Don’t Quote Me on This

Because other writers actually said it…

Don’t Quote Me on This

Writing always came easy to me. The first story I ever wrote for publication was put on page one of the Staten Island Advance, and since then, I’ve had many front-page stories and articles in newspapers, including the New York Times.

The transition to fiction was also easy. Of course, many of my new neighbors in the conservative Florida bastion I now call home would say it wasn’t that much of a transition from writing for the Times.

But snide remarks aside, let’s see what other novelists have said about the fiction-writing process. (By the way, I’m not in the same league with any of them. But you already knew that.)

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou said that. She told her stories for five decades, publishing autobiographies, essays, poetry, and plays, and creating movie and TV scripts. Angelou is best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which details her life up to the age of 17.

“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 said that. I wonder if Salinger, a notorious recluse, ever called anyone up. Somehow, I doubt it.

Here are two quotes close to my heart:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”


“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

The first quote is by Stephen King. The second is by William Faulkner. Two disparate authors, generations apart, saying that good readers make good writers. I could not agree more.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” A quote from Saul Bellow, who won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize. I suspect he’s right. The trick is to get out of bed! Because if you fall back to sleep, at best, you will awaken with a vague memory of an idea that is so great it would probably win a Pulitzer. (Sure.)

A writer must be passionate about his or her craft and not pull punches. As Robert Frost once said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

And I don’t know of a more inspirational quote than this one from Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Finally: “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Unfortunately, the writer who said this last one, Sylvia Plath, had plenty of self-doubt. She committed suicide at age 30 by sticking her head in an oven.

Lawrence De Maria often wants to put his head in the oven after playing golf. Fortunately, he’s hungry after every round and bakes biscuits instead.

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