Well Spoken

Sometimes it is best to let those who have already expressed ideas speak.  I have gathered some quotes that speak to me as a writer (and a creative) to share with you.

On some days writing can be devilishly difficult. Writers, I think, love to bemoan the fact that inspiration can be fleeting, ideas—at least good ones—can be far and few between. There are times when the energy is not there, times when the passion is sleeping, times when distractions invade, times when nothing works.  To that notion I offer these two quotes:

“Writing is a dreadful Labour, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.”
–Thomas Carlyle

“I am most drawn to writing when I have something else urgent to do.”
–Mason Cooley

A novel is in the neighborhood of 80,000 words, or maybe 350 pages. It may have taken you a year or more to write. The scope of a story may take place over several months, years or generations, or the plot might take place entirely in one day.  You took time to tweak, polish, market and schlep it around trying to generate interest in it and finally make it available.  I think that Natalie Clifford Barney got it right when she said:

“Novels are longer than life.”
— Natalie Clifford Barney

Truth and honesty are some popular words.  Write the truth. Be honest to yourself. George Orwell had a slightly different take:

“For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.”
–George Orwell

Nietzsche had a similar bent on Orwell’s thought and extended it to others:

“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

While truth, honesty, sincerity and spirit are all admirable qualities for a writer, Ernest Hemingway saw something completely different as being essential:

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector…all great writers have had it.”
–Ernest Hemingway

While, as noted earlier, Natalie Clifford Barney thought novels to be longer than life, Gertrude Stein felt writing was life:

“Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.”
— Gertrude Stein

As a writer and a visual artist I was also drawn to this quote about the art of writing

“… often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and colour. I have the painter’s sensitivity to light. Much (and perhaps the best) of my writing is verbal painting.”
–Elizabeth Bowen

I have talked about the inconsistencies of inspiration and her willingness to take flight.  I have found, though, that when she returns it is usually in the middle of the night and with plenty of noise and clatter.  An idea that hits at midnight must be committed to paper or it will rob me of precious sleep:

“Writing about an idea frees me of it. Thinking about it is a circle of repetitions.”
— Mason Cooley

Lastly one of my favorite quotes is an unattributed one but a good bit of advice:

“It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools.”

Whomever said that successfully admonishes us not to cast about for excuses for our own failings; rather own up to it and make it better. Speaking of improvement, certainly you can improve upon the few quotes I have assembled here.

Question: What is your favorite quote?  Whose words inspire you?

13 comments on “Well Spoken

  1. We seem to be on a wavelength here – I too have been finding some inspiration in quotes about writing recently (and a useful reminder that I am not the one who finds it devilishly hard at times). Some great examples here, thank you!

  2. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. W. Somerset Maugham

  3. Well said. I like the way you tied all the quotes together. Has anyone ever said?: I write–therefore I am. That kind of says it all.

  4. Truly lovely post good sir, some fantastic quotes in there that I’ve not seen before and have added to my list of ones worth remembering and sharing.

    As far as my favourites go, well I’ve got a loooong list, but a couple all-time loves that have been inspirations in their own:

    “Id rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief.”
    – Gary Spence

    “The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
    – Marcel Proust

    “The reward for conformity is that everyone everyone likes you except yourself.
    -Rita Mae Brown

    “You see things and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?'”
    – George Bernard Shaw

  5. Hey It’s greatto find a buch more quotes to those already whirling aroung in my head–I’m hoping to keep an open mind and view everything in a new way!

    • I found a lot of those at dictionary.com If you click on the quotes tab and enter a subject such as “writing” or “inspiration” or “creativity” you’ll get a bunch of quotes. It’s a great resource.

  6. Thanks for that hint–this is great!

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