Friday, December 01, 2006


by W.L. Elliott

I have an ever-growing list of favorite quotes. Most are from writers, but some are not. Some are encouraging, some are depressing. Some are inspiring, some are entertaining.

Why I would collect such a thing, you ask. None are any grand dissertations, just a few words at a time. So why do these little snippets of wit and wisdom become something worth keeping, and rereading a hundred times over?

I think there must be a basic human need to know that we are not alone. No one wants to be the first – remember when you were a kid, climbing up the high dive at the pool? Everyone needs to know that it can be done—that you won’t lose an arm or a leg if you jump off a perfectly good platform into the water below. We need that assurance that someone else has done it, and succeeded. And certainly, no one wants to be the “only”. Writing might be a solitary occupation, but writers are certainly not solitary animals. Fact is, get a bunch of us together, and we will gabber enough to measure on the Richter scale. This is why many of us gravitate toward writers groups like a wildebeest looking for a herd.

The point is that we need to be understood. So, in the spirit of understanding, encouragement, and herd-ship, here are a few of my favorite snippets from those who have gone off the figurative high dive before us, and lived to tell the tale.

“If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." -Jack London

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head and as you get older, you become more skillful casting them.” -Gore Vidal

“The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” -Raymond Chandler

“I have rewritten -- often several times -- every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” -Vladimir Nabokov

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” -Oscar Wilde

“I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.” -Clarence Budington Kelland

“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” -Raymond Chandler

“Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.” -Tom Clancy

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