Quotations: Writers on Writing

I absolutely love it when writers write (or talk about) writing. Depending on what stage a writer is in the writing process, the writer’s quotes range from the devoted, to the confused, to the alcohol-dependent, and to the ultimately creative.  In this short list of some of my favorite writer’s quotations about writing, I tried to leave out the mundane quotes and instead tried to include some of the more flavorful quotations about writing and the writing process. In most cases, the quotes seem to accurately represent the writers themselves.


Stephen King: I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.


Ernest Hemingway:  Write drunk, edit sober.


Hunter S. Thompson:  The only thing to be said this time about Fear & Loathing is that it was fun to write and that's fair, for me at least because I've always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.


Elmore Leonard:  I try to leave out the parts that people skip.

Isaac Asimov:  If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster. 

Moliere:  A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.

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

Robert Frost:  Poets need not go to Niagara to write about the force of falling water.

Flannery O'Connor:  Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.

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

George Orwell:  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.

Steven Wright:  I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography.

William S. Burroughs:  In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed.


Gustave Flaubert:  The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

 

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Comments

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

This is a good list of quotes, but I have to make a remark on the Asimov-quote. I see this quote everywhere, and as it stands it makes no sense. If he had six minutes to live, he would not have time to get to his typewriter to continue typing after speaking to the doctor. And indeed, what doctor would ever give such an exact time of death?

No, the truth is of course that he said six months - and remarked several times that it bothered him that it was widely quoted as minutes.

So, in light of the dismay he felt about this misquote and in the interest of spreading his actual words, here is his recounting of it (found in Asimov Laughs Again, 1992, p.147):

I was once being interviewed by Barbara Walters in three segments, all at once, though they were to be run on three separate days.
In between two of the segments, she asked me how many books I had written, and I told her.    She said, "Don't you ever want to do anything but write?"
"No," I said.
"Don't you want to go hunting? Fishing? Dancing? Hiking?"
And I said, "No! No! No! and No!"
She said, "But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?"
I said, "Type faster."

This seems to be the philosophy he lived by - at the end of his life he was still writing, having completed over 500 books.

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anonymous's picture

anonymous

Thanks so much for taking the time to provide the information on the Asimov quote. I'll definitely check up on it when I get a chance. -becksta

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anonymous's picture

anonymous

OK, for the record, according to this (and quite a few others), it's six months, not six minutes, but six months, while on sites like this, it's six minutes. -becksta

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

You called someone an idiot on the internet, and put 'your' instead of 'you're!' That's pratically the ultimate fail.

Nice correction for the original commenter.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Silly, the "author" didnt use correct grammar either, and he was making a post about writers. Talk about failing!

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Katrina's picture

Katrina

Interesting- not intersting

Practically- not pratically

There, an 8th grader just corrected your grammar.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Good job 8th grader, but you corrected his spelling not his grammer.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Well, since we're playing this game, I guess I should point out that "grammer" is most definitely not a word. Perhaps you meant "grammar?" Also, there should probably be a comma after the word "spelling."

What I find completely hilarious about this whole string of corrections is that absolutely everybody who has participated so far has exhibited some level of blatant ignorance regarding one or more aspects of either grammar or spelling. Perhaps before pointing out the speck in another's eye, we should examine the log in our own, hmm?

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

This has so far been the best string of comments I've ever seen.

Ps. I love the last bit of your post. :)

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Copy Editor's picture

Copy Editor

Perhaps you meant "grammar?"

----------------------------------

 

The question mark should go outside of the quotation marks. Perhaps before pointing out the speck in another's eye, we should examine the log in our own, hmm?

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Actually, the post above could be grammatically correct if he/she were referring to "'your' 'still an idiot'" as in [his/her's] "still an idiot" whatever "still an idiot" is.  Possibly some kind of game or drug or title of a music album?

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

You must be in Europe. Because on this side of the pond (in the US), the punctuation goes INSIDE of the quotations. That sentence is correct and the question mark goes inside.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

No it doesn't... because the actual quote didn't have a question mark. But by now, I hate playing this game.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I stumbled upon this article and "I like it!" just because of the string of comments... LMAO!

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

what a bunch of losers

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

"Perhaps before pointing out the speck in another's eye, we should examine the log in our own, hmm?"

I believe that should read "splinter," not speck.  That would be why "log" completes the wit.

 

Yay us!

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Actually, it wasn't a witticism or an extended metaphor, but rather a biblical reference. Of course the latest version of The Good Book that I perused when other literature was scarce used "plank" in the place of "log", but I've no doubt that other iterations of the book use the latter term. See Matthew 7:3 for the reference.

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Johnny McGramher's picture

Johnny McGramher

Since we're continuing this game thanks to StumbleUpon - I'd like to say that you're actually talking about prescriptive grammar (and not the linguistic conception of grammar).

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Spelling is an important part of grammar. Specific rules of grammar deal directly with spelling.

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Jerry D.'s picture

Jerry D.

"Writing" is not strictly about proper spelling or grammar. Rather, the main purpose of writing is simply to convey one's thoughts. This holds especially true with creative writing, in which a writer uses various tools to captivate the reader and paint a constellation of images. Mark Twain is a prime example -- his grammar sucked, but he successfully drew us into the world of Huck and Tom. 

With that being said....we shud try fo' lay off da technical stuffs and jus' enjoy da writing fo' WHAT it's saying, not HOW it's being said. Alright? AWW-rite! Easy...

Can you guess which "world" I'm from? (Yeah, I realize that's a dangling prepositional phrase...but so what?)

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patWRITER's picture

patWRITER

Twain's background was in journalism and he had excellent command of the rules of grammar. He wrote a foreword to Huck Finn, which zealously protected his use of idiomatic syntax. The novel is Huck Finn's story and Twain didn't want any editor, or English teacher, or critic messing with it. The syntax was an integral element, the pallet from which he painted. He was a genius and breaking rules is most often better left to the geniuses.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Asimov was speaking metaphorically. He was so attached to his writing that even death couldn't come between them.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

That was kind of pompous, which is why I'm perfectly happy to tell you that quote is perfectly reasonable as a noun, according to the dictionary.

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Anonymously's picture

Anonymously

The funny part is that I was skimming through the quotes and misread "six months".  Didn't realize that I read it wrong (the way that he had said it) until I got to the comments, lol.

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Coral's picture

Coral

I am an avid Stephen King reader, he is a fantastic writer and I do not think anybody can fill his shoes if he happens to leave this world, No do not get me wrong I respect other authors specially fiction writers even though Issac Asimov based all of his writings on fiction there was a great lot of Science and real knowledge that anybody who love Science would really appreciate.He as well as Ray Bradbury went beyond the Stars.:)

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Coral's picture

Coral

I am an avid Stephen King reader, he is a fantastic writer and I do not think anybody can fill his shoes if he happens to leave this world, No do not get me wrong I respect other authors specially fiction writers even though Issac Asimov based all of his writings on fiction there was a great lot of Science and real knowledge that anybody who love Science would really appreciate.He as well as Ray Bradbury went beyond the Stars.:)

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I like Stephen King, too. I think it's funny that the quote about Stephen King's writing comes from Stephen King. -beckstanarci

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Coral's picture

Coral

I am an avid Stephen King reader, he is a fantastic writer and I do not think anybody can fill his shoes if he happens to leave this world, No do not get me wrong I respect other authors specially fiction writers even though Issac Asimov based all of his writings on fiction there was a great lot of Science and real knowledge that anybody who love Science would really appreciate.He as well as Ray Bradbury went beyond the Stars.:)

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Ire3's picture

Ire3

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

To true and necessary, as a muscian this is a commandment for me.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I had never heard that Faulkner quote (yeah, yeah I know....). All I can say is wow, that is a mind blowing thought. Thanks for this!

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Jenni's picture

Jenni

I am best friends with a writer and it's just amazing. I love the way writers just transform everything they see into something we can now relate to but have never experienced before with those eyes.  Just wonderful!

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

You might enjoy "The Secret Miracle: The Novelists Handbook" edited by Daniel Alarcon.  Thirty or forty novelists are asked questions about writing and their responses are collected.  It's a publication of 826 National, the writing group in San Fran, LA, NYC etc.  New in paperback.

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Who said, "I only write when I'm inspired (and make sure I'm inspired at 9am each morning)"?

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Bruno's picture

Bruno

This is great... I'm not a writer.  But I love hearing writers talk about how/why/when they write.  I enjoy it (authors on their craft) more than any other artist talking about their respective art forms.  In fact, the only Stephen King book I have read was the one he wrote on his writing.  Thanks for the post!

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Cathie's picture

Cathie

These are great quotes not seen all the time.  Stephen King's shows some self-irony and good grace.  I love his book on writing, and since I read it I've had new respect for him as a person and writer.  I'm a writer too but my day job is a <a href="http://www.ducktoes.com.">computer repair</a> in Calgary.  I've just finished a novel.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

“Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds”

-Douglas Adams

 

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ladyfleece's picture

ladyfleece

Another great quote that would go well on this page is:

"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." - Robert Heinlein

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Hah are they pathetic or awesome? I'm going with awesome, and since it has always been a dream of mine to be awesome, I'd just like to add that the contraction of 'you are' is 'you're'. Also, to not come off as a hypocrite, I feel I must add that I'm aware that there may be very many errors in this passage and I'm ready for them to be called to my attention! :)

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I think that Mark Twain may have said something like "He must have little genius who can't spell a work in more than one way." They aren't misusing "your" in place of "you're" they know what they mean. They aren't using bad grammar: they are finding creative ways to spell the contraction "you're".  I always felt that "you are" sounded better than the contraction.  However, these are internet comments I on a website I have never heard of before I stumbleuponed it.  The way I spell words here matters less than the way I spell them in a text message to somebody.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I have to say that his comment about writing being discovering what you believe is so true.  So many times I don't know what I really feel about a topic until I start writing about it.  Then I have to examine the details, the whys and the whats of what I think.  Then I discover what I believe to be true.

 

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