lines from the greats on life and writing

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes.      

                                                           —Walt Whitman

Artists must be sacrificed to their art, like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.  –Virginia Woolf

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.    –Mark Twain

Self-command is the main elegance.   –Ralph Waldo Emerson


We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.  –Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Men at some time are masters of their fates:

the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

                                                   …Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

An artist is a creature driven by demons.  He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.  –William Faulkner

As for style of writing, if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground.  –Henry David Thoreau

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.  –Thoreau

The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.  –Hemingway

Brevity is the soul of wit.  –Shakespeare

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it.  What another would have said as well as you, do not say it.  What another would have written as well, do not write it.  Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself and thus make yourself indispensable.  –Andre Gide

An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.  –de Chateaubriand

No man does anything from a single motive.  –Samual Taylor Coleridge

*Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.  –Aeschylus

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.  –David Hare

For words, like Nature, half reveal and half conceal the Soul within.  –Alfred Lord Tennyson

*Nobody knows what’s in him until he tries to pull it out.  If there’s nothing, or very little, the shock can kill a man.  –Hemingway

To penetrate one’s being, one must go armed to the teeth.  –Paul Valery

*Learn what you are, and be such.  –Pindar

The time is out of joint.  –Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.  –Shakespeare

In memory, everything seems to happen to music.  –Tennessee Williams

Such as we are made of, such we be.  –Shakespeare Sonnet CXVI

We never live, but we are always in the expectation of living.  –Voltaire

He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must win them anew.  –Goethe

…on literature…

The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.  –Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When a man can observe himself suffering and is able, later, to describe what he’s gone through, it means he was born for literature.  –Edouard Bourdet

The short story is the art form that deals with the individual when there is no longer a society to absorb him, and when he is compelled to exit, as it were, by his own inner light.  –Frank O’Connor

A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand.  –Virginia Woolf

Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.  –W. Somerset Maugham

Those who lose dreaming are lost.  –Australian Aboriginal proverb

*Experience is in the fingers and the head.  The heart is inexperienced.  –Henry David Thoreau

Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it.  –James Baldwin

From error to error one discovers the entire truth.  –Sigmund Freud

*Not to transmit an experience is to betray it.  –Elie Wiesel

All things must change to something new, to something strange.  –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Beauty without expression tires.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its ends.  –Emerson

A great man does not lose his self-possession when he is afflicted; the ocean is not made muddy by the falling in of its banks.  –Panchatantra

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.  –Miles Davis

Music is the shorthand of emotion.  –Leo Tolstoy

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