The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom

The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom

by Steven D. Price (Editor)

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Overview

Author and journalist Gene Fowler put it best: “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Anyone who has ever wanted or been required to create something more complicated than a shopping list or a Tweet knows there’s more truth than poetry in the observation. The process can be difficult, frustratingly so when we realize that although we use words all the time, coming up with the right ones can be a daunting task.

Even the most celebrated writers have reflected on this creative process, and their observations and conclusions are collected in this book. The compiler, himself no stranger to a blank page or computer screen, has selected the wisest and wittiest utterances on such subjects as why we write (Ernest Hemingway: “I have a good life but I must write because if I do not write a certain amount I do not enjoy the rest of my life.”); how to write (Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”); and writing for money (Cormac McCarthy: “I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.”).

It has been said that reading won’t make you a good writer, but it will make you a better writer. Dip into this lively and useful treasure trove, and you’ll be well on your way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620875278
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 08/01/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Steven D. Price is the author or editor of more than forty books, including the bestselling The Whole Horse Catalog, the prize-winning The American Quarter Horse, The Quotable Horse Lover, and All the King’s Horses: The Story of the Budweiser Clydesdales. He lives in New York City, rides whenever and wherever he can, and numbers Don Burt among the finest horsemen he’s known.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"The Inner Music": Why We Write (and Read)

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.

— J. D. SALINGER

* * *

I think I am starving for publication: I love to get published; it maddens me not to get published. I feel at times like getting every publisher in the world by the scruff of the neck, forcing his jaws open, and cramming the Mss down his throat — "God-damn you, here it is — I will and must be published!"

You know what it means — you're a writer and you understand it. It's not just "the satisfaction of being published." Great God! It's the satisfaction of getting it out, or having that, so far as you're concerned, gone through with it! That good or ill, for better or for worse, it's over, done with, finished, out of your life forever and that, come what may, you can at least, as far as this thing is concerned, get the merciful damned easement of oblivion and forgetfulness.

— TOM WOLFE

* * *

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.

— THOMAS BERGER

* * *

Would you not like to try all sorts of lives — one is so very small — but that is the satisfaction of writing — one can impersonate so many people.

— KATHERINE MANSFIELD

* * *

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— WINSTON CHURCHILL

* * *

It wasn't only that this writing seemed beautiful. … What made Madeleine sit up in bed was something closer to the reason she read books in the first place. … Here was a sign that she wasn't alone.

— ROLAND BARTHES

* * *

When I want to read a good book, I write one.

— BENJAMIN DISRAELI

* * *

Eugene O'Neil,Hemera Technologies, PhotoObjects.net, Thinkstock I have a good life but I must write because if I do not write a certain amount I do not enjoy the rest of my life.

— ERNEST HEMINGWAY

* * *

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.

— SIR FRANCIS BACON

* * *

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.

— TRUMAN CAPOTE

* * *

My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand; and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.

— JOSEPH CONRAD

* * *

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.

— FRANÇOISE SAGAN

* * *

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.

— JOHN STEINBECK

* * *

It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.

— WILLIAM FAULKNER

* * *

Words are a writer's tears.

— ARTHUR PLOTNIK

* * *

If a writer is honest, if what is at stake for him can seem to matter to his readers, then his work may be read. But a writer will work anyway, as I do, and as I have, in part to explore this terra incognita, this dangerous ground I seem to need to risk.

— FREDERICK BUSCH

* * *

If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.

— RAY BRADBURY

* * *

Writing actually empties us and gives us the capacity to love in a completely different way.

— JULIA CAMERON

* * *

You go really deep and connect really large when you write, no matter what you're writing about.

— NATALIE GOLDBERG

Oscar Wilde,Photos.com, Thinkstock There is no agony like having an untold story inside you.

— TRUMAN CAPOTE

* * *

Of all the inanimate objects, of all men's creations, books are the nearest to us, for they contain our very thoughts, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to truth, and our persistent leaning toward error.

— JOSEPH CONRAD

* * *

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

— ANNE LAMOTT

* * *

Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand — a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods — or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.

— WILLA CATHER

* * *

Out of the artist's imagination, as out of nature's inexhaustible well, pours one thing after another. The artist composes, writes, or paints just as he dreams, seizing whatever swims close to the net. This shimmering mess of loves and hates — fishing trips taken long ago with Uncle Ralph, a 1940 green Chevrolet, a war, a vague sense of what makes a novel, a symphony, a photograph — this is the clay the artist must shape into an object worthy of our attention; that is, our tears, our laughter, our thought.

— JOHN GARDNER

* * *

Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.

— JESSAMYN WEST

* * *

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

— THOMAS MANN

* * *

A strange and mystical business, writing.

— JOHN STEINBECK

* * *

Writing something down often works as a magnet for other thoughts.

— MARCIA GOLUB

* * *

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.

— ERNEST HEMINGWAY

* * *

Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words– the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered.

— J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI

* * *

Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.

— E. B. WHITE

* * *

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leathern boxes.

— RALPH WALDO EMERSON

* * *

The number one thing I am earnestly attracted to is intelligence. Writers are thus the pinnacle of intelligence. While actors are great and awesome, writers literally create new worlds from scratch. What is sexier than that? Personally, I don't know why every person out there isn't dating a writer.

— RACHEL BLOOM

* * *

I am a galley slave to pen and ink.

— HONORÉ DE BALZAC

* * *

Every word written is a victory against death.

— MICHEL BUTOR

* * *

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

— CYRIL CONNOLLY

* * *

For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I'm surprised where the journey takes me.

— JACK DANN

* * *

Writing is a cop-out. An excuse to live perpetually in fantasy land, where you can create, direct and watch the products of your own head. Very selfish.

— MONICA DICKENS

* * *

Writing taught my father to pay attention; my father in turn taught other people to pay attention and then write down their thoughts and observations.

— ANNE LAMOTT

* * *

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.

— CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN

* * *

Mary Ann Evans ("George Eliot"),Photos.com, Thinkstock The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.

— F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

* * *

Every writer must acknowledge and be able to handle the unalterable fact that he has, in effect, given himself a life sentence in solitary confinement. The ordinary world of work is closed to him — and that if he's lucky!

— PETER STRAUB

* * *

One wants to tell a story, like Scheherazade, in order not to die. It's one of the oldest urges of mankind. It's a way of stalling death.

— CARLOS FUENTES

* * *

Writing wasn't easy to start. After I finally did it, I realized it was the most direct contact possible with the part of myself I thought I had lost, and which I constantly find new things from. Writing also includes the possibility of living many lives as well as living in any time or world possible. I can satisfy my enthusiasm for research, but jump like a calf outside the strict boundaries of science. I can speak about things that are important to me and somebody listens. It's wonderful!

— VIRPI HÄMEEN-ANTTILA

* * *

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.

— EDWARD GIBBON

* * *

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.

— ANNE LAMOTT

* * *

No one is able to enjoy such feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.

— SELMA LAGERLÖF

* * *

Are we, who want to create, in some way specially talented people? Or has everybody else simply given up, either by pressures of modesty or laziness, and closed their ears from their inner need to create, until that need has died, forgotten and abandoned? When you look at children, you start to think the latter. I still haven't met a child who doesn't love — or who at least hasn't loved — drawing, writing or some other creative activity.

— NATALIA LAURILA

* * *

My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.

— JOHN D. MACDONALD

* * *

Jean-Jacques Rousseau,Photos.com, Thinkstock Reading usually precedes writing and the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.

— SUSAN SONTAG

* * *

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.

— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

* * *

The qualities of a second-rate writer can easily be defined, but a first-rate writer can only be experienced. It is just the thing in him which escapes analysis that makes him first-rate.

— WILLA CATHER

* * *

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.

— GLORIA STEINEM

* * *

Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words — the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered.

— J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI

* * *

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

— BRENDA UELAND

* * *

I can't help but to write, I have a inner need for it. If I'm not in the middle of some literary project, I'm utterly lost, unhappy and distressed. As soon as I get started, I calm down.

— KAARI UTRIO

* * *

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.

— ÉMILE ZOLA

* * *

May I never grow too old to treasure 'once upon a time.'

— ANONYMOUS

* * *

What a writer wants to do is not what he does.

— JORGE LUIS BORGES

* * *

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer — and if so, why?

— BENNETT CERF

* * *

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,Photos.com, Thinkstock Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you — as if you haven't been told a million times already — that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.

— HARLAN ELLISON

* * *

Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover's war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself.

— JAMES BALDWIN

* * *

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.

— WILLIAM FAULKNER

* * *

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

— GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

* * *

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

— ROBERT A. HEINLEIN

* * *

The quality which makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.

— JAMES JONES

* * *

It's tougher than Himalayan yak jerky in January. But, as any creative person will tell you, there are days when there's absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing.

— RICHARD KRZEMIEN

* * *

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.

— F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

* * *

There is no agony like having an untold story inside you.

— ZORA NEALE HURSTON

* * *

With the passing of years I know that the fate of books is not unlike that of human beings: some bring joy, others anguish. Yet one must resist the urge to throw away pen and paper. After all, authentic writers write even if there is little chance for them to be published; they write because they cannot do otherwise, like Kafka's messenger who is privy to a terrible and imperious truth that no one is willing to receive but is nonetheless compelled to go on.

— ELIE WIESEL

* * *

Writing is not a genteel profession. It's quite nasty and tough and kind of dirty.

— ROSEMARY MAHONEY

* * *

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

— GEORGE ORWELL

* * *

If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do.

— WILLIAM ZINSSER

* * *

Easy reading is damned hard writing.

— ANONYMOUS

* * *

The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any.

— RUSSELL BAKER

* * *

You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won't be able to take a break from being a writer.

— STEPHEN LEIGH

* * *

At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.

— H. P. LOVECRAFT

* * *

When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen.

— SAMUEL LOVER

* * *

By speech first, but far more by writing, man has been able to put something of himself beyond death. In tradition and in books an integral part of the individual persists, for it can influence the minds and actions of other people in different places and at different times: a row of black marks on a page can move a man to tears, though the bones of him that wrote it are long ago crumbled to dust.

— JULIAN HUXLEY

* * *

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.

— W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM

* * *

One hasn't become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating.

— NIYI OSUNDARE * * *

Through joy and through sorrow, I wrote. Through hunger and through thirst, I wrote. Through good report and through ill report, I wrote. Through sunshine and through moonshine, I wrote. What I wrote it is unnecessary to say.

— EDGAR A. POE

* * *

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

— JOAN DIDION

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Steven D. Price.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction,
Acknowledgements,
1. "The Inner Music": Why We Write (and Read),
2. "But What Are They Doing in That Cottage?": How We Write,
3. "Show Me the Glint of Light": Writing Fiction,
4. "As One Who Carries the Light Bulb": Writing Poetry,
5. "They Ripen with Keeping": Letter Writing,
6. "Save the Tale": Editors and Critics,
7. "No Man but a Blockhead": Writing for Money,
8. "Open a Vein": A Smile or Two Along with Some Good Advice,

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The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
NatoshaM More than 1 year ago
The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom by Steven D. Price is one I can't put down! It's not a story or tons of mini stories, but like a book of answers for other writers to learn from. I found this little black book to be excellent! It's got many odd questions of mine answered by authors and others who know what writing is all about. The book has so many different sections covered in writing, but all answered in words of other authors, well known. I really never thought a small book that has nothing but helpful ideas that many of these authors believe in and has helped them, would be useful than reading a book on how to write. It's more useful in terms of figuring out what or how to start writing, whatever you may want to write. It actually encourages the reader and makes you understand that you need to believe in yourself not doubt anything, well that is what I feel this has done for me! Finally, it's quite a book! This is not like what you would normally read. Since it's not like a read and learned, but quotes and wise words said by authors that have written plenty and been known for what they write. This is such an excellent book!