When an author is too meticulous about his style, you may presume that his mind is frivolous and his content flimsy.
—Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) (c.4 BCE–65 CE) Roman Stoic Philosopher, Statesman, Tragedian
Nothing so fretful, so despicable as a Scribbler, see what I am, and what a parcel of Scoundrels I have brought about my ears, and what language I have been obliged to treat them with to deal with them in their own way;—all this comes of Authorship.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
Writing is a question of finding a certain rhythm. I compare it to the rhythms of jazz. Much of the time life is a sort of rhythmic progression of three characters. If one tells oneself that life is like that, one feels it less arbitrary.
—Francoise Sagan (1935–2004) French Novelist, Playwright, Short-Story Writer
The only way out is the way through, just as you cannot escape from death except by dying. Being unable to write, you must examine in writing this being unable, which becomes for the present—henceforth?—the subject to which you are condemned.
—Howard Nemerov (1920–91) American Poet, Novelist, Playwright
A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
—Richard Bach (b.1936) American Novelist, Aviator
Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
—William Wordsworth (1770–1850) English Poet
Ten censure wrong, for one that writes amiss.
—Alexander Pope (1688–1744) English Poet
Analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home.
—Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) Austrian Psychiatrist, Psychoanalytic
Writers like teeth are divided into incisors and grinders.
—Walter Bagehot (1826–77) English Economist, Journalist
I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.
—Ken Kesey (1935–2001) American Novelist, Essayist, Short Story Writer
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.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist
Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.
—Ezra Pound (1885-1972) American Poet, Translator, Critic
For me, writing is the only thing that passes the three tests of metier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening.
—Gloria Steinem (b.1934) American Feminist, Journalist, Social Activist, Political Activist
Most bad books get that way because their authors are engaged in trying to justify themselves. If a vain author is an alcoholic, then the most sympathetically portrayed character in his book will be an alcoholic. This sort of thing is very boring for outsiders.
—Stephen Vizinczey (1933–2021) Hungarian-Canadian Writer
You who write, choose a subject suited to your abilities and think long and hard on what your powers are equal to and what they are unable to perform.
—Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) (65–8 BCE) Roman Poet
The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
—John Steinbeck (1902–68) American Novelist, Short Story Writer, Journalist
To note an artist’s limitations is but to define his talent. A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to his view, but a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.
—Willa Cather (1873–1947) American Novelist, Writer
After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.
—Henry Miller (1891–1980) American Novelist
Writing is simple. First you have to make sure you have plenty of paper… sharp pencils… typewriter ribbon. Then put your belly up to your desk… roll a sheet of paper into the typewriter… and stare at it until beads of blood appear on your forehead.
People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them that I have the heart of a small boy—and I keep it in a jar on my desk.
—Stephen King (b.1947) American Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Screenwriter, Columnist, Film Director
Habits in writing as in life are only useful if they are broken as soon as they cease to be advantageous.
—W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.
—Mark Twain (1835–1910) American Humorist
A book should be luminous not voluminous.
—Christian Nestell Bovee (1820–1904) American Writer, Aphorist
The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession.
—George Sand (1804–76) French Novelist, Dramatist
Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.
—Leo Rosten (1908–97) Russian-born American Humorist, Teacher, Academic, Short Story Writer
Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.
—Oliver Herford (1863–1935) American Writer, Artist, Illustrator
For a country to have a great writer is like having another government. That’s why no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) Russian Dissident Novelist
Nowadays three witty turns of phrase and a lie make a writer.
—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–99) German Philosopher, Physicist
Style and Structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.
—Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) Russian-born American Novelist
I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.
—D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) English Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Essayist, Literary Critic