Get Paid for Being Crazy: Some Quotes on the Writing Life

The prestigious literary journal Crazyhorse recently asked its readers to submit their favorite quotes about writing. The editors’ choices from this batch were included in their latest email newsletter. Below are some of my favorites:

“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
—Hunter S. Thompson

“I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”
—Isak Dinesen

“Always pull back—and see how silly we must look to God.”
—Jack Kerouac

“Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail.”
—Susan Sontag

“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.”
—Richard Hugo

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
—Ray Bradbury

“The process of writing will always be trying to repair something that doesn’t exist with tools you have to invent on the spot.”
—George Saunders

“Any writer who knows what he’s doing isn’t doing very much.”
—Nelson Algren

“Confront the dark parts of yourself…. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”
—August Wilson

“Truth is not an unveiling which destroys the secret, but a revelation that does it justice.”
—Walter Benjamin

“Writing isn’t about applause. It’s about humiliation.”
—Steve Almond

“Before I start writing I feel affectionate, interested, and frustrated. In that order. Afterwards I feel relieved, disgusted, and confused. Sometimes I don’t think it’s worth it.”
—Joy Williams

“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.”
—James Dickey

“Go forth my book and help to destroy the world as it is.”
— Russell Banks

“I always write from my own experiences whether I’ve had them or not.”
—Ron Carlson

12 comments on “Get Paid for Being Crazy: Some Quotes on the Writing Life

  1. Vicky Gouldthorp says:

    I love this! Thanks for posting it.

  2. Steve says:

    I took all of these, copied them into a document, and transposed them for painting. It’s not surprising that they are just as insightful and instructive in a different medium. They’re all good, and good for me – but I think the most unexplored road (for me) lies down the Hugo and Wilson ways, with the Williams close behind.

    I have begun a series of pieces which I will not share with anyone – in order to allow myself to disregard the audience completely. I think the Wilson quote is where I need to go. And if I can figure out what the Hugo means in practice, I will have gained something vital.

    Thanks for posting these. I would like to see more of that list.

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