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Selected Quotations

Compiled, arranged, and edited by:
Jim Fisher

If you’re like me, you are fascinated by what writers, editors, literary agents, critics and others in the literary world have to say about writing and the writing life. Over the years I have collected thousands of quotes from literary biographies, memoirs, diaries, journals, published correspondence, author interviews, how-to books, and essays about the following aspects of the literary community: the creative process; craft; the writing life; genre; and publishing. Under the general topics of craft and the writing life, I have selected the following quotes that I hope you will enjoy and find useful in your own literary endeavors.

In the fall of 2006 Rutgers University Press will be publishing The Writer's Quotebook: 500 Authors on Creativity, Craft, and the Writing Life a collection of quotes that I have compiled, arranged, and edited. I will be updating the quotes on this web site to include material not available in the book. Please check back.


In his 1942 book, Characters Make Your Story, Elwood Maren makes a strong point regarding the importance of craft in writing for publication:

There is a strange fallacy abroad among laymen, as well as among writers who have yet not become commercially successful, to the effect that writing is an art, pure and simple, that it is in no way dependent upon or subservient to mechanics. By mechanics I mean specific procedures, methods, and acquired skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. Worthwhile writing is produced by an almost equal blend of mechanics and art.

Stuart Dybek, in an anthology of essays about writing by writers called Novel Voices, adds this to the idea that craft integral to the creative process:

Craft makes us better than we are, smarter, wiser, sharpens observation into vision, quickens reflexes, allowing an intellectual activity to be more blessedly instinctive.

In what has become a how-to classic, Dorothea Brande, in her 1934 book, Becoming a Writer, says this about craft:

During the period of my own apprenticeship—and, I confess, long after that apprenticeship should have been over—I read every book on the technique of fiction, the constructing of plots, the handling of characters, that I could lay my hands on.

And now for the quotes on the various aspects of craft.


What is it like to be a famous, or even not so famous writer? Maralyn Lois Polak, in The Writer as Celebrity, identifies some of the reasons some of us are so interested in the writing life:

Few among us are not curious about the lives of writers. Writers are their own heroes, and sometimes ours: alone in their room, they reinvent worlds, create people fulfill fantasies; there is almost no limit to what a writer can achieve through, or in, the imagination….What interests me is the human being between the lines, behind the words: real people who have become known through their writing.

If one is to believe what so many writers say about their lives as authors, one wonders why so many pursue writing as a way of life, and why so many aspire to such a lonely, difficult and unfulfilling existence.

This page was last updated on: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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A. James Fisher
Dept. of Political Science & Criminal Justice, 146 Hendricks Hall
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444
e-mail: jfisher@edinboro.edu blog: http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com