Another Tuesday, another Top Ten. These all come from books that I HIGHLY recommend, especially to the artists and writers among us – I could have easily found ten great quotes on writing in each of the books listed below, but what’s the fun in that?
I hope you will excuse the fact that my favorite writing book of all time is allowed two quotes (and the fact that the bold emphasis in every case has been added by me).
10. “…Churchill said hyphens were “a blemish, to be avoided wherever possible”. Yet there will always be a problem about getting rid of the hyphen: if it’s not extra-marital sex (with a hyphen) it is perhaps extra marital sex, which is quite a different bunch of coconuts.” Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (the title of this book cannot be fully appreciated unless you see the cover, graced by the picture of a panda bear climbing a ladder to paint over the comma)
9. “Only writers, it seems, expect to achieve some level of mastery without practice.” Stein On Writing by Sol Stein
8. “Several delusions weaken the writer’s resolve to throw away work. If he has read his pages too often, those pages will have a necessary quality, the ring of the inevitable, like poetry known by heart; they will perfectly answer their own familiar rhythms.” The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
7. “When a shoddy novel is published the writer is rejecting the obedient response, taking the easy way out. But when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening. And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand.” Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle
6. “My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.” Working Days (the journal John Steinbeck kept while writing Grapes of Wrath)
5. “Other than recommending quantities of red wine and garlic, I am without advice. The closest I can come is, Don’t do it unless you’re willing to give up your entire life.” A quote by Jim Harrison in the book Why I Write, edited by Will Blythe
4. “This book will be the most difficult of all I have ever attempted. Whether I am good enough or gifted enough remains to be seen. I do have a good background. I have love and I have had pain. I still have anger but I can find no bitterness in myself…I think perhaps it is the only book I have ever written. I think there is only one book to a man. It is true that a man may change or be so warped that he becomes another man and has nother book but I do not think that is so with me.” Journal of a Novel, the journal Steinbeck kept while writing East of Eden
3. “The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are…But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.” Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
2. “It is the artist who, more than other men, is able to create something out of nothing. A whole artistic work is immeasurably more than the sum of its parts.” The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers
1. “Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.” Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
So what are some of your favorite quotes regarding writing?