Archive for the ‘quotes about writing’ Category

Amy Hempel, on writing

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing, reading, storytelling, words, writing on January 27, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Not so much a piece of advice as a question to keep in mind, which is the most basic of questions: Why are you telling me this? Someone out there will be asking, and you better have a very compelling answer, or reason.

There are people who have been raised by loving parents to believe that the world awaits their every thought and sentence, and I’m not one of them. So I respond to that. Is this essential?

The question might be, Is this something only you can say—or, only you can say it this way? Is this going to make anyone’s life better, or make anyone’s day better? And I don’t mean the writer’s day.

~ Wise words from an interview with Amy Hempel that I came across online years ago

#writerspace ~ Hemingway’s Key West studio


‘At its worst, it feels like alligator wrestling…’

In quotes about writing, writing on January 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Many years ago, I stumbled across an archive of essays written for the New York Times by a series of revered writers; I printed one by Annie Dillard that I especially loved and put it in a writing notebook.

I made a decision in the final days of 2012 to finally polish up my children’s novel manuscript and see if it has ‘legs.’ Coming across the essay again on the first “work day” of 2013 somehow seems meant to be.

A few excerpts of the Dillard essay:

The sensation of writing a book is the sensation of spinning, blinded by love and daring. It is the sensation of a stunt pilot’s turning barrel rolls, or an inchworm’s blind rearing from a stem in search of a route. At its worst, it feels like alligator wrestling, at the level of the sentence.


Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.


Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?


Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

‘Every book is a miracle.’

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing, reading on July 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

‘Every book is a miracle,’ Bill said. ‘Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly – and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake – and tried to tell the rest of us a story.’

Bud could talk ceaselessly  about the hope of books, the promise of books. He said it was no accident that a book opened like a door. Also, he said, intuiting one of my neuroses, I could use books to put order to chaos. 

~ from The Tender Bar, by JR Moehringer

“learning what to leave out …”

In quotes about writing, writing on May 31, 2012 at 11:31 am

You come by your style by learning what to leave out. At first you tend to overwrite — embellishment instead of insight. You either  continue to write puerile bilge, or you change. In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice.


(spotted on Twitter, courtesy of ‘Advice to Writers’)

How Joyce Carol Oates’ characters come to life

In quotes about writing, writing on May 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Joyce Carol Oates on writing:
“I don’t have any formal writing habits. Most of the time I do nothing, and the fact of time passing so relentlessly is a source of anguish to me. There are not enough hours in the day. Yet I waste most of my time, in daydreaming, in drawing faces on pieces of paper…

“When I’m with people I often fall into a kind of waking sleep, a daydreaming about the people, the strangers, who are to be the ‘characters’ in a story or a novel I will be writing … At times my head seems crowded; there is a kind of pressure inside it, almost a frightening physical sense of confusion, fullness, dizziness. Strange people appear in my thoughts and define themselves slowly to me: first their faces, then their personalities and quirks and personal histories, then their relationships to other people, who very slowly appear … I try to put this all together, working very slowly, never hurrying the process. I can’t hurry it any more than I can prevent it.”

~ Quotation included in The Writer’s Desk, a wonderful 2006 calendar from Jill Krementz featuring photos of writers in their writing spaces, paired with quotations; I’ve never thrown this calendar away.

‘I want to write something so simply’ ~ Mary Oliver

In lines worth underlining, quotes about writing on March 14, 2012 at 12:45 am

I stumbled across this poem last year and thought how often I’ve had that sensation when reading books that truly spoke to me: ‘How did he/she get inside my head to write this?’

I want to write something so simply :: mary oliver

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

Bellow: ‘stillness in the midst of chaos’

In quotes about writing, writing on September 24, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.

~ Saul Bellow

Over the past few years – which have been at turns stormy, chaotic and/or distracted – I have had this quote in the front of my notebook and tacked to the wall in my office. I found it years ago in a calendar featuring photographs of acclaimed writers in their work spaces; these words accompanied a photo of Saul Bellow standing serenely in front of what appears to be a drafting table in a room filled with natural light.

When I see the photo and words, it reminds me what a gift it is to be able to step away from the chaos and write.

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