On The Literary Life And Sundry Other Matters

"In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know i had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused."

- Ernest Hemingway

"No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who had ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted."

- W.H. Auden

"Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness."

- Georges Simenon

"Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name."

- Brian Aldiss

"Nothing so fretful, so despicable as a Scribbler, see what I am, & what a parcel of Scoundrels I have brought about my ears, & what language I have been obliged to treat them with to deal with them in their own way - all this comes of Authorship."

- George Gordon, Lord Byron

"If you write fiction you are, in a sense, corrupted. There's a tremendous corruptibility for the fiction writer because you're dealing mainly with sex and violence. These remain the basic themes, they're the basic themes of Shakespeare whether you like it or not."

- Anthony Burgess

"If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so."

- André Gide

"I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'"

- Saul Bellow

"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

- George Orwell

"No doubt I shall go on writing, stumbling across tundras of unmeaning, planting words like bloody flags in my wake. Loose ends, things unrelated, shifts, nightmare journeys, cities arrived at and left, meetings, desertions, betrayals, all manner of unions, adulteries, triumphs, defeats...these are the facts."

- Alexander Trocchi

"An artist is his own fault."

- John O'Hara

"This is what I find most encouraging about the writing trades: They allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane."

- Kurt Vonnegut

"Mine is a most peaceable disposition. My wishes are a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, He will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees."

- Heinrich Heine

"Seventeen publishers rejected the manuscript, at which time we knew we had something pretty hot."

- Kinky Friedman

"I was an amusing footnote that clawed its way to a paragraph."

- John Waters

"An editor is one who separates the wheat from the chaff and prints the chaff."

- Adlai Stevenson

"On balance, and taking everything into account, including the residual rights, the small notoriety, the sexual prerogatives occasionally available at conventions, the shelf of collected works and the feeling of accomplishment, not disregarding all of this but putting it into the balance, you would be better off going to law school...or if that is not your thing, becoming a temporary typist."

- Barry Malzberg

"Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure."

- Oliver Herford

"Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves - that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives - experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."

- Tom Waits

"I had a choice between righteous arrogance and hypocritical humility, and I chose righteous arrogance."

- Frank Lloyd Wright

"Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity."

- Gustave Flaubert

"There is no way of being a creative writer in America without being a loser."

- Nelson Algren

"I do think that the quality which makes a man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and is masochistic. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street."

- James Jones

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did."

- T.E. Lawrence

"Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway."

- Webb Chiles

"There are three reasons for becoming a writer: the first is that you need the money; the second, that you have something to say that you think the world should know; the third is that you can't think what to do with the long winter evenings."

- Quentin Crisp

"Life is a fern bar. Let's get outta here."

- Joe Bob Briggs

"If you are going to write, don't pretend to write it down. It's got to be the best you can do, and it's the fact that it is the best you can do that kills you."

- Dorothy Parker

"I alternate between violence and despair when I consider what faces anybody who wants to really write as well as he can."

- S.J. Perelman

"Modesty is an excuse for sloppiness, laziness, self-indugence; small ambitions evoke small efforts. I never knew a good writer who wasn't trying to be a great one."

- Stephen Vizinczey

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing."

- Benjamin Franklin

"I can think of little more arrogant than every artist's implicit assumption that his private fantasies and perceptions are worth another person's rapt attention."

- Lawrence Block

"As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers, so those with an irrational fear of life become publishers."

- Cyril Connolly

"If you were a member of Jesse James' band and people asked you what you were, you wouldn't say, 'Well, I'm a desperado.' You'd say something like, 'I work in banks,' or 'I've done some railroad work.' It took me a long time just to say 'I'm a writer.' It's really embarrassing."

- Roy Blount Jr.

"The physical business of writing is unpleasant to me, but the psychic satisfaction of discharging bad ideas in worse English makes me forget it."

- H.L. Mencken

"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."

- Kingsley Amis

"I could show you all society poisoned by this class of person - a class unknown to the ancients - who, not being able to find any honest occupation, be it manual, labor or service, and unluckily knowing how to read and write, become the brokers of literature, live on our works, steal our manuscripts, falsify them, and sell them."

- Voltaire

"How can you write if you can't cry?"

- Ring Lardner

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft."

- H.G. Wells

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

- Gene Fowler

"If you asked someone: 'Can you play the violin?' and he says: 'I don't know, I have not tried, perhaps I can,' you laugh at him. Whereas about writing, people always say: 'I don't know, I have not tried,' as though one had only to try and one would become a writer."

- Leo Tolstoy

"Our words must seem to be inevitable."

- William Butler Yeats

"It is too often with the Title of Books, as with those painted representations exhibited by the keepers of wild beasts; where, in general, the picture itself is made more striking and inviting to the eye, than the enclosed animal is always found to be."

- Isaac Disraeli

"There is probably no hell for authors in the next world - they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this."

- Christian Bovee

"The life of writing has always been...a bitter business. It is notoriously accompanied, for those who write well, by poverty and contempt; or by fatuity and wealth for those who write ill."

- Hilaire Belloc

"The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who write know anything."

- Walter Bagehot

"Paranoia and common sense come together as the world goes insane."

- Norman Mailer

"Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile."

- Sinclair Lewis

"Everywhere I go, I'm asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."

- Flannery O'Connor

"Hard work is damn near as overrated as monogamy."

-Huey Long

"I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances."

- John Steinbeck

"A writer is a controlled schizophrenic."

-Edward Albee

"An author, like any other so-called artist, is a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in. His over-powering impulse is to gyrate before his fellow men, flapping his wings and emitting defiant yells. This being forbidden by the police of all civilized nations, he takes it out by putting his yells on paper. Such is the thing called self-expression."

- H.L. Mencken

"You don't write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery."

- Nelson Algren

"Writers...as a class have distinguished themselves as barroom brawlers, drawing-room wolves, breakers of engagements, defaulters of debts, crying drunks, and suicidal maniacs."

- Malcolm Cowley