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Writing Quotations

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WRITERS ON WRITING: Inspirational Quotes, Words of Wisdom and/or Despair, Anecdotes and Poems


Feb. 25, 2011 Recently Found Words of Despair, by the late Raymond Carver:

I was beginning to see that my life was not — let’s say it was not what I wanted it to be. There was always a wagonload of frustration to deal with — wanting to write and not being able to find the time or the place for it. I used to go out and sit in the car and try to write something on a pad on my knee. This was when the kids were in their adolescence. I was in my late twenties or early thirties. We were still in a state of penury, we had one bankruptcy behind us, and years of hard work with nothing to show for it except an old car, a rented house, and new creditors on our backs. It was depressing, and I felt spiritually obliterated…. I suppose I began to drink heavily after I’d realized that the things I’d wanted most in life for myself and my writing, and my wife and children, were simply not going to happen–Raymond Carver

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” —Red Smith

“Writing is like making love. Don’t worry about the orgasm, just roots_icon.gifconcentrate on the process.” — Isabel Allende


“Writing is a little bit like prostitution. First you do it for love. Then you do it for a few friends. Then you do it for money.”–Moliere

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”
— Peter De Vries

“The art of writing consists of the art of placing the seat of one’s pants to the seat of one’s chair” — Sinclair Lewis

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” –Gene Fowler

Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.’ –G. Flaubert

“In my own experience, nothing is harder for the developing writer than overcoming his anxiety that he is fooling himself and cheating or embarrassing his family and friends. To most people, even those who don’t read much, there is something special and vaguely magical about writing, and it is not easy for them to believe that someone they know- someone quite ordinary in many respects – can really do it.” John Gardner

“You have to understand, having a good time is not my idea of having a good time.” –Anonymous

A woman was having tea with Mrs. (Thomas) Hardy, and inquired, “Did Mr. hardy-01.jpgHardy have a good day of writing?” Mrs. Hardy replied, “Oh, I’m sure of it. I could hear him sobbing all afternoon.”

The Poet and the Physician (Sufi Fable)

A poet went to see a doctor. He said to him, “I have all kinds of terrible symptoms. I am unhappy and uncomfortable, my hair and my arms and legs are as if tortured.”

The doctor replied, “Is it not true that you have not yet given out your latest poetic composition?”

“That is true,” said the poet.

“Very well,” said the physician, “be good enough to recite.”

He did so, and, at the doctor’s orders, said his lines again and again. Then the doctor said, “Stand up, for you are now cured. What you had inside had affected your outside. Now that it is released, you are well again.”

“The true novelist is the one who doesn’t quit. Novel-writing is not so much a profession as a yoga, or “way,” an alternative to ordinary life-in-the-world. Its benefits are quasi-religious—a changed quality of mind and heart, satisfactions no non-novelist can understand—and its rigors generally bring no profit except to the spirit. For those who are authentically called to the profession, spiritual profits are enough.” –John Gardner

Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.

–W.B. Yeats

“It does no harm to repeat, as often as you can,’Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the doris-lessing.jpgsub-sub agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages–all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person.”-Doris Lessing

“I never deluded myself into thinking I could make a living at it. Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”–Paul Auster

“Writing is re-examining values, and nothing produces more anxiety for the human being than reexamining widely accepted values and searching for a way of justifying and articulating the reexamination. The secret of becoming productive and retaining your peace of mind lies in learning how to harness the anxiety and transform it into ‘productive elation.’”–Kenneth Atchity

“Writin’ Is Fightin””–Ishmael Reed

Saul Bellow, when asked how he felt about winning the Nobel Prize, said, “I don’t know. I haven’t written about it yet.”

“The idea of talent is incredibly overrated. A need to survive is much more david-byrne-1.jpgimportant. If you went up to someone on the street with a gun and said, ‘in twelve months’ time you’ll be shot unless you produce a great work of art,’ he would suddenly find the motivation to do so.”–David Byrne

“The writer’s business is to make up convincing human beings and create for them basic situations and actions by means of which they come to know themselves and reveal themselves to the reader.”–John Gardner

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogistonmarge_piercy_umbrella7jpg.jpg
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.”
–Marge Piercy

“Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be wild and experimental in your work.”–Gustave Flaubert

“I shall go on writing. That is my heroism. I shall bear witness, precise witness.” –Victor Klemperer

This is what happens when you write books…something begins putting everything in your path. There is suddenly no such thing as a back road that doesn’t lead headlong into your obsession.– Philip Roth, “The Human Stain”

“Life is hard–and then you write a book about it.” A writer’s son (mine: Daryl Hochheiser)



4 responses »

  1. Pearls of wisdom! Thank you for sharing (my favorite is the last one).

    Check out this blog–it’s very clever.–MS

  2. I’ve read most these and it was nice to read them again. I love the quotes from Flaubert. Sometimes, one or two quotes from fellow writers can get me through another painful day of writing.


  3. Hi Marcy,

    the Doris Lessing quote..where’s it from? The published source? Can you help?


  4. Personal email sent.
    It might be from A Small Personal Voice, but I’m not 100%sure.

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