L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

Jared A. Brock

I often wish I had a special space in which to write my books. Sadly, the writing life doesn’t always come equipped with an idyllic woodland cabin in which to pen profound prose. For all the authors profiled below, they figured out how to be massively effective no matter the setting. They did the work.

Needless to say, this photo essay took a very long time to put together, but I hope it’s worth it. Now, for the first time, you can enjoy 100+ authors and their writing spaces, arranged alphabetically in one place. I hope you like the author photos and are inspired by all their incredible writing (and life) advice.

Recommended: Cosy up with a tea or coffee and a journal!

Agatha Christie

You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence. If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there has to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don’t see your way out, and finally manage to accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder if it may not be all right after all.”

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Albert Camus

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

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Albert Einstein

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

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Alfred Hitchcock

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

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Allen Ginsberg

The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That’s what poetry does.”

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André Gide

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

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Andrew Carnegie

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”

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Anne Frank

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”

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Anne Sexton

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

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Anthony Burgess

Readers are plentiful: thinkers are rare.”

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Arthur C. Clarke

If the artist did not know his goal, even the most miraculous of tools could not find it for him.”

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Arthur Conan Doyle

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

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Arthur Miller

The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.”

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Bob Dylan

Get outside. Get out into the world, man! You wanna read poetry, look at the stars. Light a candle and write under the new moon. That’s when The Operator comes to whisper the Secret Words to you.”

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Carl Jung

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

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Carl Sandburg

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.”

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Charles Bukowski

What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

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Charles Dickens

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

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Charles M. Schulz

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”

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C. S. Lewis

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

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Dalton Trumbo

When one many says, “No, I won’t,” Rome begins to fear.”

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Damon Runyon

A person who asks questions can get a reputation such as a person who wishes to find things out.”

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Daphne Du Maurier

Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”

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Dylan Thomas

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

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E. B. White

Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.”

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Edith Wharton

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

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Edward Albee

Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer turns fact into truth; a bad writer will, more often than not, accomplish the opposite.”

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Edward Gorey

If a story is only what it seems to be about, then somehow the author has failed.”

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Elmore Leonard

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it
.”

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Emil Cioran

I dream of a language whose words, like fists, would fracture jaws.”

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Émile Zola

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”

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Eric Carle

Let’s put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.”

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Ernest Hemingway

Never compete with living writers. You don’t know whether they’re good or not. Compete with the dead ones you know are good. Then when you can pass them up you know you’re going good. You should have read all the good stuff so that you know what has been done, because if you have a story like one somebody else has written, yours isn’t any good unless you can write a better one. In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better, but the tendency should always be upward instead of down. And don’t ever imitate anybody.”

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Ezra Pound

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

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Frederick Douglass

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

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G. K. Chesterton

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.”

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George Bernard Shaw

My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.”

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George Orwell

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

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George Plimpton

As anyone who listens to speeches knows, brevity is an asset.”

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Georges Simenon

The fact that we are I don’t know how many millions of people, yet communication, complete communication, is completely impossible between two of those people, is to me one of the biggest tragic themes in the world.”

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Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

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Gore Vidal

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

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Hans Christian Andersen

Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.”

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Harlan Ellison

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.”

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Harper Lee (with Truman Capote)

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

Since I began this note I have been called off at least a dozen times — once for the fish-man, to buy a codfish — once to see a man who had brought me some baskets of apples — once to see a book man…then to nurse the baby — then into the kitchen to make chowder for dinner and now I am at it again for nothing but deadly determination enables me to ever write — it is rowing against wind and tide.”

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Heinrich Böll

It’s true and it’s easily said that language is material, and something does materialize as one writes.”

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Henry Miller

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.”

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H. L. Mencken

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

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Hunter S. Thompson

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

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Ian Fleming

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”

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J. D. Salinger

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

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Jack Kerouac

Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

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Jack London

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

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Jackie Kennedy

The deep desire to inspire people, to take an active part in the life of the country… We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them.”

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James Baldwin

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

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James Patterson

In my office in Florida I have, I think, 30 manuscript piles around the room. Some are screenplays or comic books or graphic novels. Some are almost done. Some I’m rewriting. If I’m working with a co-writer, they’ll usually write the first draft. And then I write subsequent drafts.”

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Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear… We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

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John Cheever

The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one’s life and discover one’s usefulness.”

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John F. Kennedy

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

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John Fante

For your information, a good novel can change the world. Keep that in mind before you attempt to sit down at a typewriter. Never waste time on something you don’t believe in yourself.”

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John Steinbeck

And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”

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John Updike

You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”

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Joseph Brodsky

It is well to read everything of something, and something of everything.”

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J. R. R. Tolkien

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

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Karen Blixen

“The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.”

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Want to be an author someday? Click for a chance to win 5 books on writing that will level up your game.

Katherine Anne Porter

I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.”

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Kurt Vonnegut

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

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Leo Tolstoy

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

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Louisa May Alcott

Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”

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Margaret Mitchell

The world can forgive practically anything except people who mind their own business.”

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Mark Twain

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

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Marlon Brando

Regret is useless in life. It’s in the past. All we have is now.”

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Max Frisch

It’s precisely the disappointing stories, which have no proper ending and therefore no proper meaning, that sound true to life.”

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Michel Foucault

My job is making windows where there were once walls.”

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Mickey Spillane

If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”

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Neil Gaiman

A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”

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Nigella Lawson

It’s true that I wouldn’t have written the first book had my sister and mother been alive. It was my way of continuing our conversation.”

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Oliver Sacks

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”

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Orson Welles

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”

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Patricia Highsmith

Obsessions are the only things that matter.”

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P. G. Wodehouse

Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing-glove.”

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Philip Pullman

We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”

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Philip Roth

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

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Pier Paolo Pasolini

An artist, if he’s unselfish and passionate, is always a living protest. Just to open his mouth is to protest: against conformism, against what is official, public, or national, what everyone else feels comfortable with, so the moment he opens his mouth, an artist is engaged, because opening his mouth is always scandalous.”

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Ramón Gómez de la Serna

Writing is that they let you cry and laugh alone.”

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Ray Bradbury

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things…. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

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Raymond Carver

You’ve got to work with your mistakes until they look intended. Understand?”

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Roald Dahl

A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”

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Robert Frost

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

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Roberto Calasso

Stories never live alone; They are the branches of a family that we have to trace back, and forward.”

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Rudyard Kipling

Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”

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Saul Bellow

A writer is a reader moved to emulation.”

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Shuzo Takiguchi

Now the globe suffers from severe nostalgia…”

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Simone de Beauvoir

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.”

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Somerset Maugham

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

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Stephen King

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

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Susan Sontag

My library is an archive of longings.”

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Sylvia Plath

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.”

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Ted Kooser

Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.”

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Tennessee Williams

When I stop working the rest of the day is posthumous. I’m only really alive when I’m writing.”

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Theodore Roosevelt

I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.”

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Truman Capote

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

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T.S. Eliot

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands,
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea
.”

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Vera and Vladimir Nabokov

A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.”

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Virginia Woolf

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

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W. Somerset Maugham

(I know I already shared a WSM pic, but I couldn’t resist the dog!)

I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

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Wallace Stegner

Hard writing makes easy reading.”

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Walt Whitman

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment — to put things down without deliberation — without worrying about their style — without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote — wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”

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William F. Buckley Jr.

I get satisfaction of three kinds. One is creating something, one is being paid for it and one is the feeling that I haven’t just been sitting on my ass all afternoon.”

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William Faulkner

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

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William S. Burroughs

Yes, for all of us in the Shakespeare Squadron, writing is just that: not an escape from reality, but an attempt to change reality.”

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Winston Churchill

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

Bravery bonus: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

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