Here continues a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.
If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.
- Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview
“We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”
- Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication
Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.
- How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors
“As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”
- Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown
“No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”
- Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling
“I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”
- Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing
“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”
- William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life
“The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”
- Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook
“It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”
- John Updike: Writing and Death
“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
- Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity
“Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”
- Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity
The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.
- Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have
“Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”
- Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection
“Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”
- Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life
“A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”
- William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart
“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
- John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know
“In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”
- Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives
“To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”
- Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society
The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.
- Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting
“The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
- Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors
How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.
- Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art
On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.
- Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times
“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”
- Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer
“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”
- William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers
“For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”
- Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books
“We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”
- Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time
“The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”
- Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive
“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”
- Schopenhauer on Style
“Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”
- Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”
This concludes Part 3, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 4.