“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
–Scott Adams

“Writing is the process of finding out what you have to say.”
–Anonymous (Because I can’t remember which famous writer said this)

“In the characters too, exactly as in the structure of the incidents, [the poet] ought always to seek what is either necessary or probable, so that it is either necessary or probable that a person of such-and-such a sort say or do things of the same sort, and it is either necessary or probable that this [incident] happen after that one. It is obvious that the solutions of plots too should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance, as in the Medea and in the passage about sailing home in the Iliad. A contrivance must be used for matters outside the drama—either previous events which are beyond human knowledge, or later ones that need to be foretold or announced. For we grant that the gods can see everything.”
–Aristotle (Poetics)

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.”
–W. H. Auden

“(They) didn’t know they were novels.”
–John Barth (talking of his first two novels)

“If a true artist were born in a pigpen and raised in a sty, he would still find plenty of inspiration for his work. The only need is the eye to see.”
–Willa Cather

“By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive.”
–Raymond Chandler

. . . But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with a rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
–Billy Collins (Introduction to Poetry)

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”
–Hart Crane

“Well, write poetry, for God’s sake, it’s the only thing that matters.”
–E. E. Cummings

There was a little farder who pushed his mother harder
–E. E. Cummings (First poem, age six)

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
–Roald Dahl

“Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end.”
–Peter De Vries

“Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.”
–Denis Diderot

“It’s a filthy trick to publish a writer before he’s grown up.”
–Lawrence Durrell

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again, since it is life.”
–William Faulkner

“Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, rearranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him?”
–Sigmund Freud

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”
–Robert Frost

“(A poem is) never a put-up job…. It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. It is never a thought to begin with. It is at its best when it is a tantalizing vagueness.”
–Robert Frost

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”
–Kahlil Gibran

“The muscles of writing are not so visible, but they are just as powerful: determination, attention, curiosity, a passionate heart.”
–Natalie Goldberg

“When you are in your left brain you are not in your right mind.”
–Eric Halliwell

“If you write from your heart an interesting thing happens; it turns eloquent and even you are forgiven some leeway in syntax, and it is also a teacher: Your heart will make you a writer.”
–Eric Halliwell

“Let’s dress you up for town!”
–Eric Halliwell (talking to a poem)

“When you’re beginning, you’re not sure, is this a poem, or is it just a shot at a poem or is it kind of a dead thing? But when it comes alive in a way that you feel that’s your own utterance, then I think you’re in business.”
–Seamus Heaney

“However it it is brought into being, true concentration appears—paradoxically—at the moment willed effort drops away. It is then that a person enters what scientist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi has described as ‘flow’ and Zen calls ‘effortless effort.’ At such moments there may be some strong emotion present—a feeling of joy, or even grief—but as often, in deep concentration, the self disappears. We seem to fall utterly into the object of our attention, or else vanish into attentiveness itself.”
–Jane Hirshfield

“I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.”
–A. E. Housman

“Writing is that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
–Pico Iyer

“When you think that you’ve written something exceptionally fine, strike it out!”
–Doctor Johnson

“You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait, be quiet, still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
–Franz Kafka

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
–Lawrence Kasdan

“In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.”
–Denise Levertov

“In the Eskimo language, the words for ‘to breathe’ and ‘to make a poem’ are the same.”
–Lyn Lifshin

“There is nothing sweeter, she thought, than the sound of music within.”
–Benjamin Markovitz (A Quiet Adjustment)

“A state of reverie does not avoid reality, it accedes to reality.”
–Somerset Maugham

“The best style is the style you don’t notice.”
–Somerset Maugham

“Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.”
–Adrian Mitchell

“When you are drawing a horse, go for four legs.”
–Thomas Parker (writing teacher UC Berkeley Extension)

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
–Blaise Pascal

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
–Sylvia Plath

“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.”

“I do have a poet’s vein. I do like flowers and say odd things.”
–Line from the film, Poetry directed by Lee Chang-Dong

“To break the pentameter, that was the first heave.”
–Ezra Pound

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
–Marcel Proust

“Those who wish to sing, always find a song.”

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

“The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”
–Edwin Schlossberg

“The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.”
–George Bernard Shaw

“Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.”
–Carol Shields

“Never pay any attention to what critics say. Remember, a statue has never been set up in honor of a critic!”
–Jean Sibelius

“Great poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.”
–Stephen Spender

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
–Mark Twain

“Writing is, for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in his blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up. Like other gunners, he must cultivate patience. He may have to work many covers to bring down one partridge.”
–E. B. White (Elements of Style)

“You can dissect a joke just as you can a frog. But it tends to die on you.”
–E. B. White

“Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent? These are high mysteries, and this chapter is a mystery story, thinly disguised.”
–E. B. White (The Elements of Style)

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.”
–E.B. White

“A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.”
–Oscar Wilde

“The public for which masterpieces are intended is not on this earth.”
–Thornton Wilder

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
–William Butler Yeats

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
–William Butler Yeats

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”
–William Butler Yeats

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