I started keeping a commonplace book in college. I started trying to write fiction in my sixties. Why, then, is the book sprinkled with comments on writers and writing from the very beginning?
It’s a bit discouraging to find that so many of the writing quotations, early and late, concern the difficulties that plague me still: it isn’t good enough, it’s taking too long, and isn’t being a writer an excuse to sit around instead of doing something?
On the plus side, all the quotations point forward. “Pull up your socks,” they say, “pick up your pen and put it down on paper even if ‘it’ is the fact that you can’t get anything down on paper. Just do it.”
Here is some of my collection. I’m on the second volume of the commonplace book, with plenty of blank white pages. Please, send me you own favorites. There might be a book in this!
Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
— Henry James
On the other hand, I knew that my mother was constantly worried by my not having a proper job – “But what does your son do, Mrs. Clark?” To say, “He is a writer,” was like the old police court description of “Giving her profession as an actress.”
— Sir Kenneth Clark
Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.
— Cardinal Newman
The artist must go at his own speed. His whole life is a painful effort to turn himself inside out, and if he gives too much away at the shallow level of social intercourse he may lose the will to attempt a deeper excavation.
— Sir Kenneth Clark
Do the best one can. Do it over again. Then still improve, even if ever so slightly, those retouches. “It is myself that I remake,” said the poet Yeats in speaking of his revisions.
— Margaret Yourcenar
The imagination is like the drunk man who has lost his watch, and must get drunk again to find it.
— Guy Davenport
It is in order to shine sooner that authors refuse to rewrite. Despicable. Begin again.
— Albert Camus
A poet is a penguin. His wings are to swim with.
— e. e. cummings
“The lyfe so short, the crafte so longe to lerne” is not an exhortation to hurry.
— Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
On writing: First, it’s a set of muscles. Exercise them. Second, don’t talk about writing. It takes the passion away and it angers The Word Fairy. And always, always remember: Writers and messiahs are generally self-appointed. No one else wants you to be a writer. They want you to get a job.
— author unknown
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.
— George Orwell
There’s a very thin line between fiction and non-fiction, and I do my damnedest to erase it.
— Richard “Kinky” Friedman
Founder (inter alia) of the
Texas Jewboys country band
Art is made from fear, like a vaccine.
— an NPR commentator
At one point, Dr. Bustle turned up, with his reedy, self-satisfied voice, and gave her a lecture on the Lesser Elements and how, indeed, humans were made up of nearly all of them but also contained a lot of narrativium, the basic element of stories, which you could detect only by watching the way all the others behaved.
— Terry Pratchett
The consolation of imaginary things is not an imaginary consolation.
— Roger Scruton
Sometimes it’s necessary to make the leap and grow your wings on the way down.
— Yoji Yamada
Writing a book is like building a house, if you don’t know how to build a house, and you’re not very smart.
— Andrea Barrett
That is really the power of genius – the force of will to make all the mistakes necessary to get the right answer.
— Michio Kaku
It’s only imaginary, anyway. That’s why it’s important.
— Neil Gaiman
A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.
— William Stafford
Posted on May 29, 2016, in Heidi Wilson, Uncategorized, writing and tagged Andrea Barrett, Cardinal Newman, e. e. cummings, George Orwell, Guy Davenport, Henry James, imagination, Kenneth Clark, Margaret Yourcenar, Michio Kaku, Neil Gaiman, quotations, Richard "Kinky" Friedman, Roger Scruton, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Terry Pratchett, William Stafford, Yoji Yamada. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
How about a commonplace quote? “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Author unknown to me but my former boss used to say it in my presence frequently. He easily identified the source of my procrastination–as a writer or an accountant!!
Marvelous, Jeff! I first gained that advantage when I telecommuted for a British firm. You should have seen the face on one of my highly respectable colleagues, when I told him I worked in pajamas, with the cat on my lap!
“My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was, that as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.”–George Bernard Shaw