Writing writ and wit.

I recently finished my term as a part-time tutor of creative writing to Sydney Community College evening adult classes after twenty-odd years.

The oddest thing about this twenty-odd years being that I have never believed that creative writing can be anything but self-taught, or in other words learned by repeatedly and determinedly doing.

So that all I ever did for the would-be writers I tutored was to appreciate and praise what they’d achieved through their own efforts to the point at which they joined my class, and to encourage and even inspire them as much as possible to persist.

And one of the chief sources of inspiration I had in store for them was a fund of quotes by writers about writing that I had put together for the purpose of informing and motivating myself over the course of my writing career.

Now that I’ve finished with tutoring, it occurred to me recently that this wealth of writing wisdoms and witticisms was just going to waste in my files, and could well of of interest to the many of the creative readers of my columns, blogs and posts.

So, in case they will prove of interest, information or entertainment to anybody, here is the first of many installments of them, starting with one writer’s words of warning against taking writers’ advice too literally, or even at all:


They’re fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.

Lillian Hellman.


I write to discover what I think.

Daniel J. Boorstin.


I write because I hate.  A lot.  Hard.

William Gass.


Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.

Jimmy Breslin.


Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.

Alice Walker.


I revel in the prospect of being able to torture a phrase once more.

S. J. Perelman.


If you ask me why I came into this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.

Emile Zola.


You’ve got to rattle your cage door.  You’ve got to let them know that you’re in there, and that you want out.  Make noise.  Cause trouble.  You may not win right away, but you’ll sure have a lot more fun.

Florynce Kennedy.


I love to tell stories.

Irving Wallace.


I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.

Toni Morrison.


I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare; my business is to create.

W. B. Yeats.


Do not write to impress people.  Write to be of use.

John Gardner.


I am trying – in a good cause – to crowd people out of their own minds and occupy their space.  I want them to stop being themselves for a moment, I want them to stop thinking, and I want to occupy their heads.

Robert Stone.


The life of the creative person is led, directed and controlled by boredom.  Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.

Saul Steinberg.


Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear which are inherent in the human condition.

Graham Greene.


If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad. As to that regular, uninterrupted love of writing…I do not understand it. I feel it as a torture, which I must get rid of, but never as a pleasure. On the contrary,I think composition a great pain.

Lord Byron.


My task is to make you hear, make you feel, and, above all, to make you see. That is all, and it is everything.

Joseph Conrad.


The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.

Samuel Johnson.


It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.

William Faulkner.


Cats gotta scratch. Dogs gotta bite. I gotta write.

James Elroy.


A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

Maya Angelou.


We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.

Anais Nin.


Nobody but a blockhead ever wrote but for money.

Samuel Johnson.


Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.

J. P. Donleavy.






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