Writers Talking About Writing

27th September 2021
4 min read
Writers on Writing

‘There is always the option of being emotionally lazy, that is, of quoting.’ Alain de Botton

The latest book to join the Writers’ & Artists’ list of titles, is the perfect occasional gift or stocking filler for a family member or friend with writerly aspirations. Writers on Writing: A Book of Quotations gathers hundreds of pithy quips and memorable lines about the lifes and times of writers. Over 450 writers: poets, novelists, critics, journalists, diarists, playwrights are cited across 178 themes, covering genres and processes and aspects from a writer’s career.

Topics, such as agents, autobiography, editors, fiction, imagination, language, point of view, royalties, short stories, and writer’s block jostle alongside less obvious subjects, such as: brevity, cynicism, dogs, humility, madness, procrastination, vanity, and whispers. 

To whet your appetite, here is a taster of what you’ll find inside.

Quotations from writers across the ages, from 18th century poets

‘I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.’ 
John Keats (1795-1821)

to 21st century novelists

If you write about a dog, and the dog dies, you are in trouble.’
Matt Haig (b. 1975)


Withering asides and put downs attributed to notable wits such as...

There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.’
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

A list of authors who have made themselves most beloved and, therefore most comfortable financially, shows that it is our national joy to mistake for the first-rate, the fecund rate.’ 
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)


Inspiring adages and aphorisms on common themes penned by some of our best modern writers...

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’
Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.’
Jane Smiley (b. 1949)


Words of wisdom from writers from across the globe

Everybody writes a book too many.’
Canadian journalist and novelist Mordecai Richler (1931-2001)

A poem is never finished; it’s always an accident that puts a stop to it—that is to say, gives it to the public.’
French poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945)

… the good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense.’
Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

Anyway, if you don’t like someone’s story, you write your own’.
Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.’ 
American novelist Alice Walker (b. 1944)

There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.’
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (b. 1949)

Lines that bring hope and consolation

The answers to a lot of aspiring writers’ problems are as close as the bookshelf. Use it.’
Bernard Cornwall (b. 1944)

And others that are caustic...

I like to write when I feel spiteful: it’s like having a good sneeze.’
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Do you have a favourite literary quotation? Share it with us here and tell us why it resonates with you.

My favourite is the famous line Virginia Woolf wrote about George Eliot’s Middlemarch:

Middlemarch, the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels for grown-up people.

Why? Probably because they are both writers whose work I admire and am happy to read again and again. It’s not actually included in this collection, though there are quotes from both Eliot and Woolf within. It may just be the first entrant into the next quotations book we collate: Writers on fellow writers . . .

You can buy a copy of Writers on Writing here.

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