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Quotes

'No poet, no artist of any art has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.'

'Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.'

 

 

'Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.'

'This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.'

'I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged...I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.'

'Any good writer is a good reader first. There’s no substitute for being steeped in the great work of the past, and reading the work of your contemporaries. It’s an obvious piece of advice, but no less true for that.'

'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.'

'I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a kiss - you can't do it alone.'

‘If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.'

'To write fiction, one needs a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of work on the basis of those inspirations.'

'A "bestseller" is a celebrity among books. It is a book known primarily (sometimes exclusively) for its well-knowness.'

'Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.'

'It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends.'

'It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes.  Read more

'To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over...'

'Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.'

 

 


'A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating.'

'To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over....'

'It's none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.'

'Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.'

 

 

'An artist's sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must.'

'The historian records, but the novelist creates.'

'There is an element of autobiography in all fiction in that pain or distress, or pleasure, is based on the author's own. But in my case that is as far as it goes. My fiction may, now and again, illuminate aspects of the human condition, but I do not consciously set out to do so, I am a storyteller.'

'When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: "House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day."'

'A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.'
Dylan Thomas

'Writers aren't like plumbers. If you're a plumber, you fix one person's boiler in the morning, then you go and fix another in the afternoon. I didn't want to write a book unless I had something new to say - and it was good to live a little in between.'

The Guardian

'A good mystery keeps you up on Saturday night. A bad mystery puts you to sleep on Sunday afternoon. Either way, you come out ahead.'

‘New media and new forms of buying and lending are all very interesting, for all kinds of reasons, but one principle remains unchanged: authors must be paid fairly for their work. Any arrangement that doesn't acknowledge that principle is a bad one, and needs to be changed. That is our whole argument.'

Bestselling children’s author Philip Pullman, in his capacity as President-elect of the UK Society of Authors

'At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance - that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph.  Read more

'It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.'

'Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such as ting if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or (sic) understand. For all one knows that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.

George Orwell, quoted by Robert McCrum, The Observer  Read more

‘There's a marvellous peace in not publishing... When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don't publish, they don't know what you're doing. You can keep it for yourself.'

J D Salinger, two of whose stories have been stolen and published

'In nearly all good fiction, the basic - all but inescapable - plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.'

'Of the things which man can do or make here below, by far the most momentous, wonderful and worthy are the things we call Books!'

"Writers aren't like plumbers. If you're a plumber, you fix one person's boiler in the morning, then you go and fix another in the afternoon. I didn't want to write a book unless I had something new to say - and it was good to live a little in between."

Guardian

‘Books say: she did this because life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own,'

Julian Barnes in Flaubert’s Parrot

'Writing? It's not something you do for a living.  It's an outlandish idea. Particularly if you don't speak the language.'

 

'In nearly all good fiction, the basic - all but inescapable - plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.'

'Don't use metaphors in fantasy; your readers will take them literally. Or they may take them figuratively -- but if so, they'll also take your magics and transformations figuratively. Either way, you're in trouble.'

'When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch 22 I'm tempted to reply: 'Who has?'

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