The difficult work of writing

About poetry

Writing fiction

Writing for children

The difficult work of writing

“Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them.
I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere.”
A.A. Milne
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog.
You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
E.L. Doctorow

“The first draft of anything is always shit.”
Ernest Hemingway

“I have no fancy idea about poetry. It's not like embroidery or painting or silk.
It doesn't come to you on the wings of a dove.
It's something you have to work hard at.”
Louise Bogan
“I don't know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do it....
Surely it is an odd way to spend your life —sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist — except in your head.
Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing?
The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is:
because you have to, because you have no choice.”
Paul Aster
“It's all about setting aside just a little time to write each week. ...
Figure out what works and make it completely non-negotiable.”
Lauren Weisberger
“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
E.L. Doctorow
“Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.”
Dorothy Parker
“It would be easy to say oh, I have writer's block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don't. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”
Barbara Kingsolver
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Ernest Hemingway
“Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”
Red Smith

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant.”
Winston Churchill
“There are three rules to writing a novel and nobody knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham
“Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself
to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail.”
Susan Sontag
“Perhaps there is another kind of writing, I only know this one: in the night, when fear does not let me sleep.”
Franz Kafka

“There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. You are embarking on this incredibly exciting journey…. Until you're about 50 pages into it, and that romance wears off, and then you're left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing... A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline ... You have to be more stubborn than the manuscript, and you have to punch in and punch out every day, regardless of whether it's going well. [...] It's largely an act of perseverance [...] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story.”
Khaled Hosseini
“The process of writing will always be trying to repair something that doesn't exist with tools you have to invent on the spot.”
George Saunders
“The author's task is to synchronize thoughts, images, raw creative material in a meaningful way, a task as difficult and frantic and joyful as herding cats.”
Brandon Dorn
“The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman…A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.”
Roald Dahl
“It's hell writing and it's hell not writing. The only tolerable state is
having just written.”
Robert Hass
“Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”
Paul Aster
“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.”
Oscar Wilde
“Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled, to muster for another day’s progress through the dazzling quicksand, the marsh of blank paper.”
John Updike
“ doesn't become an artist overnight. You have to be carbonized and mineralized in order to work upwards from the last common denominator of the self.”
Henry Miller