Selected Quotes about Authors & Writing

“If I am ever liberated from this bondage of racialism, there are some things much more exciting to me, objectively, to write about.…But this world has such a social orientation, and I am involved in this world and I can’t cut myself off." -- Peter Henry Abrahams

The circumstance which gives authors an advantage above all these great masters, is this, that they can multiply their originals; or rather, can make copies of their works, to what number they please, which shall be as valuable as the originals themselves. -- Joseph Addison

People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is. Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. -- Matthew Arnold

Nothing a man writes can please him as profoundly as something he does with his back, shoulders and hands. For writing is an artificial activity. It is a lonely and private substitute for conversation. -- Brooks Atkinson

If you don’t have a six-figure deal by the time you’re thirty-five, you’ve failed. In fact, why even be a writer? -- James Atlas

The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature; only then can he see clearly. -- Julian Barnes

When I am dead, I hope it is said, 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read'. -- Hilaire Belloc

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I coudn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. -- Robert Benchley

A writer needs loneliness, and he gets his share of it. He needs love, and he gets shared and also unshared love. He needs friendship. In fact, he needs the universe. To be a writer is, in a sense, to be a day-dreamer - to be living a kind of double life. -- Jorge Luis Borges

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. -- Ray Bradbury

I love writing, it's the center of my life. If you don't love what you do, you'd better find something else to love. Otherwise, you don't have a reason for living. -- Ray Bradbury

My stories run up and bite me in the leg -- I respond by writing them down - everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off. -- Ray Bradbury

Richard Bach with this book does two things. He gives me Flight. He makes me Young. For both I am deeply grateful. -- Ray Bradbury

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

Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul. -- Joseph Brodsky

In sissy times, like these, one — a writer, especially — can afford to be brutal, lean, mean, etc. In fact, in sissy times one practically has to peddle gore and garbage, for otherwise one won’t sell. -- Joseph Brodsky

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him. -- Mel Brooks

I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I'm one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know. -- Mel Brooks

If Shakespeare had to go on an author tour to promote Romeo and Juliet, he never would have written Macbeth. -- Joyce Brothers

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. -- James Bryce

I look better, feel better, make love better and I'll tell you something else....I never lied better. -- George Burns

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

The novel can't compete with cars, the movies, television, and liquor. A guy who's had a good feed and tanked up on good wine gives his old lady a kiss after supper and his day is over. Finished. -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity. -- G. K. Chesterton

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public. -- Sir Winston Churchill

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. -- Tom Clancy

If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers. -- Irvin S. Cobb

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. -- Colette

Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them. -- Charles Caleb Colton

Our admiration of fine writing will always be in proportion to its real difficulty and its apparent ease. -- Charles Caleb Colton

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. -- Cyril Connolly

I shall christen this style the Mandarin, since it is beloved by literary pundits. It is the style of all the writers whose tendency is to make their language convey more than they mean to and more than they feel. It is the style of most artists and all humbug. -- Cyril Connolly

Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be read once. -- Cyril Connolly

In America only the successful writer is important, in France all writers are important, in England no writer is important, and in Australia you have to explain what a writer is. -- Geoffrey Cottrell

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way. -- Richard Harding Davis

When writing about transcendental issues, be transcendentally clear. -- Rene Descartes

An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children. -- Benjamin Disraeli

A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can't be much good. -- TS (Thomas Stearns) Eliot

Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book; a personality which, by birth and quality, is pledged to the doctrines there set forth, and which exists to see and state things so, and not otherwise. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

There's one good kind of writer -- a dead one. -- James T. Farrell

An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the school-masters of ever afterward. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Preachers in pulpits talked about what a great message is in the book. No matter what you do, somebody always imputes meaning into your books. -- Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

“Too often I wait for the sentence to finish taking shape in my mind before setting it down. It is better to seize it by the end that first offers itself, head or foot, though not knowing the rest, then pull: the rest will follow along.” -- André Gide

Great authors are admirable in this respect: in every generation they make for disagreement. Through them we become aware of our differences. -- André Gide

Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason. -- André Gide

Novelists do not write as birds sing, by the push of nature. It is part of the job that there should be much routine and some daily stuff on the level of carpentry. -- William Golding

The role of the writer is not simply to arrange Being according to his own lights; he must also serve as a medium to Being and remain open to its often unfathomable dictates. This is the only way the work can transcend its creator and radiate its meaning. -- Vaclav Havel

The bee himself did not evade the schoolboy more than she evaded me, and even at this day I still stand somewhat bewildered, like the boy. -- Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book -- it makes a very poor doorstop. -- Alfred Hitchcock

Men are idolaters and want something to look at and kiss and hug, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will; and if you don't make it out of wood, you must make it out of words. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

I did not believe political directives could be successfully applied to creative writing . . . not to poetry or fiction, which to be valid had to express as truthfully as possible the individual emotions and reactions of the writer. -- Langston Hughes

Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison. -- Samuel Johnson

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why. -- James Joyce

It is not my fault that certain so-called bohemian elements have found in my writings something to hang their peculiar beatnik theories on. -- Jack Kerouac

Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publications. -- Fran Lebowitz

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

Only two classes of books are of universal appeal. The very best and the very worst. -- Ford Maddox

There is a sort of man who pays no attention to his good actions, but is tormented by his bad ones. This is the type that most often writes about himself. -- W. Somerset Maugham

I was brought up in the great tradition of the late nineteenth century: that a writer never complains, never explains and never disdains. -- James A. Michener

Author: A fool who, not content with having bored those who have lived with him, insists on tormenting generations to come. -- Charles Montesquieu

There's more of yourself in a book than a play. that's why we know all about Dickens and not much about Shakespeare. Ben Jonson murdered people; Marlowe was a spy; Shakespeare just sat in the corner and took notes. -- Sir John Mortimer

Rereading this novel today, replaying the moves of its plot, I feel rather like Anderssen fondly recalling his sacrifice of both Rooks to the unfortunate and noble Kieseritsky—who is doomed to accept it over and over again through an infinity of textbooks, with a question mark for monument. -- Vladimir Nabokov

I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests. -- Pablo Neruda

I did try very hard to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. […] One can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a window pane. -- George Orwell

“If, with the literate, I am Impelled to try an epigram, I never seek to take the credit; We all assume that Oscar said it.” -- Dorothy Parker

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. -- Enrique Jardiel Poncela

It is difficult to write a paradise when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse. It is obviously much easier to find inhabitants for an inferno or even a purgatorio. -- Ezra Pound

The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain whatsoever on his habitually slack attention. -- Ezra Pound

A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

I owe what is best in my own development to the impression made by Kant's works, the sacred writings of the Hindus, and Plato. -- Arthur Schopenhauer

Major writing is to say what has been seen, so that it need never be said again. -- Delmore Schwartz

But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay;Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows...Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,‘Fool,’ said my Muse to me; ‘look in thy heart and write.’ -- Sir Philip Sidney

What I like in a good author is not what he says but what he whispers. -- Logan Pearsall Smith

To finish is a sadness to a writer - a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done. -- John Steinbeck

The reading of a poem should be an experience. Its writing must be all the more so. -- Wallace Stevens

I no more thought of style or literary excellence than the mother who rushes into the street and cries for help to save her children from a burning house, thinks of the teachings of the rhetorician or the elocutionist. -- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Every writer since the beginning of time, just like other people, has been afflicted by what [a] friend of mine calls “the fleas of life”—you know, colds, hangovers, bills, sprained ankles and little nuisances of one sort or another. -- William Styron

I get a fine warm feeling when I'm doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let's face it, writing is hell. -- William Styron

I'm simply the happiest, the placidest, when I'm writing, and so I suppose that that, for me, is the final answer. ... It's fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats as I am most of the time. -- William Styron

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads. -- William Styron

There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write. -- William Makepeace Thackeray

Gonzo journalism is a style of "reporting" based on William Faulkner's idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism... -- Hunter S. Thompson

Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money. -- Louis Untermeyer

When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. -- John Updike

Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps twenty players, and Tennessee Williams has about five, and Samuel Beckett one - and maybe a clone of that one. I have ten or so, and that's a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them. -- Gore Vidal

The little girl had the making of a poet in her who, being told to be sure of her meaning before she spoke, said: ‘How can I know what I think till I see what I say?’ -- Graham Wallas

Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago. -- John Wesley

“At the age of fourteen I discovered writing as an escape from a world of reality in which I felt acutely uncomfortable.” -- Tennessee (Thomas Lanier) Williams

Afraid lest he be caught up in a net of words, tripped up, bewildered and so defeated—thrown aside—a man hesitates to write down his innermost convictions. -- William Carlos Williams

There are very few professions in which people just sit down and think hard for five or six hours a day all by themselves. Of course it’s why you want to become a writer — because you have the liberty to do that, but once you have the liberty you also have the obligation to do it. -- Tobias Wolff

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved. -- Virginia Woolf

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible. -- Virginia Woolf

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