11 April 2016

Quote Unquote


by Susan Rogers Cooper

I was recently in the market for a good quote for a talk I was asked to give. So I started doing my research and found more than I bargained for. Unfortunately I can't bombard my listeners with all the great quotes I found, so, instead, I intend to bombard the reader. Go forth at your own risk.

On the act of writing:

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”
Colette

“I've always believed in writing without a collaborator, because when two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.”
Agatha Christie

“Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”
Lillian Hellman

“All books are either dreams or swords. You can cut or you can drug with words.”
Amy Lowell

“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But far better to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
Katherine Mansfield

“The difference between a story and a painting or photograph is that in a story you can write, 'He's still alive.' But in a painting or a photo you can't show “still.” You can just show him being alive.”
Susan Sontag

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”
Oscar Wilde

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
Mary Heaton Vorse
*Note: I have also seen this quote attributed to Ernest Hemmingway.

“Writing a book is like scrubbing an elephant: there's no good place to begin or end, and it's hard to keep track of what you've already covered.”
Anon.

“The answers you get from literature depend upon the questions you pose.”
Margaret Atwood

On the consequences of writing:

“It is rarely that you see an American writer who is not hopelessly sane.”
Margaret Anderson

“I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could expect to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book.”
Lydia M. Child

“A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public with his pants down.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

On the opinions of others:

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
Dorothy Parker

“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”
Sylvia Plath

“The more sins you confess, the more books you will sell.”
Anon.

On criticism:

“There is probably no hell for authors in the next world – they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.”
C.N. Bovee

“What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.”
Logan Pearsall Smith

“Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.”
Logan Pearsall Smith

“Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not critics to their judgment too?”
Alexander Pope

“Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense.”
Samuel Johnson

“People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.”
W. Somerset Maugham

What are some of your favorite quotes about writing, authors, books, criticism, etc.?  Maybe that's something we all, we writers, can reach for -- to be quoted some day.  Would that be cool, or what?

9 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

Oh, ow. Sylvia Plath wounds.

Susan, that’s a wonderful collection of quotations, although Somerset Maugham’s only repeating what every writer since Cro-Magnons have said.

Anonymous said...

Here are a few I saved and periodically feed my soul on, from Ray Bradbury:
"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."
"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for."
"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."
And then the one that I suppose "tests" if you've done the one above:
"I sometimes get up at night when I can't sleep and walk down into my library and open one of my books and read a paragraph and say, 'My God, did I write that?'"

janice law said...

Great quotes!

Eve Fisher said...

Those are some great quotes. Dorothy Parker is endlessly quotable:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are 'cheque enclosed'.”

Robert Lopresti said...

Susan, I am a quote junkie, so I loved these. Here are some more:

“Novel finished. I re-enter life.” Georges Simenon

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” - Louis L’Amour.

"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there." -Thomas Berger

"It’s not real because it’s real. It’s real because I made it up.” - Walter Mosley.

"Writing well is the best revenge." -Sylvia Tyson

"A writer who claims to have a small ego is either not telling the truth, or lying." -William DeAndrea

"While writing my novel in the library I felt a strange kinship to the man at the next desk who was talking to fictional characters." -John Hart

More here: http://unfamq.zohosites.com/writers.html

B.K. Stevens said...

My all-time favorite piece of advice for writers comes from "The Art of Fiction" by Henry James: "Try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost!"

Jan Grape said...

Fun article, Susan. I hadn't hesrd a few of these, but a few were familiar. Amazing to read this many quotes about writing from so many famous authors.

David Edgerley Gates said...

"Leave out the parts readers will only skip." Dutch Leonard (also Sir Walter Scott)

Leigh Lundin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.