Interesting Quotations

You can’t get to wonderful without passing through alright. —Andrew Zuckerman (via Bill Withers) #99conf

Now, more than ever, we should be willing to take risks and make reading the paper an unpredictable and interesting exercise. – Brady Dennis (on journalism)Show Don’t Tell is Crap. – Orson Scott Card

A story must contain proof that each character means what they say. – Rachel Aaron

Five common traits of good writers: They have something to say. They read widely and have done so since childhood. They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How. – James J. Kilpatrick

Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing. – Stephen King

Tarantino – you can criticize everything that Quentin does – but nobody writes Tarantino stuff like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is, and that was actually the thing that people responded to – they’re going ‘this is an individual writing with his own point of view’. There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better – there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can. – Neil Gaiman

Skip the MFA in creative writing, Andy. It’s a scam run by English departments to fatten their coffers and doesn’t do you much good except as a social club (you can find better ones elsewhere). You’re apt to find star faculty who never teach and a whole lot of semi-published writers doing the teaching and the prevailing culture is one of mutual flattery. You waste two years hearing people tell you how wonderful you are and then you graduate and find out that nobody wants to read your stuff. If you want to write, sit down for a few weeks with the most gripping book you’ve ever read and analyze it to a fine hair—how it’s organized, the structure, the time sequence, the characterizations—and then set out and write something similar. Don’t turn up your nose at genre fiction—which MFA programs tend to do. Learn how to write a workmanlike novel. And if it doesn’t get accepted for publication, no problem—go on and write another one. You’re young, you have plenty of time. I wish I had done this when I was your age instead of drifting along on my own whims. Writing is a craft and you need to learn the craft before you can think about yourself as an artist. MFA programs start out by spraying genius aroma on you and that does nobody any good at all. It’s a classic pyramid scheme. Don’t go there unless there’s a teacher whose feet you long to sit at and even so, don’t inhale too deeply. And learn to spell “pastime”. – Garrison Keiler

(Writing) makes you agitated, and continually in a state where you’re off balance. You seldom feel serene or settled… I don’t think writing makes you happy… I think it makes for a life that by its very nature has to be unstable, and if it ever became stable, you’d be finished. – Hilary Mantel (in The New Statesman)

Over the course of my 17-year writing career, I began to give up on outlining — that is, before I write. I’ve come to prefer a more organic approach to creation, first laying out my raw material on the page, then searching for possible patterns that might emerge. But now, after I’ve completed a first draft, I compose an outline. I’ve found that this is the surest way to make sense of the work. I originally thought I was a genius for having invented reverse outlining, but I’ve since learned that many writers do this in some form or another. — Aaron Hamburger

A maxim is a slogan or a personal prescription for some generality of life; importantly, it does not have the same moral connotations as an aphorism. Maxims can be downright dangerous… aphorisms need be drawn from society somehow – they are known to people other than yourself, they are received wisdom. In contrast, one can have personal maxims; it’s fairly common nowadays for people to tattoo such on their bodies, things like “Faith and Family” in elaborate script to apparently remind them how to live. – StackExchange

Mightn’t it be a good thing if everyone had to draw a map of his own mind–say, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty? – Charles Williams

In writing with detail, you are turning to face the world. It is a deeply political act, because you are not just staying in the heat of your own emotions. You are offering up some good, solid bread for the hungry. – Natalie Goldberg

Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness. – Henry Miller

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say. – Flannery O’Connor

(Myth) is “a product of a basic human mode of apprehension”. – LeGuin

Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light, but making the darkness conscious. – Jung

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle

Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing. – William Faulkner

When you embark upon a story, you should ask yourself, “What sadness lurks at the heart of this tale?” Find it. … In fact, one might wonder if sadness is the secret impulsion that fuels good narrative conflict. Nothing is more powerful to us than grief and loss — we then look to the storyteller to answer a fundamental question of, can we overcome it, or will it overcome us? – Chuck Wendig

Art is not a copy of nature, but the determination to distort nature in accordance with its reflections in the individual consciousness. – Mayakovsky

I did not begin with craft, I began with strong feelings and worked toward craft. – Dorothy Allison, “Trash”

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. – Elmore Leonard (writing should sound like speech, not writing)

Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. – Anaïs Nin

“Omnipotence is not knowing how everything is done; it’s just doing it.” – Alan Watts

“And ma’am, sometimes I do get into mischief.” – Kevin McCallister

If you come, we’ll never be safe. Men will hunt us. The gods will curse us. But I’ll love you. Til the day they burn my body. – Paris, Troy

People say this is the greatest country in the world. How do they know? Where have they been? For all most of them know, there are places in the world where every day they’re handing out free pie. If you were in an office, and there was someone there who came in everyday and said, ‘I’m the greatest fucker here and all you sniveling shits would die without me! Ahaha!’ I can guarantee by the end of the week, you would have killed him. And eaten him… just to try to possess his power. – Lewis Black

Everyone Wants Better. No One Wants Change. – Jonathan Fields

The wise are not wise because they make no mistakes. They are wise because they correct their mistakes as soon as they recognize them. – Han Fei-tzu (Xenocide)

This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question. – The Speaker for the Dead

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. – Ender

All government consists of customs and institutions that control our lives by stealing our property, restricting our freedom, and endangering our lives with the rationale of protecting us from ourselves. – view attributed to Robert LeFevre

“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie

“Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.” – Jeremy Bentham

“The best party is a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation.” – Sir George Savile, Lord Halifax

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” – Adam Smith

“These are dangerous days. To say what you feel is to make your own grave. Remember what I told you, ‘If you were of the world, they would love you.” – Sinead O’Connor

“I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not shelter me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ – Our Lord

“But woe to you that are rich! for you have received your consolation. Woe to you that are full! for you shalll hunger. Woe to you that laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” – Our Lord

‘Fascism comes to America wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.’ – Sinclair Lewis

The most tragic thing in the world is a man of genius who is not a man of honor. – Shaw

Honor is simply the morality of superior men. – Mencken

He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. – Lippmann

Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences. – Unknown

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught. – Mencken

Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life. – Shakespeare

The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be. – Socrates

“Some one of those before us has observed what is written in Genesis about the birthday of Pharaoh, and has told that the worthless man who loves things connected with birth keeps birthday festivals; and we, taking this suggestion from him, find in no Scripture that a birthday was kept by a righteous man.” – Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

“…of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below.” – Origen, Homilies on Leviticus

“…not one from all the saints is found to have celebrated a festive day or a great feast on the day of his birth. No one is found to have had joy on the day of the birth of his son or daughter. Only sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday. For indeed we find in the Old Testament Pharaoh, king of Egypt, celebrating the day of his birth with a festival, and in the New Testament, Herod. However both of them stained the festival of his birth by shedding human blood….But the saints not only do not celebrate a festival on their birth days, but, filled with the Holy Spirit, they curse that day (after the example of Job, Jeremiah and David).” – Origen, Homilies on Leviticus

“We burned children.” – the character of Albert Einstein in the film “Irrelevancies”.

“I often ask myself why a `Christian instinct’ frequently draws me more to the non-religious than to the religious – and that without any intention of evangelizing them but rather. . . in `brotherhood.” – Bonhoeffer

“God respects man’s liberty, dignity, and human rights” – Merton

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. – Gandhi

“Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.” (Flannery O’Connor)

“A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to. And any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore, is not whether the latter can keep intact the wrong and foolish; rather is it whether the scheme has the vitality enough to leave the stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well, sustain life.” -Emma Goldman

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” -Patrick Henry

“[T]he right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon … has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.” -James Madison

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” – Ben Franklin

You cannot put a rope around the neck of an idea; you cannot put an idea up against the barrack-square wall and riddle it with bullets; you cannot confine it in the strongest prison cell your slaves could ever build. – Sean O’Casey

“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” – Stephen Biko

“The state can’t give you free speech, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free…” – Utah Phillips

“To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

There were so many different ways in which you were required to provide absolute proof of your identity these days that life could easily become extremely tiresome just from that factor alone, never mind the deeper existential problems of trying to function as a coherent consciousness in an epistemologically ambiguous physical universe. – Douglas Adams (Mostly Harmless)

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. – Asimov (Foundation)

Tourism is a two-faced giant that, at its best, has rescued many communities from depression and poverty. At its worst, it has created an international market for child prostitution and left a trail of destroyed natural habitats from Mount Everest, with its garbage-littered slopes, to resorts where bewildered sea turtle hatchlings head for the lights of hotels instead of into the sea. – Patricia Bow (University of Waterloo Magazine)

People know it is wrong to use violence, but they are so anxious to continue to live a life secured by “the strong arm of the law” that, instead of devoting their intellects to the elucidation of the evils which have flowed and are still flowing from admitting that man has a right to use violence to his fellow men, they prefer to exert their mental powers in defense of that error. – Tolstoy on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence

To the extent that we applaud and elect governments that regard tax-cuts and personal wealth as the ultimate objects of our political will–in place of investment in peacemaking, economic justice around the globe, and environmental health and well-being–we are all terrorists. – Walter Pitman (The Ploughshares Monitor)

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. – Einstein

The positive development of a society in the absence of creative, independent thinking, critical individuals is as inconceivable as the development of an individual in the absence of the stimulus of the community. – Einstein

…most money is simply bookkeeping. […] bear in mind that an auditor must assume that machines are honest. He will make test runs to check that machines are working correctly — but it will not occur to him that tests prove nothing because machine itself is dishonest. – Manuel Kelly Garcia Davis

Don’t explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to a virgin. – Manuel Kelly Garcia Davis

The simplest sort [of code] and thereby impossible to break. The first ad told the person or persons concerned to carry out number seven or expect number seven or it said something about something designated as seven. This one says the same with respect to code item number ten. But the meaning of the numbers cannot be deduced through statistical analysis because the code can be changed long before a useful statistical universe can be reached. It’s an idiot code… and an idiot code can never be broken if the user has the good sense not to go too often to the well. – George Perrault

There you are. Everybody is Equal, and Everybody has a vote. But you have to draw the line somewhere. Now shut-up, damnit, and don’t interrupt while your betters are talking.” – “Warwhoop” Tumbril

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Thanks to all 5500 (approx) Twitter followers. Maxims, ramblings, insights, and random ideas expressed are those of the author and not any agent, publisher, or bookseller.

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