Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Hard is it to Write a Book?

I find it comforting to know that many writers over the years have struggled with their writing just as I have:

“The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
- John Steinbeck

“I’ve never written a book because there’s going to be a lot of money in it, because I know that’s the surest way to take five years off your life.”
- Norman Mailer

“You have to sink way down to a level of hopelessness and desperation to find the book that you can write.”
- Susan Sontag

“For God’s sake don’t do it unless you have to…It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, and it’s damn near impossible.”
- Frank Conroy

“Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until blood forms on your forehead.”
- Gene Fowler

“If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn’t hesitate to do so.”
- Andre Gide

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at typewriter and open a vein.”
- Red Smith

“Unless you think you can do better than Tolstoy, we don’t need you.”
- James Michener
“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
- Samuel Beckett

“Throw up on your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
- Ray Bradbury

“I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write, I feel like s***. I’ve got the talent, and I feel that I’m wasting it.”
- Ernest Hemingway

“First of all, you must have an agent, and in order to get a good one, you must have sold a considerable amount of material. And in order to sell a considerable amount of material, you must have an agent. Well, you get the idea.”
- Steve McNeil

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon who one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows, that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.”
- George Orwell

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
- Iris Murdoch

“The first thing a writer has to do is find another source of income. Then, after you have begged, borrowed, stolen, or saved up the money to give you time to write and spend all of it staying alive while you write, and you write your heart out after that, maybe no one will publish it, and if they publish it, maybe no one will read it.”
- Ellen Gilchrist

“I’m in favour of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with the typewriters.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright

“Literature will neither yield thee bread, nor a stomach to digest bread with; quit it in God’s name.”
- Thomas Carlyle

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
- A.A. Milne

Do any of these quotes resonant with you? Do you have a favourite quote about writing, or an inspirational quote you’d like to share?

Sources: Writers on Writers, by Jon Winokur (Running Press, 1990); For Writers Only, by Sophy Burnham (Ballantine Books, 1994); Advice to Wrtiers, by Jon Winokur (Pantheon Books, 1999).

Happy New Year everyone!


  1. What a great topic to post one the near eve of a new year. Just yesterday I was trying to organize a new year of writing. All the quotes gave me a chuckle but also have given me something to contemplate. 2011 is the year of Gertie. Stay tuned! Blessed New Year! Rhonda

  2. Hey Rhonda!
    Nice to hear from you! I've got one more quote for you from Will Rogers. It was with my horoscope for 2011 in the paper today:
    "If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing."
    Nice, eh?

    I so hope you let Gertie come out and play in 2011. She deserves to have her story told. If you want me to read your pages let me know.

    Have a wonderful New Year!

  3. Great quotes, Jana. And congrats on Flawless!