The worst thing that can happen to a writer is to become a Writer.
I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.
To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself. . . . Anybody can have ideas — the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.
A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I’m greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed.
I love writing poetry but it’s taken time, like a difficult courtship that leads to a good marriage, for us to get to know each other. I wrote poetry for seven years to learn how to write a sentence because I really wanted to write novels and I figured that I couldn’t write a novel until I could write a sentence.
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?
I am a crass and ignorant person who considers all poetry, from Shakespeare on down, to be a complete hoax. Like a bore at a cocktail party, most poems discuss only the weather, their feelings, and that little gray bird they saw on their way to work. As with yogurt and math, I’m convinced that anyone who claims to enjoy poetry is lying.
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some with you.
If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place.
Write about winter in the summer. Describe Norway as Ibsen did, from a desk in Italy; describe Dublin as James Joyce did, from a desk in Paris. Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels in New York City; Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in Hartford. Recently, scholars learned that Walt Whitman rarely left his room.
The creative process takes its own course. If it did otherwise, it would not be creative.
When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: One stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you / in spite of everything, / don’t do it. / unless it comes unasked out of your / heart and your mind and your mouth / and your gut, / don’t do it.
Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death — fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.
If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.