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Quotes

‘To be a writer you have to be out in the world, you have to risk yourself in the world, you have to be immersed in the world, you have to go out looking for it. This becomes harder as you get older because there's less energy, the days are shorter for older people and it's not so easy to go out and immerse oneself in the world outside.‘

'A poet can survive everything but a misprint.'

'People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?' I say, they don't really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they're gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.'

'An essential element for good writing is a good ear: One must listen to the sound of one's own prose.'

'Talented writing makes things happen in the reader's mind - vividly, forcefully - that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn't.'

'Inside every fat book is a thin book trying to get out.'

'Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.'

'If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.'

'Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. ... I have 10 or so, and that's a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.'

'Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything... It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.'

'Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.'

'I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write.'

'There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.'

'Always stop while you are going good and don't worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.'

'The most helpful quality a writer can cultivate is self-confidence - arrogance, if you can manage it. You write to impose yourself on the world, and you have to believe in your own ability when the world shows no sign of agreeing with you.'

'A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.'

'I always write in the morning. I was pleased to hear lately that Rousseau, too, after he got up in the morning, went for a short walk and sat down to work. In the morning one's head is particularly fresh. The best thoughts most often come in the morning after waking while still in bed or during the walk.

'You might as well ask an artist to explain his art, or ask a poet to explain his poem. It defeats the purpose. The meaning is only clear through the search.'

'There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.'

'The long-lived books of tomorrow are concealed somewhere amongst the so-far unpublished MSS of today.'

'Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he'll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.'

'The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.'

The Blind Assassin

'After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.'

'The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.'

'Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.'

'A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.'

'The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.'

'Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it's work. ... Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.'

'Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.'

'And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.'

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

'The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell, together, as quickly as possible.'

‘If you find a poem that sets you alive, gives you daydream time, then you are in fact transported. You are carried a little bit further, either into yourself, or perhaps out of yourself. If there is a difference.'

'One writes such a story [The Lord of the Rings] not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.  Read more

'There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect, compared with which, reproach, hatred and opposition are names of happiness.'

'Bad authors are those who write with reference to an inner context which the reader cannot know.'

'The long-lived books of tomorrow are concealed somewhere amongst the so-far unpublished MSS of today.'

'Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.'

'The only way to learn to write is to write.'

'Being a writer means you get to live vicariously through your characters.'

'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.'

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