An aphorism is nothing else but the slightest
form of writing raised to the highest level of expressive communication. Carl William Brown





The writer has a grudge against society, which he documents with accounts of unsatisfying sex, unrealized ambition, unmitigated loneliness, and a sense of local and global distress. The square, overpopulation, the bourgeois, the bomb and the cocktail party are variously identified as sources of the grudge. There follows a little obscenity here, a dash of philosophy there, considerable whining overall, and a modern satirical novel is born.


Renata Adler (American author of essays, short stories, journalism, book reviews, and film critic)


Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name.


Brian Aldiss (1925-, British science fiction writer)


The hard necessity of bringing the judge on the bench down into the dock has been the peculiar responsibility of the writer in all ages of man.


Nelson Algren (1909-1981, American author)


For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.


Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973, American author)


Writers seldom choose as friends those self-contained characters who are never in trouble, never unhappy or ill, never make mistakes, and always count their change when it is handed to them.


Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973, American author)


Any man who can write a page of living prose adds something to our life, and the man who can, as I can, is surely the last to resent someone who can do it even better. An artist cannot deny art, nor would he want to. A lover cannot deny love.


Raymond Chandler (1888-1959, American author)


Every writer hopes or boldly assumes that his life is in some sense exemplary, that the particular will turn out to be universal.


Martin Amis (1949-, British author)


It is rarely that you see an American writer who is not hopelessly sane.


Margaret Anderson (1886 -1973, American literary editor and autobiographer)


To write well, express yourself like common people but think like a wise man. Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do.


Aristotle (BC 384-322, Greek philosopher)


No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.


W. H. Auden (1907-1973, Anglo-American poet)


Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.


W. H. Auden (1907-1973, Anglo-American poet)


A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.


Richard Bach (1936-, American author)


A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.


Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962, French scientist, philosopher, literary theorist)


All a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he's a writer. It's an aphrodisiac.


Saul Bellow (1915-, American novelist)


It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up, because by that time I was too famous.


Robert Benchley (1889-1945, American humorist, critic, parodist)


Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.


Joseph Brodsky (1940-, Russian-born American poet, critic)


Writers like teeth are divided into incisors and grinders.


Walter Bagehot (1826-1977, British economist, critic)


Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To "Why am I here?" To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.


Enid Bagnold (1889-1981, British novelist, playwright)


Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.


James Baldwin (1924-1987, American author)


The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.


James Baldwin (1924-1987, American author)


To endow the writer publicly with a good fleshly body, to reveal that he likes dry white wine and underdone steak, is to make even more miraculous for me, and of a more divine essence, the products of his art. Far from the details of his daily life bringing nearer to me the nature of his inspiration and making it clearer, it is the whole mystical singularity of his condition which the writer emphasizes by such confidences. For I cannot but ascribe to some superhumanly the existence of beings vast enough to wear blue pajamas at the very moment when they manifest themselves as universal conscience.


Roland Barthes (1915-1980, French semiologist)


On the day when a young writer corrects his first proof-sheet he is as proud as a schoolboy who has just got his first dose of pox.


Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867, French poet)


The biggest obstacle to professional writing is the necessity for changing a typewriter ribbon.


Robert Benchley (1889-1945, American humorist, critic, parodist)


The free-lance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.


Robert Benchley (1889-1945, American humorist, critic, parodist)


Work on good prose has three steps: a musical stage when it is composed, an architectonic one when it is built, and a textile one when it is woven.


Walter Benjamin (1982-1940, German critic, philosopher)


I was an only child. I lost both my parents. By the time I was twenty I was bald. I'm homosexual. In the way of circumstances and background to transcend I had everything an artist could possibly want. It was practically a blueprint. I was programmed to be a novelist or a playwright. But I'm not.


Alan Bennett (1934-, British playwright)


The essential characteristic of the really great novelist: a Christ-like, all-embracing compassion.


Arnold Bennett (1867-1931, British novelist)


Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.


Thomas Berger


About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.


Josh Billings (1815-1885, American humorist, lecturer)


A writer never reads his work. For him, it is the unreadable, a secret, and he cannot remain face to face with it. A secret, because he is separated from it.


Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003, French literary theorist, author)


To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking -- and since it cannot, in order to become its echo I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.


Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003, French literary theorist, author)


He who cannot limit himself will never know how to write.


Nicholas Boileau (1636-1711, French literary poet, critic)


No one who cannot limit himself has ever been able to write.


Nicholas Boileau (1636-1711, French literary poet, critic)


Every writer "creates" his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986, Argentinean author)


Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986, Argentinean author)


A book should be luminous not voluminous.


John Christian Bovee (1820-1904, American author, lawyer)


But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master -- something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.


Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855, British novelist)


Great writers are the saints for the godless.


Anita Brookner (1938-, British novelist, art historian)


Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.


Mel Brooks (1926-, American actor, director)


The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life: try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!


Robert Browning (1812-1889, British poet)


The pen is mightier than the sword.


Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873, British novelist, poet)


Writers are the main landmarks of the past.


Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873, British novelist, poet)


Writing is more than anything a compulsion, like some people wash their hands thirty times a day for fear of awful consequences if they do not. It pays a whole lot better than this type of compulsion, but it is no more heroic.


Julie Burchill (British journalist, writer)


The trouble began with Forster. After him it was considered ungentlemanly to write more than five or six novels.


Anthony Burgess (1917-1993, British writer, critic)


The only living works are those which have drained much of the author's own life into them.


Samuel Butler (1612-1680, British poet, satirist)


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 (1788-1824, British poet)


In general I do not draw well with literary men -- not that I dislike them but I never know what to say to them after I have praised their last publication.


Lord Byron (1788-1824, British poet)


Nothing so fretful, so despicable as a Scribbler, see what I am, and what a parcel of Scoundrels I have brought about my ears, and what language I have been obliged to treat them with to deal with them in their own way; -- all this comes of Authorship.


Lord Byron (1788-1824, British poet)


To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all.


Lord Byron (1788-1824, British poet)


In most cases a favorite writer is more with us in his book than he ever could have been in the flesh; since, being a writer, he is one who has studied and perfected this particular mode of personal incarnation, very likely to the detriment of any other. I should like as a matter of curiosity to see and hear for a moment the men whose works I admire; but I should hardly expect to find further intercourse particularly profitable.


Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929, American sociologist)


An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.


Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881, British statesman, Prime Minister)


To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.


Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832, British sportsman writer)


The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.


Elias Canetti (1905-1994, Austrian novelist, philosopher)


I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.


Truman Capote (1942-, American author)


Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.


Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881, Scottish philosopher, author)


To note an artist's limitations is but to define his talent. A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to his view, but a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.


Willa Cather (1876-1947, American author)


Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand -- a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods -- or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.


Willa Cather (1876-1947, American author)


An author is often obscure to the reader because they proceed from the thought to expression than like the reader from the expression to the thought.


Sebastien-Roch Nicolas De Chamfort (1741-1794, French writer, journalist, playwright)


There is something about the literary life that repels me, all this desperate building of castles on cobwebs, the long-drawn acrimonious struggle to make something important which we all know will be gone forever in a few years, the miasma of failure which is to me almost as offensive as the cheap gaudiness of popular success.


Raymond Chandler (1888-1959, American author)


The task of an American writer is not to describe the misgivings of a woman taken in adultery as she looks out of a window at the rain but to describe four hundred people under the lights reaching for a foul ball. This is ceremony.


John Cheever (1912-1982, American author)


Who often, but without success, have prayed for apt Alliteration's artful aid.


Charles Churchill (1731-1764, British poet, satirist)


Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.


Winston Churchill (1874-1965, British statesman, Prime Minister)


Nothing contributes to the entertainment of the reader more, than the change of times and the vicissitudes of fortune.


Marcus T. Cicero (c. 106-43 BC, Roman orator, politician)


The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.


Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954, French author)


If you want to be a writer-stop talking about it and sit down and write!


Jackie Collins (1941-, American author)


Justice to my readers compels me to admit that I write because I have nothing to do; justice to myself induces me to add that I will cease to write the moment I have nothing to say.


Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832, British sportsman writer)


The society of dead authors has this advantage over that of the living: they never flatter us to our faces, nor slander us behind our backs, nor intrude upon our privacy, nor quit their shelves until we take them down.


Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832, British sportsman writer)


A great writer creates a world of his own and his readers are proud to live in it. A lesser writer may entice them in for a moment, but soon he will watch them filing out.


Cyril Connolly (1903-1974, British critic)


The more books we read, the clearer it becomes that the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence.


Cyril Connolly (1903-1974, British critic)


When writers meet they are truculent, indifferent, or over-polite. Then comes the inevitable moment. A shows B that he has read something of B s. Will B show A? If not, then A hates B, if yes, then all is well. The only other way for writers to meet is to share a quick pee over a common lamp-post.


Cyril Connolly (1903-1974, British critic)


Let authors write for glory and reward. The truth is well paid when she is sung and heard.


James J. Corbett (1866-1933, American heavyweight boxer)


If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist.


Quentin Crisp (1908-1999, British author)


There are hardly half a dozen writers in England today who have not sold out to the enemy. Even when their good work has been a success, Mammon grips them and whispers: "More money for more work."


Aleister Crowley (1875-1947, British occultist)


There are hardly half a dozen writers in England today who have not sold out to the enemy. Even when their good work has been a success, Mammon grips them and whispers: "More money for more work."


Aleister Crowley (1875-1947, British occultist)


Herman Melville was as separated from a civilized literature as the lost Atlantis was said to have been from the great peoples of the earth.


Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977, American author, critic)


What has a writer to be bombastic about? Whatever good a man may write is the consequence of accident, luck, or surprise, and nobody is more surprised than an honest writer when he makes a good phrase or says something truthful.


Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977, American author, critic)


Writing is conscience, scruple, and the farming of our ancestors.


Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977, American author, critic)


I think of an author as somebody who goes into the marketplace and puts down his rug and says, "I will tell you a story," and then he passes the hat.


Robertson Davies (1913-1995, Canadian novelist, journalist)


The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.


Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916, American author)


Writing isn't hard. It isn't any harder than ditch-digging.


Patrick Dennis


Writers are always selling somebody out.


Joan Didion (1934-, American essayist)


The writer isn't made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.


E. L. Doctorow (1931-, American novelist)


Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.


E. L. Doctorow (1931-, American novelist)


Writing is turning one's worst moments into money.


J. P. Donleavy (1926-, American writer)


Yes, it's hard to write, but it's harder not to.


Carl Van Doren (1885-1950, American critic, biographer)


An excellent precept for writers: Have a clear idea of all the phrases and expressions you need, and you will find them.


Ximenes Doudan


The first essential in writing about anything is that the writer should have no experience of the matter.


Isadora Duncan (1878-1927, American dancer)


How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.


Wayne Dyer (1940-, American  psychotherapist, author, lecturer)

Author's website:


Of the creative spirits that flourished in Concord, Massachusetts, during the middle of the nineteenth century, it might be said that Hawthorne loved men but felt estranged from them, Emerson loved ideas even more than men, and Thoreau loved himself.


Leon Edel (1907-1997, American biographer)


If you wish to be a writer; write!


Epictetus (50-138, Phrygian philosopher)


The walls are the publishers of the poor.


Eduardo Galeano


I have the conviction that excessive literary production is a social offence.


George Eliot (1819-1880, British novelist)


Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.


T. S. Eliot (1888-1965, American-born British poet, critic)


Writing a novel without being asked seems a bit like having a baby when you have nowhere to live.


Lucy Ellman


There is no luck in literary reputation. They who make up the final verdict upon every book are not the partial and noisy readers of the hour when it appears; but a court as of angels, a public not to be bribed, not to be entreated, and not to be overawed, decides upon every man's title to fame.


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, American poet, essayist)


A pathological business, writing, don't you think? Just look what a writer actually does: all that unnatural tense squatting and hunching, all those rituals: pathological!


Hans Magnus Enzensberger


Mr. Faulkner, of course, is interested in making your mind rather than your flesh creep.


Cliff Fadiman (American writer)


There are two kinds of writers; the great ones who can give you truths, and the lessor ones, who can only give you themselves.


Cliff Fadiman (American writer)


The first thing an unpublished author should remember is that no one asked him to write in the first place. With this firmly in mind, he has no right to become discouraged just because other people are being published.


John Farrar


I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.


William Faulkner (1897-1962, American novelist)


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