12 April, 2013

Quotable Friday (6)

I love reading quotations. Whether they’re funny, wise or poignant, I love those snapshots into the human mind; I love the beauty of language. There aren’t always easy ways to crowbar great passages from novels or thoughtful quotations into ordinary blog posts, so on Fridays I’m letting them speak for themselves.

Today I'm doing something a little different. Instead of one quotation, here is a selection I've come across over the years about the art of writing itself.

My favourite, from a letter written by John Steinbeck: "If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes but by no means always find the way to do it."

From Sebastian Faulks On Fiction: "A child first marvels at the invention of a story; he doesn’t ask who Rumpelstiltskin was modelled on; he just loves it that a wishing chair can fly or animals can talk. In adult fiction, the element of wonder has somehow been lost; some readers seem to find it frightening to think a writer can conjure people, scenes and feelings from a void. Yet to me that is a novelist’s single saleable skill, his USP."

This one from Robert A. Heinlein makes me laugh: "Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

Something rather sweet, from, Pulitzer Prize winner, Jeffery Eugenides: "On their best days, writers all over the world are winning Pulitzers, all alone in their studios with no one watching."

And finally, some encouragement for those who feel inexpert sometimes, from W. Somerset Maugham: "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are."

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of quotations about writing. Which are your favourite?

[I wrote this post some days ago, then logged on this morning to find my wonderful fellow writer Derek Thompson has done a post on his blog today about some of the one-line thoughts on writing he's jotted down in his notebook over the years. Clearly it is a day to think about writing! Go check it out...]


  1. "Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others"

    By coincidence I found that on the day you posted this. It might not be about writing, but it is by a writer - Robert Louis Stevenson. I've come across several of his quotations over the years and he seems to have been a very wise man as well as a great writer!

    1. I'm intrigued by this one. I can't decide whether I agree with him totally or not. Though I definitely agree with sharing your courage, sharing your fears with someone you trust can go a long way to eliminating them (sometimes).

  2. And here's another one I found recently: Dr Johnson to Boswell, who was worrying about some not very important matter: "Consider, Sir, how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence. Were this consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations. I have tried it frequently, and with good effect.'

    1. That's very solid advice. When I'm getting caught up in a "big" decision, I try to think about how significant it will seem in some months or years to come.


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