Thought Catalog

The 25 Greatest Quotes About Writing

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Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. Mark Twain
I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort. Clarice Lispector
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Virginia Woolf
I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality. James Joyce
The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway
Always be a poet, even in prose. Charles Baudelaire
Literature — creative literature — unconcerned with sex, is inconceivable. Gertrude Stein
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. Anaïs Nin
One can be absolutely truthful and sincere even though admittedly the most outrageous liar. Fiction and invention are of the very fabric of life. Henry Miller
Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. F. Scott Fitzgerald
The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it. Alain Robbe-Grillet
James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can. Samuel Beckett
Life is painful and disappointing. It is useless, therefore, to write new realistic novels. We generally know where we stand in relation to reality and don’t care to know any more. Michel Houellebecq
Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn’t it such a relief to have somebody say that? Kurt Vonnegut
Skill alone cannot teach or produce a great short story, which condenses the obsession of the creature; it is a hallucinatory presence manifest from the first sentence to fascinate the reader, to make him lose contact with the dull reality that surrounds him, submerging him in another that is more intense and compelling. Julio Cortázar
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka
Reading is more important than writing. Roberto Bolaño
The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth. Ezra Pound
The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows. David Foster Wallace
The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless. Vladimir Nabokov
…Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. — And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. Rainer Maria Rilke
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything. Walt Whitman
All I know is what the words know, and dead things, and that makes a handsome little sum, with a beginning and a middle and an end, as in the well-built phrase and the long sonata of the dead. Samuel Beckett
Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion. Never. I’m a little overexcited now. Since it is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if you were in good or bad form while you were working on it. You won’t even be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had known your time would be up when it was finished—I think only poor Soren K. will get asked that. I’m so sure you’ll only get asked two questions. Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out? If only you knew how easy it would be for you to say yes to both questions. J.D. Salinger TC mark

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