The difficult work of writing

About poetry

Writing fiction

Writing for children


“The natural state of all writing is mediocrity.
It's all tending toward mediocrity in the same way that all atoms are sort of dissipating out toward the expanse of the universe
...So what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such an act of will.”
Ira Glass 

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

 “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should ... be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent ... and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
Pico Iyer

“Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.”
Iris Murdoch 

“I don't know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story.
They're the only thing we have that can trump life itself.”
Colum McCann

“A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn't telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome.”
John Steinbeck

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. [And] sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled.”
Dean Koontz

 “Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”
Rod Serling

 “The aim of literature ... is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart."
Donald Barthelme
“Comedy and horror are opposite sides of the same coin. I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf.”
Robert Bloch

“I've only written a tenth of what I know — and they're already screaming.
Albert Camus

“An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with,insists on boring future generations.”
Charles de Montesquieu

“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
John Steinbeck 

“The basic rule [of writing] given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules.”
John Steinbeck

“A book is like a man — clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.”
John Steinbeck

“What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.”
Logan Pearsall Smith

 “If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works.”
John Dos Passos
“I only write when I feel the inspiration. Fortunately, inspiration strikes at 10:00 o’clock every day.”
William Faulkner

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”
Flannery O’Connor

“I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”
Isak Dinesen

“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.”
Richard Hugo

“The poet is he that hath fat enough, like bears and marmots, to suck his claws all winter.
He hibernates in this world, and feeds on his own marrow.”
Henry David Thoreau

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.
He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
Roald Dahl

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
Ray Bradbury
“If you can bring nothing to this place but your carcass, keep out.”
William Carlos Williams
“Why do I write? To discover the Gods I don't believe in.”
Bruce Pratt
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you are inclined to write ‘very’;
your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Mark Twain
“Any writer who knows what he's doing isn't doing very much.”
Nelson Algren
“Write when there is something that you know; and not before; and not too damned much after.”
Ernest Hemingway

“The job of the writer is to win the battle against loneliness.”
Barry Hannah
“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”
Charles Bukowski
“Confront the dark parts of yourself.... Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing."
August Wilson
“Truth is not an unveiling which destroys the secret, but a revelation that does it justice.”
Walter Benjamin
“Writing isn't about applause. It's about humiliation.”
Steve Almond
“Before I start writing I feel affectionate, interested, and frustrated.
In that order. Afterwards I feel relieved, disgusted, and confused. Sometimes I don't think it's worth it.”
Joy Williams
“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.”
James Dickey
“I believe in words.  I believe that words are little gods. I believe that books are bibles.”
Marcel Pomerlo
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”
Isaac Asimov
“Imaginative work is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground;
it is like a spider web attached ever so lightly, but attached to all four corners of the earth.”
Virginia Woolf
“My weakness and my absurdity is I must write at all costs and express myself."
Antonin Artaud
“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.”
Richard Hugo
“Writing should be done on your knees.”
William Maxwell
“Use the right word and not its second cousin.”
Mark Twain
“If you're really listening, if you're awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly”
Andrew Harvey
“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”
Anne Sexton
“Go forth my book and help to destroy the world as it is.”
Russell Banks
“Art is long, and life is short, and success is very far off.”
Anton Checkov
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.
Making your unknown known is the important thing.”
Georgia O'Keefe
“I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is grace in territory held largely by the devil.”
Flannery O'Connor
“What crazies we writers are, our heads full of language like buckets of minnows standing in the moonlight on a dock.”
Hayden Carruth
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Anaïs Nin
“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté.”
Margaret Atwood
“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”
Lisa Kerr
“Perhaps I'm inventing a little, perhaps embellishing, but on the whole that's the way it was.”
Samuel Beckett
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
William Wordsworth
“He threw a lot of spaghetti up against the wall and developed a keen sense of what was going to stick.”
Kurt Vonnegut
“The depth is in the surface.”
William Matthews