Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quotes: Writing 01

Writing 01
The writer strives to achieve the permanence of the moment as it slips off into time.
Writer 116 [Elizabeth Peabody]: The writer’s animating principle: a need to fix the moment permanently in all its hard factuality--and the inevitable defeat as the moment slipped into time. Mellow, Hawthorne in His Times.

I worry that in writing about life I am not living it.
Writer 197 Trouble is I get distracted when I start to write stories—get afraid I’m doing it instead of living…. Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise.

I wish [a favorite writer] were here to put the event into perspective for me.
Writer xiii I wish he [Ted Browning] were here to put it in perspective for us. D. Thomas, Editor, The Kennett Paper. Browning, Notes from Turtle Creek.

The complexity of feelings that accompany writing.
Writer 19 [The writer]: Solitary, lonely, tired of himself, wrought up to an abnormal sensitiveness, he wrestles abominably with intolerable complexities—shadowy notions that refuse to reveal themselves clearly, doubts that torture, hesitations that damn. Mencken, Minority Report.

Writer’s block vividly described.
Writer 19 Worse, [the writer] must plod his way through many days when writing is impossible altogether—days of doldrums, of dead centers, of utter mental collapse. Mencken, Minority Report.

The writer’s credo: to set down life as he sees it.
Writer 113 I’d rather live on less and preserve the one duty of a sincere writer—to set down life as he sees it as gracefully as knows how. F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing.

The writer believes that what he thinks and sees is what all others think and see.
Writer 64 He [the scholar]...learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds. Emerson, The American Scholar.

Writing is a way of life, moving through life, shaping it and recording it, while expressing something of myself in what I write.
Writer 34 William Goyen: But still, it [writing] is simply a way of life before all other ways, a way to observe the world and to move through life, among human beings, and to record it all…and to shape it, to give it sense, and to express something of myself in it. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

As a writer, I am a student of my emotions.
Writer 760 …devoted epicure of my own emotions…. Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance.

As a writer, I unearth the secrets of my life and the lives of others, which are some times hidden even from ourselves.
Writer 772 …to appreciate that quality of the intellect and heart, which impelled me…to live in other lives, and to endeavor—by generous sympathies, by delicate intuitions, by taking note of things too slight for record, and by bringing my human spirit into manifold accordance with the companions whom God assigned me—to learn the secret which was hidden even from themselves? Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance.

Writer’s block is a loss of confidence.
Writer’s block 226 William Maxwell: I don’t think a writer’s block is anything more than a loss of confidence. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

The inner personality of a writer is different from his social personality.
Writers 288 Hiram Haydn: “The inner man of books and the outer one of social exchanges often do not resemble each other.” Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

The writer reports the spirit of life.
Writers 746 [The writer]…who is to report the doings of the miraculous spirit of life that everywhere throbs and works. Emerson, Representative Men, Goethe, or the Writer.

We need the writer who can put things into perspective.
Writers 748 Society has, at all times, the same want, namely, of one sane man with adequate powers of expression to hold up each object of monomania in its right relations. Emerson, Representative Men, Goethe, or the Writer.

How much less would be mankind without Milton, Shakespeare, Plato?
Writers 98 If you would know the power of character, see how much you would impoverish the world, if you could take clean out of history the lives of Milton, Shakespeare, and Plato...and cause them not to much less the power of man would be. Emerson, Literary Ethics.

Women writers’ depth in plumbing emotions is not a limitation, but a different way of looking at the world.
Writers 201 Edna O’Brien on women’s depth in plumbing emotions: It is not a limitation of talent or intelligence, it is just a different way of looking at the world. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Writers are like any other professionals who open their mouths on topics about which they know nothing.
Writers 304 John Barth: [Writers] are like good tennis players or good painters, who are just full of nonsense, pompous and embarrassing, or merely mistaken, when they open their mouths. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Writers continue in purgatory so long as their ideas cause those in the world to be mistaken.
Writers 503 I have seen some Roman Catholic authors, who tell us that vicious writers continue in purgatory so long as the influence of their writings continues upon posterity. Addison, 9/10/1711. The Spectator.

He’s a writer? Of what practical value is that? He might as well have been a fiddler.
Writers 127 [His ancestors discussing Hawthorne’s profession in life]: “A writer of story-books! What kind of business in life,--what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation—may that be?…might as well have been a fiddler!” Introductory: “The Custom House.” Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter.

Writing books often takes a considerable number of years.
Writing 341 The writing of this book has consumed much of the last ten years.... Blum, V Was for Victory

I couldn’t write anything until this came out with which I had nothing to do.
Writing 271 “Nothing that I tried to write would flow out of my pen, till a very little while ago--when forth came this sketch, of its own accord; and much unlike what I had proposed.” [Intro to Mosses of an Old Manse].

Thoreau on the lack of success of his first book: I have 900 volumes in my library, 700 of which are mine.
Writing 290 Thoreau on the failure of his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: Thoreau sardonically remarked that he had a “library of nearly 900 volumes, over 700 of which I wrote myself.” Mellow, Hawthorne in His Times.

Hawthorne thought about the possibilities of the story for over ten years before ever sitting down to write it.
Writing 303 That Hawthorn’s imagination had hovered over the possibilities of the story for a decade suggests the peculiar force the ideas held for him. Mellow, Hawthorne in His Times.

Students were assigned to write five essays a semester, each essay imitating the style of a different writer.
Writing 107 Students were required to compose at least five essays a semester, adopting the prose style of the figures assigned to them. Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

Eiseley always begins his essays with a personal anecdote.
Writing 201 Begins with the trademark personal anecdote. Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

He jotted a brief list of words, the essential ideas in the essay he wrote.
Writing 283 His outlines usually consisted of nothing more than a short list of words jotted in the left-hand margin, a habit acquired during his student days when timed examinations dictated an economy of style. Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

For Eiseley, the test of what he wrote was how it sounded to the ear.
Writing 284 For Eiseley, the ultimate test of word, sentence, and paragraph was not how they appeared on the printed page but how they played upon the ear. Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

Acting on ideas he had while in bed at night.
Writing 381 “...some of these poems have arisen out of dreams so powerful that I have literally leaped out of bed, dashed to my study, and written them down in almost a frenzy before they departed.” Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

Autobiography written as a series of vignettes.
Writing 425 Eiseley’s autobiography—plan: The special days and times are set down in sharply focused vignettes, like a sequence of still pictures recorded by electronic flash. Christianson, Fox at the Wood’s Edge: Loren Eiseley

Bill Gates thought writing a book would be like writing a speech.
Writing xiii I innocently imagined writing a chapter would be the equivalent of writing a speech. Gates, The Road Ahead.

In the future documents will include multimedia.
Writing 129 Even those who don’t aspire to becoming the next C.B. DeMille...will routinely include multimedia in the documents they construct every day. Gates, The Road Ahead.

The new technology will be new means to express oneself.
Writing 134 New technology will offer people a new means with which to express themselves. Gates, The Road Ahead.

How would the word processor have affected Winston Churchill’s writing?
Writing 137 A Luddite might ask, “If Churchill had used a word processor, would his writing have been better?” Gates, The Road Ahead.

The new technology has helped journalists work efficiently.
Writing 137 There have been great journalists through history, but today it’s much easier to check facts, transmit a story from the field, and stay in touch electronically with news sources, editors, and even readers. Gates, The Road Ahead.

Today interviews are often conducted by e-mail.
Writing 143 When John Seabook was writing an article about me for The New Yorker, he conducted his interview primarily on e-mail. Gates, The Road Ahead.

He researched his material like a historian, but wrote his book like a novel.
Writing 272 In researching the book, I employed methods normally used by professional historians, but in telling the story I have turned to narrative techniques usually associated with fiction. Childers, Wings of Morning.

He doesn’t write easily; he searches too much for big words.
Writing 48 ...because he [Darcy] does not write with ease...he studies too much for words of four syllables. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

I explain my ideas; I’m not giving advice.
Writing xxix Montaigne: “All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice.” Hoffer, The True Believer

Groups could offer outlines and alterations, but no group could produce the precision and unity JFK desired.
Writing 370 Groups of advisers could suggest outlines and alterations, and they could review drafts, but group authorship could not produce the continuity and precision of style he [Kennedy] desired or the unity of thought and argument he needed. Sorenson, Kennedy

In America, it is considered a flaw if a person’s writings admit of more than one interpretation.
Writing 581 …in this part of the world it is considered a ground for complaint if a man’s writings admit of more than one interpretation. Thoreau, Walden.

Say it short.
Writing 76 ...and if there is anything to say, to sit down and write a letter and say just what you must, in a short way.... Austen, Emma

The writer decides whether to make the chapter long or short.
Writing 126 Shall this be a long or a short chapter?—This is a question in which you, gentle reader, have no vote, however much you may be interested in the consequences…. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley.

The many processes of editing in publishing.
Writing 19 The editor: the skills of identifying authors, negotiating with agents, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of texts, guiding a manuscript through the politics and perils of a [publishing] house, and adding body English to its passage into the marketplace will continue to be important to publishing. Marc Aronson. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

Editors select manuscripts; publishers select editors.
Writing 23 You ask for the distinction between the terms “editor” and “publisher”: An editor selects manuscripts; a publisher selects editors. M. L. Schuster. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

How is your book coming? It’s finished. All I have to do is write it.
Writing 24 Learn patience—sympathetic patience, creative patience—so that you will not be dismayed when you ask an author how his new book is coming along, and he tells you: “It’s finished—all I have to do now is write it.” Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

People no longer care about grammatical precision.
Writing 31 Dolores Simon: …there simply isn’t the old interest in grammatical precision among young people any more. R. Curtis. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

If writing is weak it is because of weak thinking or weak structure.
Writing 154 Weak writing almost always indicates weak thinking or weak structure. Waxman, ML. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

Books are finished when authors say they will do no more.
Writing 239 A book is done when the author can say to me with absolute conviction: “This is how I want to say it, damn it, and I stand by my words.” Wolf, WM. Gross, ed. Editors on Editing.

When a book is full of big words, readers think it is full of weighty thoughts.
Writing 328 The individual in question, Mr. Theodosius, had written a pamphlet containing some very weighty considerations on the expediency of doing something or other; and as every sentence contained a good many words of four syllables, his admirers took it for granted that he meant a good deal. Dickens, Sketches by Boz.

Winthrop’s scientific writing began with some event in nature which could be observed in America.
Writing 245 About John Winthrop IV: Almost without exception [his scientific writings] arose from some particular and dramatic natural phenomenon or catastrophe--a lightning stroke, the tremor of an earthquake, the appearance of a comet, a lunar eclipse--which could be observed in America. Boorstin, The Americans: Colonial Experience

A detective story in which the clues are in italics.
Writing 192 In my youth I once read a French detective tale where the clues were actually in italics; but that is not McFate’s way--even if one does learn to recognize certain obscure indications. Nabokov, Lolita.

Much of everyday American writing is impenetrable.
Writing viii Much of what is written in everyday American life is cold, pompous and impenetrable. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Good writing keeps the reader reading whether he wants to or not.
Writing 5 Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Clutter in American writing overwhelms us with unnecessary words, circular constructions and meaningless jargon. [The author’s sentence is cluttered. Critics of other people’s English should remember to admit to making the same mistakes themselves, as Orwell did. What is the meaning of “circular constructions” and “pompous frills”?]
Writing 7 Clutter is the disease of American writing…a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

We inflate our language to sound important.
Writing 7 Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Writing 12 Good writing doesn’t come naturally. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Writing 13 A clear sentence is no accident. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Writing 19 Few people realize how badly they write. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Writing 21 A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

The most wishy-washy sentence, filled with qualifying words.
Writing 24 Elliot Richardson: “And yet, on balance, affirmative action has, I think, been a qualified success”…a thirteen-word sentence with five hedging words…give it first prize as the most wishy-washy sentence of the decade. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

The best way to learn to write is to produce a certain number of words daily.
Writing 53 The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Writing 54 Unity is the anchor of good writing. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Short paragraphs make reading easier for the reader.
Writing 111 Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas one long chunk of type can discourage the reader from even starting to read. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

He came alive when he wrote because he resolved his ideas and refreshed them.
Writing 109 He loved to write, came alive with a pen in his hand…wrote as he breathed, naturally, for writing resolved his ideas and refreshed them. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

When he wrote, he thought more clearly.
Writing 368 …he thought even more clearly with a pen in his hand…. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Virgil said not to publish until nine years after it was written.
Writing 481 Wasn’t it Virgil who had said that no man should publish his writings until nine years had passed? Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Everything Austen wrote was ready for publication, including notes and letters.
Writing 8 …she [Austen] never dispatched a note or letter unworthy of publication. [Biographical Notice] Austen, Northanger Abbey.

Jane Austen on the value of keeping a journal.
Writing 27 Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenor of your life without one; how are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal; how are your various dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, without having constant resource to a journal…it is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated; everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female; nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal. Austen, Northanger Abbey.

Writing about your experiences puts them in perspective.
Writing 425 On writing his book Life on the Run about his life as a professional basketball player: Having put that experience into perspective…. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

Writing helps to clarify your ideas.
Writing 425 The act of writing has always been a method of clarification for me, a way of getting down to how I really feel about an issue, a decision, a place, a person. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

When I wrote this book, I didn’t know how I would feel when I finished it.
Writing 425 When I started writing this book, I had no idea how I would feel at the end. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

Writing about your experiences in some ways completes them.
Writing 426 Thinking about events you have experienced, and developing perspective about them, in some ways completes them, and finding the words to express that perspective brings about a sense of closure. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

Writing 202 Voltaire: “Books rule the world.” . Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Voltaire.

Cannon killed the feudal system; ink will kill modern society.
Writing 202 Napoleon: the advent of cannon killed the feudal system; ink will kill the modern social organization. . Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Voltaire.

I have not the power of a king, but I have the power of the pen.
Writing 218 Voltaire: “I have no scepter, but I have a pen. . Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Voltaire.

He worked on his book for fifteen years.
Writing 265 And so he [Kant] persevered, through poverty and obscurity, sketching and writing and rewriting his magnum opus for almost fifteen years; finishing it only in 1781, when he was fifty-seven years old. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Kant.

When he completed his masterpiece, Schopenhauer received a total remuneration of ten free copies.
Writing 306 For this, the most readable of his works, and replete with wisdom and wit, Schopenhauer received, as his total remuneration, ten free copies. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Schopenhauer.

He reviewed his earlier books to show how the reviews should have been written.
Writing 359 In his [Spencer’s] Autobiography he writes reviews of his own early books to show how it should have been done. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Herbert Spencer.

No man is equal to his book.
Writing 398 Spencer: No man is equal to his book…the best products of his mental activity go into his book, where they come separated from the mass of inferior products with which they are mingled in his daily talk. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, Herbert Spencer.

Writing is a very physical and tactile act.
Writing 37 For me writing is an intensely physical and tactile act--kind of a deranged activity in which thinking, dreaming, writing, erasing, wadding are all bound up together. Browning, Notes from Turtle Creek.

He had to think about an idea for a week or so before writing about it.
Writing 38 One thing I found out early in the game was that there was no way I could simply walk up to that room after breakfast, think of something to write about and then just spit out in four or five hours...had to settle on an idea a week or so in advance and let it stew for a while. Browning, Notes from Turtle Creek.

Many writers feel as if they are taking dictation.
Writing 16 Malcolm Cowley: Instead of giving dictation, many writers seem to themselves to be taking it. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

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