Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writers (Disagreeing) on Writing

I love reading quotes on writing by writers. They’re not only experts on the subject matter, but they also tend to express things well.

Sometimes, though, they are just so very sure of themselves, able to make sweeping generalizations about everyone everywhere who adopts the title of “writer.” And often, there’s another writer who thinks the exact opposite. Here are a few contradictory bits of advice I’ve found recently.

On How Much You Should Enjoy Writing:

“Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth... But amusing? Never.”
— Edna Ferber

“Do you suffer when you write? I don't at all…I never feel as good as while writing.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
― George Orwell

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like child stringing beads in kindergarten, - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”
— Brenda Ueland

On Dialogue

“All the information you need can be given in dialogue.”
— Elmore Leonard

“Dialogue is a necessary evil.”
— Fred Zinnemann

(Actually, this one is cheating…it shows the difference between Leonard, a writer, and Zinnemann, a famous movie director. But I found that contrast interesting.)

On Inspiration

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”
― Ray Bradbury

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.”
Helen Hanson

“I never exactly made a book. It's rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say. ”
― C.S. Lewis

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
— Jack London

On Who Your Audience Should Be

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
― Cyril Connolly

“Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person-a real person you know, or an imagined person-and write to that one.”
John Steinbeck

"Know your audience, and then write to that audience."
—Every editorial/marketing/writing tip blog on the face of the planet

On Jane Austen

"My favorite writer is Jane Austen, and I've read all her books so many times I've lost count."
J. K. Rowling

"I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
― Mark Twain

"(Jane Austen's novels) appear to be compact of abject truth. Their events are excruciatingly unimportant; and yet, with Robinson Crusoe, they will probably outlast all Fielding, Scott, George Elliot, Thackeray, and Dickens. The art is so consummate that the secret is hidden; peer at them as hard as one may; shake them; take them apart; one cannot see how it is done."
Thornton Wilder

The Last Word

"If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves."
— Lillian Hellman

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