Saturday, December 01, 2012

Writers on the process of writing

This is a small, lively, and enriching collection of quotes on the actual process of writing as experienced by some of the most popular authors past and present.

“Write drunk;        edit sober.”
— Ernest Hemingway

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another.” 
— John Steinbeck 

“The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I've had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, DON’T THINK!” 
— Ray Bradbury, The Writer’s Digest, February 1976

“I hate writing, I love having written.”
— Dorothy Parker 

“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” 
— E.B. White in The New York Times 

“I had a closing line for Something Happened before I began writing the book. It was 'I am a cow.' For six years I thought that was good. I had it on one of my three-by-five notecards. Then I wasn't all that happy with it, and finally I discarded it. But it seemed good at the time, and besides, I can’t start writing until I have a closing line.” 
— Joseph Heller, The Paris Review

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”
— Flannery O'Connor 

“I'm very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it…” 
— Elmore Leonard 

“A word after a word after a word is power.” 
— Margaret Atwood

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.” 
— Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country 

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

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I'd never write at all. The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.” 
— Anne Tyler 

“I've always preferred writing in longhand. I've always written first drafts in longhand.” 
— John Irving

“I don't speak to Gerry (husband). I write for three to four hours, not answering the phone, not getting out of my night clothes.” 
— Alice Munro 

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
— Stephen King,     On Writing

Note: I have tried hard to find the original source for the images of the authors used in this post but couldn’t get them all. Here are the ones I did:

Ray Bradbury: NASA/JPL-Caltech
E.B. White: The New Yorker
Joseph Heller, Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, and John Irving: Wikimedia Commons


  1. Some great quotes there Prashant - I think Parker's is the one that comes closest to summing up my own feelings ...

    1. Thanks, Sergio. I know what you mean. Every time I sit down to write something I wish I'd already written it.

  2. I particularly like Bradbury and Leonard's quotes.

    1. Charles, there is a school of thought that believes in writing without a plan, kind of spontaneous writing where the words flow as soon as you start. I like dialogue and description in equal measure.

  3. A very interesting post. I love quotes on all subjects. I buy books of quotes and then I don't read them all.

    1. Thank you, Tracy. I often find one quote more profound than the other irrespective of the subject area. There are some really good ones in the field of literature.

  4. Nicely done. The photos are wonderful. The Vonnegut remark is cheeky. Does O'Connor's remark seem a little ominous, or is it just because she said it?

    1. Thanks again, Ron. I like using black-and-white photos. I find them more appealing. The Vonnegut quote is well known though John Irving, one of his most famous students, uses the semi-colon in his fiction.

  5. love this, I think Kurt Vonnegut's my favourite.

    1. Parrish Lantern, thank you. Vonnegut's one of my favourite authors. I particularly liked the way he wrote.