in the great sea of time –books, the precious depositories of the thoughts and creations of genius –books, by whose sorcery times past become time present, and the whole pageantry of the world’s history moves in solemn procession before our eyes, –these were to visit the firesides of the humble and lavish the treasures of the intellect upon the poor.
Edwin Percy Whipple (1819-1886) - From a lecture on "Authors in their Relations to Life," delivered before the Literary Societies of Brown University, September 1, 1846, reprinted in A manual of American Literature, ed Noble Kibby Royse, 1872, p356.

A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition.
Clare Whiting

My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life. I try to work every day because you have no refuge but writing. When you're going through a period of unhappiness, a broken love affair, the death of someone you love, or some other disorder in your life, then you have no refuge but writing.
Tennessee Williams

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) - A Room of One's Own (1929), p.58

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) - A Room of One's Own (1929), p.43

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) - Orlando: A Biography (1928), ch 4.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) - Letter to his Wife (April 29 1812).

All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) - Lyrical Ballads with a few other poems, 1778, 774

Good writers are visible just behind their words.
William Zinsser (1922 - ) On Writing Well (Fifth Edition, orig. pub. 1976), Chapter 4, Style, p. 23

Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do
William Zinsser (1922 - ) On Writing Well (Fifth Edition, orig. pub. 1976), Chapter 2, Simplicity, p. 12

Good writing is lean and confident.
William Zinsser (1922 - ) On Writing Well (Fifth Edition, orig. pub. 1976), Chapter 13, Bits & Pieces, p. 114


More Quotes - Writing - 1