Writers on Writing

jmmmmmnhbgRichard Price        

Anyone who’s a writer or a painter–or anything in the Arts–is no portrait of mental health. I have to be an artist, I have to take this lonliness and make it work–it’s not a happy or a proud choi8ce, it’s a desperate choice.

Alice Hoffman

In my experience, ill people become more themselves, as if once the excess was stripped away only the truest core of themselves remained. …Writers don’t choose their craft; they need to write in order to face the world.

Billy Collins

You read not to discover the poet, you read to discover yourself.

Elie Wiesel 

Authentic writers write even if there is little chance for them to be published; they write because they cannot do otherwise… Writers write because they cannot allow the characters that inhabit them to suffocate them.  …Writing, however, is becoming much more difficult.  Not to repeat oneself is every writer’s obsession.  Not to slide into sentimentality, not to imitate, not to spread oneself too thin.  To respect words that are heavy with their own past.  Every word both separates and links; it depends on the writer whether it becomes wound or balm, curse or promise. …writing is anything but easy.  (on the difficulty of Night)…and yet it was necessary to continue.  And speak without words; more precisely, without the proper words.  And to try to trust the silence that surrounds and transcends them.

Toni Morrison                                                                                                                                    If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. …Without writing you’re stuck with life.

Joan Didion                                                                                                                               All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

            Which was a writer.jmmmmmnbty

            By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want to what I fear. 

The arrangement of words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your jmmmind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture Nota bene:

            It tells you.

You don’t tell it.

Let me tell you one thing about why writers write:  had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.

John Steinbeck                                                                                                                       The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.xxxxxxxxxxxxnn
The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.
Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.

Norman Mailer

The difference between writing a book and being on television is the difference between conceiving a child and having a baby made in a test tube.
Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.
The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.
Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.
When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.
If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad.
There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.

F. Scott Fitgerald                                                                                                                      In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.
“The Crack-Up” (1936)

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

That was always my experience– a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy’s school; a poor boy in a rich man’s club at Princeton … . However, I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works.

This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway who lives in Paris (an American), writes for the Transatlantic Review and has a brilliant future … . I’d look him up right away. He’s the real thing.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, from a 1924 letter to Maxwell Perkins

Fitzgerald was perhaps the last notable writer to affirm the Romantic fantasy, descended from the Renaissance, of personal ambition and heroism, of life committed to, or thrown away for, some ideal of self.”

Books are like brothers. I am an only child. Gatsby my imaginary brother, Amory my younger, Anthony my worry. Dick my comparatively good brother but all of them far from home. When I have the courage to put the old white light on the home of my heart, then–”

The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Honore de Balzac      

  I am a galley slave to pen and ink.

It is as easy to dream a book as it is hard to write one.

What is art? Nature concentrated.



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