I have twenty-one pages, unusable, unprintable, destructive of the book as my mind still partly sees it, contradictory of character and inconsistent in tone. But I am undoubtedly started.
I have spent a good many years . . . being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.
She had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive, or fun they could be. They weren’t worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive, and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it. She wanted her next lover to be a broom.
I lived in the midst of an affectionate, charming family, and I am sure that there is no greater obstacle to a person who is just beginning to write.
Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.
The good thing about writing fiction is that you can get back at people. I’ve gotten back at lawyers, prosecutors, judges, law professors, and politicians. I just line ’em up and shoot ’em.
He asked, “What makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.”
Writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.
I am dissatisfied with everything I have ever written and regard it all only as a preparation for that one work which probably I don’t have it in me to write but which I hope I can go on trying for.
He who has made a thousand things and he who has made none, both feel the same desire: to make something.
God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things.
We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like the sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from the forest and then shaped by long labor to assert the artist’s vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies.
All writing, even the clumsy kind, exposes in its loops and slants a yearning deeper than an intention, the soul of the writer flopping on the clothes-peg of his exclamation mark.
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
A couple of months ago I had a dream, which I remember with the utmost clarity. (I don’t usually remember my dreams.) I dreamed I had died and gone to Heaven. I looked about and knew where I was — green fields, fleecy clouds, perfumed air, and the distant, ravishing sound of the heavenly choir. And there was the recording angel smiling broadly at me in greeting. I said in wonder, “Is this Heaven?” The recording angel said, “It is.” I said (and on waking and remembering, I was proud of my integrity), “But there must be a mistake. I don’t belong here. I’m an atheist.” “No mistake,” said the recording angel. “But as an atheist how can I qualify?” The recording angel said sternly, “We decide who qualifies. Not you.” “I see,” I said. I looked about, pondered for a moment, then turned to the recording angel and asked, “Is there a typewriter here that I can use?” The significance of the dream was clear to me. I felt Heaven to be the act of writing, and I have been in Heaven for over half a century, and I have always known this.