Writing & Writers


Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
--W.H. Auden

I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.
--Jorge Luis Borges

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
--Mark Twain

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader--not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
--E.L. Doctorow

I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.
--Isaac Asimov

Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
--E.L. Doctorow

"Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull."
--Rod Serling (Great quote, but wholly false in my opinion)

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
--G.K. Chesterton

I can't believe it! Reading and writing actually paid off!
--Matt Groening, creator of
The Simpsons

If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so.
--Andre Gide

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.
--Kurt Vonnegut

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

--W. Somerset Maugham

Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other.
-- William Faulkner

I do not believe the expenditure of $2.50 for a book entitles the purchaser to the personal friendship of the author.
--Evelyn Waugh

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.

--H.G. Wells

In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.

--George Orwell

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

--Oscar Wilde

I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
--Blaise Pascal

Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.
--Jules Renard, French author (1864-1910)

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

--Joan Didion

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

--T.S. Eliot

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.
--W. Somerset Maugham

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
--Thomas Mann

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it.
--Leo Rosten

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.

--Walter Bagehot, 19th century British journalist

I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.

--Beethoven (ok, this is about writing music, but same difference motivationally)

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

--Stephen King

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
--Thomas Jefferson

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
--Cyril Connolly, 20th century English intellectual, critic and novelist

Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.

--Daphne du Maurier

A classic is a classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.

--Edith Wharton

Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.
--Jimmy Breslin

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.
--Russell Lynes

If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing.

--Kingsley Amis



Tips on writing from John Steinbeck, along with a refutation of said tips. Good stuff.

Here, for fun, is an article on a wonderful and unexpected use of the semicolon, a punctuation mark I love (and don't consider remotely anachronistic or pretentious, notwithstanding what Mr. Vonnegut has to say about it above).

My June 2009 guest post on writing, For Writers: A Story & Three Tactics, describes my writing process and offers three tactics to help writers polish their writing.