Tasty morsels from the masters

Helga’s Post # 14 — Maybe it’s the start of a new year that comes with the usual resolutions for improvement of one’s body and mind. Maybe it’s because the days are getting longer, or whatever. I feel a renewed energy in my writing, and a new focus. A subtle shift from writing primarily to a deadline, to writing a good story. (I tried to do both, but found I could only serve one master). With that in mind, I dug up some quotes from famous authors and tutors on the craft of writing. You are likely familiar with some, but collectively they are tongue-in-cheek fun. Enjoy the wisdom of these masters as we stand on their shoulders.

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written”. ―Robert Hass


Pablo Neruda’s bench in Valparaiso

“While I’m writing, I’m far away;and when I come back, I’ve gone.” ― Pablo Neruda

“You know what I did after I wrote my first novel? I shut up and wrote twenty-three more.” ― Michael Connelly

“I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.” ― Nora Roberts

“A blank page is no empty space. It is brimming with potential… It is a masterpiece in waiting — yours.” ― A.A. Patawaran

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” ― Stephen King

“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”
Ernest Hemingway

“The business of the novelist is not to relate great events, but to make small ones interesting.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer

“You need three things to become a successful novelist: talent, luck and discipline. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.” ― Michael Chabon

“Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“You are always naked when you start writing; you are always as if you had never written anything before; you are always a beginner. Shakespeare wrote without knowing he would become Shakespeare.” ― Erica Jong

“If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep anyone else up either.”
James M. Cain

“Humility is an essential quality in writers who want to write well.”
Margaret Jean Langstaff

“There are many rules of good writing, but the best way to find them is to be a good reader.”
Stephen E. Ambrose

“I always tell my writing students that every good piece of writing begins with both a mystery and a love story. And that every single sentence must be a poem. And that economy is the key to all good writing. And that every character has to have a secret.”
Silas House

“Remember that you don’t write a story because you have an idea but because you have a believable character.” ― Flannery O’Connor

“Storytellers don’t show, they tell. I’m sticking with that.” ― Ashly Lorenzana

“All good writers write [terrible first drafts.] This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. . . I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.” ―Anne Lamott

“I don’t know if you have had the same experience, but the snag I always come up against when I’m telling a story is this dashed difficult problem of where to begin it.”
P.G. Wodehouse

“You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.”
Margaret Atwood

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.” ― George Orwell, Why I Write

“And what about those [writers’ workshop] critiques, by the way? How valuable are they? Not very, in my experience, sorry. A lot of them are maddeningly vague. I love the feeling of Peter’s story, someone may say. It had something… a sense of I don’t know… there’s a loving kind of you know… I can’t exactly describe it….
It seems to occur to few of the attendees that if you have a feeling you just can’t describe, you might just be, I don’t know, kind of like, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong fucking class.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

The King

And on that note, Happy New Year and awesome writing that will knock their socks off!

9 thoughts on “Tasty morsels from the masters

  1. And then there’s:
    “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader”. Paul Gallico 1946

  2. Thanks for the inspiration (aka, kick in the ass), Helga! For my money, the pick of the litter among these wonderful quotes is Stephen King’s. I feel fortunate that this kind of vague, mushy critique has never been a problem in our 5 writers group! Our critiques are more like surgical strikes … or sometimes a clunk on the head with a blunt instrument!

    • I fear that clunk on the head with a blunt instrument – a very blunt one – will come soon enough! (and wailing and gnashing of teeth to follow come February 5)

  3. My favorites are Hemingway and King,but only because they’re practical. All of these quotes are gems. I’m going to print this out and tape it to the wall. I need this quality of guidance and inspiration.

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