No matter how intense or honest or pure our desire to become a writer it ultimately comes down to having talent, developing your particular level of talent, or giving up. And it doesn’t matter what the public is reading, what Oprah is recommending, or how you feel.
If you are a writer you’ll start writing that book and you’ll finish it. Then whether it sells or not—whether it’s published or not—you’ll finish another.
If you don’t you’re not a writer.
This isn’t a particularly comfortable or encouraging proposition and the fact that it might result in a lifetime of toil that ends in debt and obscurity doesn’t, however unfair, make it any less true. When I seriously considered quitting writing I realized the crater left behind could never be filled with familial bliss, money, Irish whiskey, or vacations. In the end it doesn’t matter if my books are bestsellers or any-kind-of-sellers; it only matters that they be written.
Anything less would be a waste of my life.
God help me, I’m a writer.
And, God help me again, reading little nuggets of wisdom from other writers are sometimes the only thing that gets me to scribble another word, sentence, or paragraph.
Pathetic, but here are 22 of my favorites.
There are no rules to writing, but if there were, caring would be right up there. Or, as we intellectuals are fond of saying, you had better give a shit.
Writing is a job. Do it well and it is a great life. Mess around and its disappointments will kill you.
If you haven’t always been doing it, you haven’t always wanted to do it.
—George V. Higgins
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
The state that you need to write is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of.
In today’s book market, writers can’t just be writers. They have to be performers and publicists as well. The image of the lonely writer honing his or her art is fast becoming outdated. What’s demanded instead is something else: a hook, a smile, a shoeshine.
A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard—by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.
You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can’t be a way of life; the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.
But I discovered when I was very young, before I was in my teens, that nothing could so quickly cast doubt on, and even destroy, an author’s character’s as bad dialog. If the people did not talk right, they were not real people. The closer to real talk, the closer to real people….A man or woman who does not write good dialog is not a first-rate writer.
What interests one in a novel…is the quantity of glimpsed detail, the asides and the incidents along the way; not the over-all turn of events or the holocaust at the close or the happy ending.
Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject. Write about it by day and dream about it at night.
The price we pay for money is paid in liberty.
Poets don’t write to be understood.
If your morals make you dreary, depend on it, they are wrong.
For me, words are a form of action capable of influencing change.
A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.
That some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.
—James Kern Feibleman
Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with knowledge of their timelessness.
A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.
The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions—none more so than the most capable.
The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our faculty with language.
—J. Michael Stracynski
Every man’s memory is his private literature.
What are some of your favorite writing quotes? Please share them here.
JOKE OF THE DAY
A lawyer, riding in the back of a stretch limousine, saw two men eating grass by the side of the road. He ordered his driver to stop. The lawyer got out and asked, “Why are you eating grass?”
“We ain’t got no money for food.”
“You can come with me to my house for something to eat,” said the lawyer.
“But I got me a wife and three kids.”
“Bring them along,” said the lawyer.
“But what about my friend?”
“He can come with us too,” said the lawyer.
“But he’s got a wife and six kids.”
“Bring them all. I’ll send my limo to pick you up.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”
“Glad to do it. You’re gonna love my place. The fucking grass is about a foot tall.”