We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
The pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence is well worth the risk of Apocalypse, for one day we may look into a pair of synthetic eyes and see a self-aware, self-willed being looking back. In that moment, we will finally have figured out what we are.
Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold...The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.
― J.R.R. Tolkien
At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.
—H. P. Lovecraft
You are a writer. The "normal" ship sailed without you long ago.
Writing is a job…but it's also the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.
It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.
The hardest thing about being a writer is convincing your wife that lying on the sofa is work.
Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.
Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.
Purpose turns its back on the unlucky of birth and circumstance.
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.
When a true genius appears, you will know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.
—Henry David Thoreau
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shockproof shit-detector.
Writing is my salvation. Without it, I barely exist. Doing it, I am invulnerable. Having done it, I am immortal.
Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled 'This could change your life.'
Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself. He writes not to communicate with other people, but to communicate more assuredly with himself. It's a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.
—Interview with Harper Lee, Newquist
It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world.
The sea is like music. It has all the dreams of the soul within itself and sounds them over.
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."
Poetry creates the myth, the prose writer draws its portrait.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
—E. L. Doctorov
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
I am irritated by my own writing.
Fiction is an intellectually imaginative act committed on the materials of memory that tries for the form of history.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p. 43
This book [About Writing] teases apart how writing works: what the process of its making consists of; and how it’s making is made by and remakes the world.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p.45
Rilke says in a letter that in the end all criticism comes down to a more or less happy misunderstanding.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p. 68
…writing is an internal process writers go through (or put themselves through) in front of a blank paper that leaves a detritus of words there. The truth is, practically nothing is known about it.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p. 69
Any two facts clustered around a single pronoun begin to generate a character in the reader’s mind.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p. 77
Stories (and plots) emerge from novels. But novels are not primarily stories. They are ragbags of various discourses (descriptive, dramatic, narrative, reflective, analytic) structured in some inventive and interesting way against a matrix of rhetorical expectations.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing, p. 127
Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.
—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 147
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair; the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
If the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or, by its moral, taught him to sustain it—the effort, however humble, has not been vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.
—Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1764 e.v.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
—C. S. Lewis
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
—Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)
Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.
—Edward Gibbon (1737 - 1794)
Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try.
The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.
—George Bernard Shaw
No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.
—H. G. Wells
Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it’s so hurtful to think about writing.
—Heather Armstrong (Keynote Speech)
You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success—but only if you persist.
—Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)
Writing well means never having to say, ‘I guess you had to be there.’
—Jef Mallett, Frazz, 07-29-07
Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.
The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.
About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.
Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.
—Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.
—Jules Renard (1864 - 1910)
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.
—Leo Rosten (1908 - 1997)
I take the view, and always have, that if you cannot say what you are going to say in twenty minutes you ought to go away and write a book about it.
—Lord Brabazon (1884 - 1964)
First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.
There’s always something to write about. If there’s not then you need to live life more aggressively.
—Min Kim, Better Blogging Brainstorming, SXSW 2006
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
—Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)
I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.
—Peter De Vries
Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren’t distracted by the total lack of content in your writing.
—Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic, 07-03-05
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.
—Ray Bradbury, “Advice to Writers”
Detail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing. It’s the difference between a pencil sketch and a lush oil painting. As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.
—Rhys Alexander, “Writing Gooder,” 12-09-05
A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
—Ring Lardner (1885 - 1933), "How to Write Short Stories"
It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
—Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945)
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
—Robert Heinlein (1907 - 1988)
Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.
The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.
Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.
—Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), (attributed)
Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.
A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
—Thomas Mann (1875 - 1955)
A great writer reveals the truth even when he or she does not wish to.
—Tom Bissell, Truth in Oxiana, 2004
There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
—W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)
We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.
—W. Somerset Maugham
The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.
—Walter Bagehot (1826 - 1877)
I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.
—An English Professor
The aesthetic equation…The artist has some internal experience that produces a poem, a painting, a piece of music. Spectators submit themselves to the work, which generates an inner experience for them. But historically it’s a very new, not to mention vulgar, idea that the spectator’s experience should be identical to, or even have anything to do with, the artist’s. That idea comes from an over-industrialized society which has learned to distrust magic…
—Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
However much, as readers, we lose ourselves in a novel or a story, fiction itself is an experience on the order of memory—not on the order of actual occurrence. It looks like the writer is telling you a story. What the writer is actually doing, however, is using words to evoke a series of micromemories from your own experience that inmix, join, and connect in your mind in an order the writer controls, so that, in effect, you have a sustained memory of something that never happened to you.
That false memory is what a story is.
—Samuel R. Delany, About Writing
Writers are sculptors; their medium is the memory of the reader.
…literature is a game played naked—so that we can receive the wounds it deals us.
—Samuel R. Delany
I write mostly out of a terror, bordering on psychosis, that if I stop it will turn out that I never existed.
Words are power. The abuse of language for (perceived) material advantage is a betrayal of our heritage as the Speaking Ape.
Words are always important; don’t waste them. Speak only truth, if you can. Don’t hold them in, if they need to be said. Write from your soul.
For the writer, originality in consists in translating the commonplace into that language spoken only by the writer’s soul.