… Writing was never work for me. It had been the same for as long as I could remember: turn on the radio to a classical music station, light a cigarette or a cigar, open the bottle. The typer did the rest. All I had to do was be there. The whole process allowed me to continue when life itself offered very little, when life itself was a horror show. There was always the typer to soothe me, to talk to me, to entertain me, to save my ass from the madhouse, from the streets, from myself.
“My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.”
― Louis-Ferdinand Céline,
Death on the Installment Plan
Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all–ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity …
— Rainer Maria Rilke,
from Letters to a Young Poet
Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening.
― Allen Ginsberg,
from On Being a Writer, edited by Bill Strickland
What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.
—David Foster Wallace,
“An Interview with Larry McCaffery,”
The Review of Contemporary Fiction,
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
—Elmore Leonard, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,”
New York Times, July 16, 2001
… 20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better …
—Jack Kerouac, “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose,”
Evergreen Review, Spring 1959
“‘…writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.'”
—Charles Bukowski, “what makes?”
Third Lung Review, 1992
There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot—things are not as they seem.
—Jim Thompson, as quoted in Robert Polito’s Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson