Writing about writing

As some readers may know, I used to write fairly regularly. A few evenings a week I would place myself in front of a keyboard and tap away until something resembling my thoughts appeared before my eyes.

Sometimes this task was very easy; those first-drafters, where you don’t notice yourself writing until you place the final full stop, re-read it and change practically nothing before hitting publish. Those are the articles which stemmed from passion, a sure opinion (if not always a correct one) and an article plan stuck somewhere in the subconscious.

Other times, however, things were not so straightforward. Whether it was coming up with a pithy opening or closing line, feeling as if more facts were needed or even simply coming up with an idea of what to write about in the first place, there were times when it became a little bit of a struggle.

It was for times like these that I started collecting little sayings, quotes and thoughts to either inspire me, motivate me or just make me smile a little. Many of these are a little random, but some were specifically focussed on the great and undervalued art of good writing.

Earlier in the week the criminally not-famous-enough Dan Slee shared some excellent tips about blogging he has garnered over the years. I’d recommend any aspiring or even regular blogger to read through these, and then if they are feeling like they are hitting a wall have a look at these quotes; you’ll soon realise that even the best don’t always get it the way they wanted first time around.

  1. The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.  Isaac Bashevis
  1. The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.  John Maynard Keynes
  1. I hate to write, but I love to have written.  Dorothy Parker
  1. I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.  Douglas Adams
  1. Easy reading is damn hard writing.  Nathaniel Hawthorne
  1. I may be the world’s worst writer, but I’m the world’s best rewriter.  James Mitchener
  1. Any damn fool who can read thinks he can write.
  1. Writing is easy. You just put a piece of paper in the typewriter and then stare at it till blood comes out of your ears.
  1. When you have a choice of two words, pick the shorter.
  1. Big emotions do not come from big words.
  1. Good words are worth much and cost little.  George Hebert
  1. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.  Oscar Wilde
  1. Writing is the only thing that…when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead.  Gloria Steinham
  1. There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.  W.Somerset Maugham
  1. I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.  Peter DeVries
  1. The words are all there, J.J., we just have to get them in the right order.  Monty Python

17. Great writing can’t be taught, but atrocious writing is entirely preventable.  Dennis A Mahoney

18. I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.  Patrick Dennis

  1. 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
  1. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.  C. S. Lewis
  1. Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. And after that, the whip came down.  Truman Capote
  1. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.  George Orwell
  1. There is not much to be said about the period, except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough.  Edith Wharton
  1. Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed, and left for dead.  Ann-Marie MacDonald
  1. Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.  Margaret Chittenden

2 thoughts on “Writing about writing

  1. Cracking stuff, Glen and good to see you back writing again.

    You are absolutely right on the idea of the best ones are ones that come off the top of the head and are from the heart as this post has.

  2. I love this collection of writing quotes especially, “I hate to write, but I love to have written.” It sounds like what I think every day when I force myself to sit down and get writing work done. I never regret the finished product, but I can be like a cranky little kid trying to get it done. Thanks for sharing!

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