Every Force Evolves a Form – Quotes on Writing

I’ve collected many quotes about writing.  Some insightful, even useful, others rather high-minded; a few are cries from the heart.

I say this first one is about writing too:

A painting works only on the edge of not working.  Then what is ungraspable comes near. — Kazuaki Tanahashi

The best style is that of sailing clouds and flowing water. — Lin Yutang

With words we still name our losses and our endurance.  We do this because we have no other recourse, but also because man is incurably open to words and slowly they form his judgement.  This judgement, which those in power habitually fear, is formed slowly like a riverbed, by currents of words.  But words make such currents only when they are credible. — John Bergen

Clarity is a gift of the way the space created by words in a given text is arranged. — John Bergen

It is the writer’s openness to the ambiguity and uncertainty of any experience (even the experience of determination and certainty) which gives clarity, and thus a kind of certitude, to his writing. — John Bergen

Become one on whom nothing is lost. — Henry James

Clifton Fadiman on a book by Hemingway: It is written with only one prejudice — a prejudice in favor of the common human being.  But that is a prejudice not easy to arrive at and which only major writers can movingly express.

It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. — Jorge Luis Borges

The writer has to be clear, has to get one breath beating in the ribs of writer and reader, and he must mean what he is saying. — Donald Newlove.

Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demirep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books —
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway: one step aside
They’re classed and done with.

— Robert Browning

Our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories that we tell and hear told, those we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, sometimes semiconscious, but virtually unlimited monologue.  We live immersed in narrative, recounting and reassessing the meaning of our past actions, anticipating the outcome of our future projects, situating ourselves at the intersection of several stories not yet completed. — Peter Brooks

To be an artist means never to avert your eyes. — Akira Kurosawa

The novel is a pack of lies hounding the truth. — Carlos Fuentes

I often don’t know what I think until I notice what I’m humming. — Mary Campbell

Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as a dog does his master’s chaise.  Do what you love.  Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bring it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. — Henry David Thoreau

Writing is hauling in a long line from the depths to find out what things are strung on it. — James Moffett

Creativity is a matter of getting lost and dealing with the consequences. — Kenneth Maue

I write to bear the world as it steadily crumbles into nothingness. — Gunter Kunert

Has man substituted dread for God? Not as something to worship but as his horizon…  And the thriller takes the place of the lives of saints for contemporary man. — Ralph Harper

What is meant by a writer’s voice?  His individual use of language which enables him at last to come at the material which only he can express. — John Fairfax

Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond. — Ernest Hemingway

The writer should listen to himself and ought to overtake by surprise some of the phrases of his inward conversation with himself, distinguishing the living voice from the dead echoes. — Antonio Machado

The secret of being tiresome is to tell everything. — Voltaire

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3 Comments on “Every Force Evolves a Form – Quotes on Writing”

  1. qazse Says:

    Thanks Mike,
    Here are three of my favorite from your post:

    To be an artist means never to avert your eyes. — Akira Kurosawa
    (or repress your expression)

    A painting works only on the edge of not working. Then what is ungraspable comes near. — Kazuaki Tanahashi
    (one of the disticntions between artist and illustrator?)

    The novel is a pack of lies hounding the truth. — Carlos Fuentes
    (wish I said that)

    Here are two I would like to share:

    “Writing is finally a series of permissions you give youself to be expressive in certain ways. To invent. To leap. To fly. To fall.” – Susan Sontag

    “You are wrong, by the way, in thinking that I read a lot of poetry. I don’t read a line.” – Wallace Stevens.

    Best, Q

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi qazse,

    My favorite ones seem to change from day to day, moving from profound to trite and back again.

    Thanks for those two you mention. It seems like a lot of writing is giving yourself permission to fall. But then maybe you’ll bounce!

    It would be neat to have a site devoted to quotes about writing, where everybody adds their favorites up on the wall.


  3. qazse Says:

    That would be a cool thing, and if it were blog format the quotes could be catagorized.

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