Monday, January 21, 2008

Quotes: Writing 02

Writing (Cont.)
The importance of a good title for a book.
Writing 32 E.M. Forster: Where Angels Fear to Tread should have been called “Monteriano,” but the publisher thought this wouldn’t sell. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Summing up complex problems is a creative act.
Writing 61 Joyce Cary: to sum up [complex problems] for action is an act of creative imagination. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Thurber had been rejected by The New Yorker twenty times before it accepted something.
Writing 83 Malcolm Cowley on James Thurber: …The New Yorker, which rejected him twenty times before accepting a short piece on a man caught in a revolving door. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Gertrude Stein said that writing was simply telling what you know.
Writing 118 Thornton Wilder: Gertrude Stein once said laughingly that writing is merely ‘telling what you know.’ Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Faulkner: If I hadn’t existed someone else would have written what I wrote.
Writing 122 Faulkner: If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoevski, all of us. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Writing 133 Faulkner: A writer needs three things, experience, observation and imagination. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

In constructing characters, the writer is trying to find himself.
Writing 147 Simenon: Every writer tries to find himself through his characters, through all his writing. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Stories choose their writers.
Writing 195 RP Warren: You don’t choose a story, it chooses you. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Writers observe; they don’t really live.
Writing 241 N. Algren: I mean, a writer doesn’t really live, he observes. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

People often talk out books they plan to write and then can’t write them; the act of communication has been completed.
Writing 266 Angus Wilson: …so many people have talked out to me books they would otherwise have written; once you have talked, the act of communication has been made. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Writing 271 Wm. Styron: …writing is hell. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Setting a schedule for writing, 2 hours a day, for example, you tend to write very fast.
Writing 305 F. Sagan: When you make a decision to write according to a set schedule [two hours a day in her case] and really stick to it, you find yourself writing very fast. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Having read Tolstoi, Dostoevski and Shakespeare, I recognize my limitations.
Writing 308 F. Sagan: I recognize limitations in the sense that I’ve read Tolstoi and Dostoevski and Shakespeare. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

Writers write what interests them and hope their readers will also be interested.
Writing 14 Ira Wolfert: All writers write what interests them and hope it will interest others. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

You write to try to understand something.
Writing 28 John Hersey: [Why write?] A search for understanding. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

I have had enough rejection slips to wall paper four or five rooms.
Writing 39 Ann Petry: I have collected enough rejection slips for my short stories to paper four or five good sized rooms. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

There is a time to shut off the inner censor, the tendency to stop until you have the right word.
Writing 88 Jacques Barzun: It is…important not to let the vigilant censor within freeze everything…that sudden stoppage due to the lack of the right word. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

If you don’t have a good story to tell and the passionate desire to tell it, nothing will help you to publish.
Writing 127 Paul Gallico: If you haven’t a fine story to tell and do not believe passionately in the need for your telling it, not all the textbooks in the world, or the gathered wisdom of the ages will help you to make a sale. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

You cannot tell others how to write, but a number of writers tell how they write.
Writing 157 M.D. Orr: No one can tell another how to write; [however,] I have listened to many teachers of writing as well as professional writers tell how they write…. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

When asked how he finds plots for writing murder mysteries, he said he thinks of someone he hates and he creates a plot around how to kill him.
Writing 162 M.D. Orr: A psychology professor asked me some time ago how I got the plots for my…murder mysteries [and] I promptly told him with a straight face, that whenever I hated a person enough actually to kill him, I relieved the impulse by putting him into a story and plotting a death commensurate with my dislike for him. Hull, ed. The Writer’s Book.

My life consists of a desire to write vs. the struggle against elements trying to keep me from writing.
Writing xi Fitzgerald: The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it. Foreword. Quoted by Charles Scribner III. F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing.

You write because you have something you must say.
Writing 72 You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say. F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing.

Facing sharpened pencils and legal pads, I feel utter helplessness.
Writing 126 Yet even now when…I sit down facing my sharpened pencils and block of legal-sized paper, I have a feeling of utter helplessness. F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing.

I had to chase over much of London to verify the accuracy of a fact, which gained me no praise but would have aroused criticism if it had been inaccurate.
Writing xvii Let me observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit. Advertisement to the First Edition. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

There is a selection of words that perfectly expresses an idea.
Writing 178 Johnson: We have here an example of what has been often said, and I believe with justice, that there is for every thought a certain nice adaptation of words which none other could equal, and which, when a [writer] has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular case, the perfection of language. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

Dr. Johnson could never persevere in keeping a journal.
Writing 457 He [Johnson] told me that he had twelve or fourteen times attempted to keep a journal of his life but never could persevere. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

Read what you have written and if you find a passage that you think is particularly well written, strike it out.
Writing 470 Johnson: I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: “Read over your compositions, and whenever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

Skill in writing will mean nothing if you have nothing to say.
Writing 1148 Literary accomplishments, skill in grammar and rhetoric, knowledge of books, can never atone for the want of things which demand voice. Emerson, Uncollected Prose.

Writing 756 Talent alone can not make a writer. Emerson, Representative Men, Goethe, or the Writer.

When I read about topics, I think there is nothing else to say, but when I experience the topic, I know that nothing has yet been said about it.
Writing 102 Whilst I read the poets, I think that nothing new can be said about morning and evening...but when I see the daybreak...I feel the pain of an alien world, a world not yet subdued by thought. Emerson, Literary Ethics.

When you write to yourself, you are writing to the public.
Writing 316 He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public. Emerson, Spiritual Laws.

The only thing worth publishing is that which you have had the curiosity to learn about.
Writing 316 That statement only is fit to be made public, which you have come at in attempting to satisfy your own curiosity. Emerson, Spiritual Laws.
Writing 483 All writing comes by the grace of God…. Emerson, Experience.

Plays have become copycat; no one will buy them unless they are like the rest of the plays being presented.
Writing 483 It is not the fault of the poets who write them, [plays] for some of them recognize where they go astray and know extremely well what they ought to do, but as plays have become a marketable commodity, they say, and say rightly, that the managers would not buy them if they were not of the usual kind. [RFS: Applies to TV today?] Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote of La Mancha. Part One: 1605.

Since your purpose is clear, say it plainly and don’t insert quotes.
Writing 47 His friend to Cervantes, quoted in the Prologue: And since this book of yours aims at nothing more than to destroy the authority and influence that books of chivalry have in the world and among the masses, you have no business to go begging for sentences from philosophers, maxims from Holy Writ, fables from poets, speeches from orators, or miracles from saints, but simply to see to it that your sentences are couched in plain, expressive and well-ordered words, your periods harmonious and lively, setting forth to the best of your ability your intention and explaining your ideas without being intricate or obscure. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote of La Mancha, Part 1: 1605.

The ultimate in using unnecessarily repeated words to hide meaning.
Writing 57 …when he read of those courtships and letters of challenge that knights sent to ladies, often containing expressions such as: “The reason for your unreasonable treatment of my reason so enfeebles my reason that I have reason to complain of your beauty”…bewildered the poor gentleman’s understanding for he racked his brain day and night to unbowel their meaning. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote of La Mancha, Part 1: 1605.

He refused to write on clichéd topics, instead scolding the College Board for not providing topics that were significant.
Writing 52 He [McGeorge Bundy] refused to answer either of two English essay questions: “How did you spend your summer vacation?” and “My Favorite Pet”…instead…writing an essay attacking the themes as meaningless and the college board people for having chosen such foolish and irrelevant subjects when there were so many great issues before Americans in today’s world. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest

When you write in the field of politics, you must keep your emotions in check and avoid preaching.
Writing 300 John Dos Passos: A writer in this field [politics] should be both engaged and disengaged…must have passion and concern and anger—but he must keep his emotions at arm’s length in his work[;] if he doesn’t, he’s simply a propagandist and what he offers is a “preachment.” Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

You can’t teach style.
Writing 186 E.B. White [of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, which he co-wrote]: I don’t think [style] can be taught. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

We are all always learning to write.
Writing 101 Hemingway: We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Plimpton, ed. The Writer’s Chapbook

Montaigne wrote in the same manner as he thought through his ideas.
Writing xxxiii Often a sentence rambles on, idea suggesting idea, and clause added to clause, and then suddenly returns to the original thought…wanted the style of the essays to convey an impression of the movement of the writer’s thought. Introduction by Blanchard Bates: Montaigne, Selected Essays.

The ancients borrowed whole passages and included them in their works.
Writing 15 The philosopher Chrysippus mixed into his books not only passages but entire works of other authors…and Apollodorus said that should you cut out of his writings all that was not his own, his paper should be left blank. Montaigne, Selected Essays.

When we put our stupidities in print, we make them look respectable.
Writing 558 We dignify our stupidities when we put them in print. Montaigne, Selected Essays.

Writing reports like driving and love-making is one of those things that everyone thinks he can do well without any instruction from others.
Writing 49 Report writing, like motor-car driving and love-making, is one of those activities which almost every Englishman thinks he can do well without instruction [with]…results…usually abominable. Margerison. A Random Walk in Science.

Authors often addressed their readers directly.
Writing 853 Preface: The antique fashion of prefaces recognized this genial personage as the “Kind Reader,” the “Gentle Reader,” the “Beloved,” the “Indulgent,” or at coldest, the “Honored Reader,” to whom the prim old author was wont to make his preliminary explanations and apologies.... Hawthorne, The Marble Faun.

Schweitzer carried thoughts in his head for years before attempting to write them down.
Writing 136 Albert Schweitzer: Some of my thoughts I had to carry for years in my head before I found time to put them on paper. Anderson, The Schweitzer Album.

Writers write wherever they can regardless of obstacles to concentration.
Writing 141 He [Schweitzer] writes wherever and whenever he can, in hotels, railroad stations, automobiles, restaurants.... Anderson, The Schweitzer Album.

Unlike other writers, Sevareid had to see his ideas on paper to know that they were expressed effectively.
Writing 178 I had to write my broadcasts down on paper myself and could judge their effectiveness only if they looked right on paper. Sevareid, Not So Wild A Dream.

He wrote fluently as if taking dictation and wondered that God would want someone like himself transmit His ideas.
Writing 312 …he wrote with such an impulsive flow of thought and emotion, that he fancied himself inspired; and only wondered that Heaven should see fit to transmit the grand and solemn music of its oracles through so foul an organ pipe as he. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter.

In crossing out adverbs, he had to use phrases that lengthened and interrupted the flow of text.
Writing 88 Many of Justice [Anthony] Kennedy’s orotund constructions, according to clerks, result from his insistence on removing adverbs from draft opinions; he will cross out the word “quickly,” for example, and substitute “with great speed.” Jeffrey Rosen, “Annals of Law: The Agonizer.” The New Yorker, November 1996.

A poetic way of saying, “He wrote a play.”
Writing 332 Servant: I was going to say he is going to lay/ The stocks and the scaffolds for building a play/ And neatly he hews them, and sweetly he glues them,/ And a proverb he takes, and an epithet makes,/ And he molds a most waxen and delicate song…. Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae.

He compresses many ideas into few words.
Writing 336 Euripides: A wise man, Agathon, compacts his words,/ And many thoughts compresses into few. Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae.

My prologues gave immediately an outline of the play.
Writing 398 Euripides: My prologues never were confused, abrupt, and desultory,/ But gave at once the pedigree, the outline of the story. Aristophanes, Frogs.

That’s a rather abrupt way of ending your letter.
Writing 454 ‘That’s rather a sudden pull up, ain’t it Sammy?’ inquired Mr. Weller. Dickens, Pickwick.

Writing and dictation 113 Dictated sentences tend to be pompous, sloppy and redundant. Zinsser, On Writing Well.

A writer will read half a library in order to write one book.
Writing and Research 545 The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. Boswell, Life of Johnson, Vol. 1.

Writers borrow the techniques of the movies.
Writing and the media 293 Capote: I think most of the younger writers have learned and borrowed from the visual, structural side of movie techniques. Cowley, ed., Writers at Work.

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