Expect updates on this one as the Quote of the Week changes!
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
--- Scott Adams
There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
--- Ernest Hemingway
“Art," the third-grader said with a knowing sigh, "takes time."
--- Washington Post article on “The Big Draw," a Maryland event designed to encourage support for arts education
"To a large degree my life is my art, and when it gets dull, so does my work. As an artist, I may poke into what other people think of as dead ends: a punk band that I mysteriously fall for, a piece of gospel music that hooks my inner ear, a piece of red silk I just like and add to a nice outfit, thereby 'ruining it.'As an artist, I may frizz my hair or wear weird clothes. I may spend too much money on perfume in a pretty blue bottle even though the perfume stinks because the bottle lets me write about Paris in the thirties.As an artist, I write whether I think it's any good or not. I shoot movies other people may hate. I sketch bad sketches to say, 'I was in this room. I was happy. It was May and I was meeting somebody I wanted to meet.'"
--- Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way
"Read like a butterfly; write like a bee."
--- Philip Pullman
"Words are powerful. They can make pictures in your head."
--- Patricia Polacco
"The world will be saved by beauty."
--- Fyodor Dostoevsky
"The hardest thing for a writer of fiction to do is to make the truth sound convincing."
--- Dorothy L. Sayers
Have His Carcase
"Laughter's good for you. And that's the best of arguments, since few advantages come from the grief and sorrow that harrass you. Writing should laugh, not weep, since laughter is of man the very marrow. LIVE IN JOY."
“One cannot get the news from poems, but men die daily for lack of what is found there.”
--- William Carlos Williams
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."
--- Alan Bennett
The History Boys
"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."
--- A. A. Milne
"Everything is made of stories."
--- Alan Moore
“We may well run out of oil. We are in no danger whatever of running out of narrative.”
--- Sam Leith
“If the right twist would not come of itself, it was useless to manufacture it. She had her image—the world sleeping like a great top on its everlasting spindle—and anything added to that would be mere verse-making. Something might come of it some day. In the meanwhile she had got her mood on to paper—and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek for love; and having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further.”
--- Dorothy L. Sayers
“Poems are imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”
--- Marianne Moore.
“[Like Scheherazade] I wanted to change those looks of hate and mistrust, to transform the sultan’s face into the beautiful face of the reclining prince on the cover of my childhood storybook. Where did I get the idea that stories could do that? That I could do that?”
--- Julia Alvarez
“An Autobiography of Scheherazade”
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
"I write because I have secrets that no one else knows."
--- Tony Jordan
“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”
Hogfather (Death makes this observation, in capital letters.)
"Q. What do you most enjoy about writing books?
A. Just about everything. Of course it's wonderful to be able to work with the imagination, to explore language and narrative, to turn a few notions and images into a full-length story, but it's also lovely just to be able to play with paper, pens, notebooks, paper clips, computers, et cetera, et cetera. And it's wonderful to be able to make my living now from doing something that's so engrossing.
--- "A Conversation with David Almond"
(in the back of the Laurel-Leaf paperback edition of Skellig)
"One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, not 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 thought or seen or read, that has long been forgotten, descending into the deeps."
--- J.R.R. Tolkien
quoted in Norman F. Cantor, Inventing the Middle Ages
"There ought to be in everything you write some sign that you come from almost anywhere."
--- Robert Frost
"A writer is, every waking hour, constantly pondering scenes or structural problems . . . That's the terrible part, because you can't get away from it."
--- George Lucas
The Making of Star Wars, p. 15
"Don't try to be a writer. Try to be writing."
--- William Faulkner
"You see, the work of a storyteller doesn't get any easier the more experienced you get, because once we've learned how to do something, we can't get excited about doing exactly the same thing again --- or at least most of us can't. We keep wanting to reach for the story that is too hard for us to tell --- and then make ourselves learn how to tell it. If we succeed, then maybe we can write better and better books, or at least more challenging ones, or at the very least we won't bore ourselves."
--- Orson Scott Card
Introduction to Speaker for the Dead (TOR edition)
“What you describe happens to everyone: magic does slide through you, and disappear, and come back later looking like something else. And I’m sorry to tell you this, but where your magic lives will always be a great dark space with scraps you fumble for. You must learn to sniff them out in the dark.”
--- Robin McKinley
"In good writing, words become one with things."
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"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."
--- Sylvia Plath
"A man will turn over half a library to make one book."--- Samuel Johnson
"Hail to the speaker and him who listens! May whoever learns these words prosper because fo them! Hail to those who listen!"
--- Havamal (Old Norse poem)
translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland
"Character is fate."
"I like the fact that in ancient Chinese art the great painters always included a deliberate flaw in their work: human creation is never perfect."
--- Madeleine L'Engle
"I have made my world, and it is a far better world than any I ever saw outside."
--- Louise Nevelson
(with thanks to Kelsey for bringing it to our attention!)
"I've been making up my world / I've been painting it with gold."
--- Yael Naim, "Too Long"
"Q. How do you balance writing with your busy career as a forensic anthropologist?
A. First I do one. Then I do the other."
"We are waiters, too. We're like yoga students, trying to perfect the art of 'alert passivity'. As Kipling said, our task is to 'drift, wait and obey.'"
--Rose Tremain, on the task of a writer (Daily Telegraph)
"This person, whoever is the centre of the world in your book, they are very close to you psychologically. There is an invisible exchange all the time, a kind of transfer of energy. A bit of them flowing into you, a bit of you flowing into them."
-- Hilary Mantel on writing about Thomas Cromwell, interviewed by Anna Murphy, the Daily Telegraph
"Reading is not simply an intellectual pursuit but an emotional and spiritual one. It lights the candle in the hurricane lamp of self; that's why it survives."
--Anna Quindlen, "Reading Has a Strong Future", Newsweek
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry,
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll:
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul.
-- Emily Dickinson, Poems, Third Series
"You are a poem – and that is to be the best part of a poet – what makes up a poet’s consciousness in his best moods,” said Will, showing such originality as we all share with the morning and the spring-time and other endless renewals.
-- Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch (George Eliot)
"... Add all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix very well. Pour all of the buttermilk into the bowl at once and stir, using a wooden spoon, just until a soft dough is formed. Do not try to make it smooth at this point. Pour the contents of the bowl out into a plastic counter and knead for a minute or so until everything comes together."
-- from Jeff Smith's recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
"Why don't you write? That always used to make you happy," said her mother once, when the desponding fit overshadowed Jo.
"I've no heart to write, and if I had, nobody cares for my things."
"We do. Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world. Try it, dear, I'm sure it would do you good, and please us very much."
"Don't believe I can." But Jo got out her desk and began to overhaul her half-finished manuscripts.
-Little Women, Chapter 42
"Making new art doesn't happen in isolation; it's more of a shared activity."
-- Richard Dorment on the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists, the Daily Telegraph.
"Poets are those who know how to give shape to my dreams."
-- Comtesse Diane
"Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change."
-- Ingrid Bengis
"...the true novel, if you understand what I mean by that term, must also make use of facts, but above all it must be concerned with the truth that lies behind them - the wild mountains that are the source of the "tame" cobblestones of the pavement or the artistically hewn stones in a work of sculpture..."
"We are the instrument more than the author of our work."-- Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way, p. 118.
"A play is fiction - and fiction is fact instilled into truth."-- Edward Albee
"I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there's something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly, it's not something that you're in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it... can be a very powerful experience. And putting it well, God, there's no pleasure better than that."
-- Carrie Fisher
"Words are intended, if anything is, to be played with."
-- Christopher Howse, of the Daily Telegraph
A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many thousand.
-- Virginia Woolf
"All of us who have ever written, composed music [or] painted know that when we performed these acts, we are not in touch with the world. We are completely withdrawn from it, and in our own world. We are re-creating an inner-world."
"There is no greater agony than carrying an untold story inside you." -- Maya Angelou
"Writing's a lot like cooking. Sometimes the cake won't rise, not matter what you do, and every now and again the cake tastes better than you ever could have dreamed it would."
--Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things.
"We are a species that needs to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little."
-- Anne Lamott
"Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard."
--Daphne du Maurier.
"Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule."
-- Stephen King
"Simplify, simplify, simplify."
--Henry David Thoreau
"First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him."
"All the stories I would like to write persecute me. When I am in my chamber, it seems as if they are around me like little devils, and while one tugs at my ear, another tweaks my nose, and each says to me, 'Sir, write me, I am beautiful.'"
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
"It absolutely never occurred to me that it wouldn't happen eventually. I never for a moment doubted it. You know, I thought, 'Ok, I'm not good enough yet, I'm not there yet, but I'll get there.'"
--Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life In Pictures tells NPR why she continued to write even after her previous four novels were rejected.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."
"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that is why I am so grateful to God for having given me this gift."
-- Anne Frank, 5 April 1944
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and a tea cozy... I found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring - I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen house."
-- Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle, p. 1 - Cassandra begins her journal.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
"A writer who waits for ideal conditions in which to work will die without putting a word on paper."
--E. B. White
"If you've ever looked at your writing and seen nothing but problems, I'm here to tell you it's a good thing: you're on the right track. To be a writer is to be a dissatisfied reader of your own prose."
--Daniel Griffin, Canadian author
"Writing is an honest-to-god muscle. If you don't flex it enough, the heavy-lifting becomes much harder."
--Allison Winn Scotch, author of The Song Remains the Same
Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.
Dreams are answers to questions we haven't figured out how to ask.
--Agent Mulder, The X-Files, Season 1, "Aubrey"
"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in introspection."
"If the weak hand that has recorded this tale has by its scenes beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or by its moral taught him to sustain it - the effort, however humble, has not been in vain, nor is the writer unrewarded."
--Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1764
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
"You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing."
-- Gene Wolfe
"Language is the mother, not the handmaiden, of thoughts; words will tell you things you never thought or felt before."
-- W.H. Auden
"Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid but ask of art to sacrifice itself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you."
"Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try
to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what
you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."
-- Barbara Kingsolver
"In any case, the bottom line is that if you want to write, you get to,
but you probably won't be able to get very far if you don't start trying
to get over your perfectionism."
"I learned to write by writing. I tended to anything as long as it felt
like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that
life did not feel like work."
-- Neil Gaiman, his "Make Good Art" speech at Philadelphia's University of the Arts.
I'm trying to write the best books I can write. The pressure I feel is from the voice in my head that reminds me: You're not there yet. Keep working.
-- Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine, as she embarks on publishing her second novel. From Martha Woodruff's NPR blog post.