A new year is upon us, and if, as it seems to me, the future looks bleak at times, then there’s no better time to look to the past for inspiration and insight.
Writers in particular can draw on what must be the deepest well of inspiration – the words of other writers. Lives there a writer anywhere who can keep him or herself from writing about the craft itself?
Here then is a short list of writers writing about writing. It’s far from complete. I welcome any additions you may offer, be they uttered by the famous or the forgotten.
So, with wishes for a useful and exciting new year, a list of some words to write and live by – if there’s a difference:
Every morning between nine and 12 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times I just sit there for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing: if an idea does come between nine and 12, I am there ready for it. – Flannery O’Connor.
If I don’t sit down practically immediately after breakfast, I won’t sit down all day. – Graham Greene
To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write. – John HerseyTwo simple rules: A) You don't have to write. B) You can't do anything else. -- Raymond Chandler
The writing generates the writing. – E. L. Doctorow
There is no one right way. Each of us finds a way that works for him. But there is a wrong way. The wrong way is to finish your writing day with no more words on paper than when you began. Writers write. -- Robert B. Parker
A day in which I don’t write leaves a taste of ashes. – Simone de Beauvoir
If you keep working, inspiration comes. – Alexander Calder
To write you have to set up a routine, to promise yourself that you will write. Just state in a loud voice that you will write so many pages in a day, or write for so many hours a day. Keep the number of pages or hours within reason, and don’t be upset if a day slips by. Start again, pick up the routine. Don’t look for results. Just write, easily, quietly. – Janwillem van de Wetering
Perfect is the enemy of good. -- John Jerome
If you want to take a year off to write a book, you have to take that year or the year will take you by the hair and pull you toward the grave . . . you can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, I kept a tidy house. I made my own cheese balls. – Annie Dillard
The art of the novel is getting the whole thing written. -- Leonard Gardner
I believe the so-called “writing block” is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance . . . one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing. – William Stafford
The swiftly done work of the journalist, and the cheap finish and ready-made methods to which it leads, you must try to copunteract in private by writing with the most considerate slowness and on the most ambitious models. And when I say "writing," it is re-writing that I have chiefly in mind. -- Robert Louis Stevenson
If it sounds like writing, I re-write it. -- Elmore Leonard
Nulla dies sine linea (Never a day without a line) - Horace.
Life is hard. It’s writing that’s easy. – E. Annie Proulx