Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writers on Writing - 13 Quotes

I recently attended the annual conference on all things Thoreauvian. I came away with the impression that in a room of 200+ people, it would have been hard to throw a book and not hit an author. Thoreau as topic is infinitely rich, and so fertile ground for those practicing the craft of non-fiction writing. Writers of fiction think of their product as art. Thus, they are more likely than non-fiction writers to muse on the nature of their artistic toil. A selection of quotes by writers on writing, gleamed from several websites:

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. - Somerset Maugham

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.  - Robert Heinlein

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story - not Mark Twain, although frequently attributed to him.

A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it to be God. - Sidney Sheldon

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.  - Elmore Leonard

Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.  - T.S. Eliot

i never think at all when i write nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well  - Don Marquis

The first draft of anything is shit. - Ernest Hemingway

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. - James Michener

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. - Robert Frost

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. - Flannery O'Connor

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. - Henry David Thoreau

When I am asked "Why do you write?" I answer "It's a disease." I have heard the same answer for people in the restaurant or acting industry. These are professions rife with rejection and failure. The people who persevere are those who cannot imagine doing anything else.

Decades ago, struggling to write a college thesis, I realized that although a voracious reader, I had difficulties with writing. And yet, planning a career in science, I knew that I would always be in the explaining business. From 1975-1980 I took up writing outside my field of nutritional biochemistry by committing to write restaurant reviews, recipe columns and health articles. From 1980 onward, science career launched, my writing was either academic or corporate, i.e., not public.

Starting this LIFE OUTDOORS column in 2009 was a means of reentering the public writer's life. Writing non-fiction, I was told, is a matter of bricks and mortar. The bricks are the facts and the mortar the story tying the facts together. The craft is in managing the right balance of the two. 

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