Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quoth the Writer

There's nothing like a good quote for eliciting those lightbulb moments, or assuring you that somebody gets you, or provoking you to say "I never thought about that," or, "Yes, this exactly!" or maybe even "Nahhh."  Here's what two writers have to say about writing.

Katherine Paterson:
  • And what am I doing while the world is falling apart? I am sitting in my little study in front of my typewriter trying to find words and put them together.
  • I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it.
  • The best people to talk about a book...are not writers, but readers.
  • To me, writing and reading are both gifts, neither of which has meaning without the other.
  • 'Don't you feel constricted writing for children?' they ask. William, don't you find fourteen tightly rhymed lines an absolute prison? Form is not a bar to free expression...
  • I will not write a book that closes in despair.
  • There are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.
  • The only problem with writing as a job is that it interferes with my reading.
  • Though truth is seldom comfortable, it is, finally, the strongest comfort.
  • Those of us who write for children are called, not to do something to a child, but to be someone for a child.
Annie Dillard:
  • It is the beginning of a work that the writer throws away.
  • The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip.
  • When you...know what comes next, and yet cannot go on...either the logic has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle, or you are approaching a fatal mistake.
  • It takes years to write a book -- between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant.
  • Novels written with film contracts in mind have a faint but unmistakable, and ruinous, odor.
  • I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.
  • Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
  • I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.
  • Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, "Can I do it?
  • Write as if you were dying....That is, after all, the case.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?


Mary Witzl said...

I agree with every single one of those quotes from Katherine Paterson. That line about having been a weird little kid being useful -- amen to that one, and I almost laughed out loud at what she says about writing taking the time I might have spent reading.

The only one of these sayings I'm not sure I agree with is Annie Dillard's statement about writing in a dull place. I suspect she's right -- and I do write in a dull place myself -- but one of these days I'm going to sit in front of a window and test this theory.

Christine Sarmel said...

Well goody, if unimaginative writing spaces do good things I should be set. Most of my recent work has been done in the front seat of my SUV while I wait for my children to finish whatever activity I drove them to.

Love the quotes!

Laura Pauling said...

I think the more constricting the guidelines the more creativity and brain power is required. What a challenge!

Marcia said...

Mary -- I write in a dull place, too. Well, let me clarify -- a WINDOWLESS place. I think that might really be the issue. I KNOW I'd be distracted.

Christine -- Glad the SUV is working. But it does have windows... :)

Laura -- Yup, the more exacting our form, the more creativity and brainpower required. Free verse or no length limits in prose can be excuses for sloppy writing.

Vijaya said...

I loved Katherine Patterson's Gates of Excellence -- she is one wise and lovely woman.

Jeff King said...

I love them... I agree on most instances.

Anna Staniszewski said...

How is it that every word Katherine Paterson says is just so WISE? Thanks so much for sharing these!

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- I love that book, too. For wisdom on faith and writing, it's hard to beat her or Madeleine L'Engle.

Jeff -- I the sense of writing community that comes with quotes that really resonate.

Anna -- WISE is the perfect word for her. She and Richard Peck are among the most quotable writers I know of.

Rena Jones said...

Those are great.