Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Rules for Writers Are Slippery and Shifty . . .

It’s been said that the best way to learn to write creatively is to read voraciously.

So how did all the authors you read learn to write creatively?

Obviously, to avoid an infinite regress, there must be another component to writing well.

And, if the “rules” for writing are impossible to nail down, the inner-self-factor that creates what’s written is completely incapable of being precisely described—hence the reversion to metaphysics, poetics, and figurative depiction—“Muse”, et al.

One favorite pastime of some writers is collecting quotes from other writers—pithy, stark, funny, sometimes shocking quotes.

Zachary Petit, at the Writer’s Digest blog, recently posted 72 of The Best Quotes About Writing.

I’ll post my picks here but, since favorites differ, do visit the article and grab your own :-)

And, you may want to add some quotes you’ve found elsewhere to the Comments over there, or  here………


“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
—Robert Benchley

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”
—Stephen King

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”
—Doris Lessing

“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”
—Leslie Gordon Barnard

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
—Ray Bradbury

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
—Robert A. Heinlein

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
—Virginia Woolf

“You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide.”
—Marie de Nervaud

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg
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7 responses to “Rules for Writers Are Slippery and Shifty . . .

  1. lynnbiederstadt July 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I love this, AZ. Love it. Love the work that went into your exposing us to the thinking that some of us live (in different ways) every day!


  2. Alexander M Zoltai July 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Happy you liked the post, Lynn :-)


  3. janedarntonwatson July 6, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I like the story I once heard concerning Hemingway and the extreme abandonment of writing rules. Hemingway went to give a university lecture, where he asked the students to put up their hands if they wanted to be a writer. Everyone’s hand shot up, to which he replied, “Then why aren’t you at home writing?” and walked off the stage!! – quite irrelevently if anyone would like to see a beautiful reproduction of Hemingway’s barn writing studio in Piggott, Arkansas, built in a digital world go to: :) I love the quotes, Alex.


  4. Barbara Blackcinder July 6, 2012 at 10:20 am

    As usual you picked out the best of the list, except for a few of mine… LOL


  5. Alexander M Zoltai July 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Well, Jane, I’d said some quotes of writers are “stark” and “shocking” and Hemingway did it with Action :-)

    And, I visited Piggott!

    I wandered around for a bit because the You Are Here sign wasn’t rezzing—nice town—then finally found his studio—raised sleeping area, animal heads on the walls, gaming table and typewriter—it’s all there—even photographs on the table and wall :-)


  6. Alexander M Zoltai July 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Oh, Barb, would love to have you put your favs here :-)


  7. Pingback: More On The “Rules” of Writing . . . | Notes from An Alien

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