A few weeks ago in this space I posted twenty-five rules for writers. There are more, of course, but as W. Somerset Maugham said, “no one knows what they are.”
Seriously, folks, I’m just getting started. I asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to send me their favorite quotes about writers and writing—not necessarily rules, but something memorable and, maybe, inspirational. I enjoyed the responses, so I thought I’d offer some of them here that are about words and writers (excluding any that were already listed in my “rules for writing” post, as some were, and drawing many from a collection Steve Laube has assembled). In a few weeks, I plan to share another list of quotes; that one will be about the writing and publishing process. And thanks to all who participated; your prize is in the mail.
- “A writer is a world trapped in a person” (Victor Hugo).
- “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” (Rudyard Kipling).
- “I like good words that mean something” (Louisa May Alcott).
- “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning” (Mark Twain).
- “Of your unspoken words you are the master; of your spoken word the servant; and of your written word the slave” (Quaker proverb).
- “People should be interested in books, not their authors” (Agatha Christie).
- “Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing” (Margaret Chittenden).
- “The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life or better to endue it” (Samuel Johnson).
- “Only a mediocre writer is always at his best” (W. Somerset Maugham).
- “It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous” (Robert Benchley).
- “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies” (William Faulkner).
- “Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear” (Ezra Pound).
- “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in a human situation” (Graham Greene).
- “Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good” (Samuel Johnson).
- “The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea” (Thomas Mann).
- “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: ‘His sins were scarlet, but his books were read’” (Hilaire Belloc).
- “Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge” (H. G. Wells).
- “Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away” (Clarence Darrow).
- “I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money” (Dorothy Parker).
- “For several days after my first book was published, I carried it about in my pocket and took surreptitious peeps at it to make sure the ink had not faded” (J. M. Barrie).
- “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft” (H. G. Wells).
- “Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power” (Joan Didion).
- “Whether we are describing a king, an assassin, a thief, an honest man, a prostitute, a nun, a young girl, or a stallholder in a market, it is always ourselves that we are describing” (Guy De Maupassant).
- “Writing energy is like anything else: The more you put in, the more you get out” (Richard Reeves).
- “There is no perfect time to write. There’s only now” (Barbara Kingsolver).
“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through, first from him, now from you,
is that all you blighters can do?”
– Eliza Doolittle
“Why can’t a woman be more like…a man?” (Henry Higgins). Oh, wait, that’s not about writing.
Why *can’t* that apply also to writing? After all, it’s a man who carried the lead in the publishing industry anyway… 😉 And God did write the very first words.
(…but a woman just added that personal touch… Please, no rotten tomatoes! :D)
Oh, Andrew, you made my whole day! Thank you so much! This sent me over the cliffs in laughter. Love it!!
Thanks, Tisha…I KNEW that someday memorizing the whole soundtrack from My Fair Lady would prove to be useful.
Katelyn S. Bolds
You should’ve written 25 ways to celebrate Bob’s birthday. But this was good too. 🙂
To be fair, Katelyn, people should know that already. It’s so easy. Send him a gift of books.
Question is, which books? 😉 21 Ways to Read Shakespeare?
A modern version of Agatha Christie’s number 6: It’s the plot, not the platform, that should matter. – Carol Ashby
I’ve heard of her. Agatha Christie, that is. 🙂
Favorites: 7, 13, and 25. Thanks, Bob. Laughing (not giggling) about # 7.
Sharon, me too, on #7!! Like hysterical laughter!
Love these! #20 made me laugh out loud, probably because I could see myself doing that very thing. 🙂
I love it, Bob!
My two favorites are fairly pedestrian, yet I find myself using them all the time to coach people in their write: (1) First we get it down; then we get it good. (2) Good writing is rewriting.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Solomon, in Prov. 16:24. A favorite proverb of mine that writers can relate to. Enjoyed reading through the collection. Thanks.
Here’s one of my own (if it’s OK to quote yourself), which I passed on to my daughter, who is a high school English literature teacher:
“A writers’ toolbox is their dictionary.”
Dan, thank you so much! NOW I remember where I left that darn dictionary!
I went from all the emotions of a rainbow and back:
“Aww!” (hand on chest)
“If only normal people knew!” (laughing)
“Oooh, that’s good!” (awestruck)
“Oh my gosh!” (laughing)
“How cute!” (smiling)
“Yeah, that’s right!” (nodding my head, and then getting to work)
A great, motivating list. Thanks to all who helped to put it together!
Brennan S. McPherson
“When words are many, sin is not absent.” -Proverbs 10:19
Guess it’s time to repent.
Rebekah Love Dorris
Here’s another for the favorites folder. What a treasure trove of meme fodder! Thanks, and happy birthday! God bless you with a great year.
Happy Birthday! I Love #5. It perfectly describes my tendency to procrastinate.
Happy belated birthday! Thank you for the list of quotes that left me chuckling and pondering.