Monday, January 18, 2010

A Dozen Quotes for Writers

Keith here.

Although I have nothing philosophically against them, I'm not one of those guys whose office is festooned with inspirational posters. You know the kind I mean -- some quote written over a picture of a soaring eagle, crashing wave, or fluttering flag. Still along the way, I have collected some quotations that have applicability to the writer's life (or at least to this writer's life). Here's a list of a dozen favorites. They do not come with any guarantee as to veracity. Some are listed because they amuse me, some because they seem wise, and some because, I must admit, they inspire me.

1. "Writing is easy; I just open a vein and bleed." Red Smith, journalist

2. "This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense." Winston Churchill, politician/writer

3. "Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?" Lennon & McCartney

4. "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." E.L. Doctorow, novelist

5. "Whenever I am asked what kind of writing is the most lucrative, I have to say ransom notes." H.N. Swanson, literary agent

6. "I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it is something I never expected.... If I'm not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out..., I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety." Stephen King, novelist

7. "Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep." Buffalo Springfield

8. "The instant my first book was accepted for publication, I switched from being delusional to being tenacious." L.M. Vincent, author

9. "In our field there are only two kinds of stories -- the salable and the unsalable. Our highest acclaim is a two word sentence -- 'It sold.'" William Campbell Gault, novelist

10. "On all great subjects, much remains to be said." John Stuart Mill, philosopher

11. "Happy and bouyant don't force you into action on the page; you go shopping when you're up." Margaret Drabble, novelist

12. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Samuel Johnson, man of letters

Please add your own favorites in the comment section!


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Good ones, Keith! I've got one by Twain, since Twain always cracks me up:
On Revising--
"You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by." Mark Twain.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

G.M. Malliet said...

From Oscar Wilde - not exactly inspirational, but accurate: "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."

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

You had several of my favs listed, but here's one on how I feel about being a writer:

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

Terry said...

These are great.Paperback Writer is a favorite song. Love the 45 RPM.

Here's mine: "Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say." Raymond Chandler.

JD Rhoades said...

I like the idea of being a 'man of letters." Think I'll put it on my business cards.

Alan Orloff said...

Anyone who quotes Buffalo Springfield is okay by me!

Here's one I like, that doesn't pertain to only writing:

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Keith Raffel said...

Elizabeth, I'm reading over the Sam Clemens' quote. I'll get it eventually. Gin, we crime fiction writers need to write a little faster than Mr. Wilde. Sue Ann, I almost stole that one from you. Terry, what would Raymond say about all the MFAs? Dusty, to man of letters you'd better add pundit on your cards. Alan, do you remember Maynard G Krebs? "WORK? WORK?"

G.M. Malliet said...

Another Mark Twain quote, about writing for boys. How right he was. (Louisa May Alcott's Little Women also resonates with girls AND women, and I think it always will.)

Twain wrote, "I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys but strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.

Anonymous said...

I loved the Buffalo Springfield one, I could hear it being sung.

I say this once on a bumper sticker and it stuck with me (no pun intended)
"Don't believe everything you think."

Cricket McRae said...

I try to remember what Anne Lamott said when I'm working on a first draft: "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life..."

G.M. Malliet said...

Ah, Cricket, I love that quote.

Mike Dennis said...

"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price."
--Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Keith Raffel said...

Gin, I guess what Twain is saying is that all men are boys. Carolyn, good one. Cricket, as someone else once said, "Don't get it right; get it written." Mike, good Faustian message in that quote.

Pablo said...

"There are three rules for writing fiction. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

William Somerset Maugham.