“A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”*
“If a writer disbelieves what he is writing, then he can hardly expect his readers to believe it.”*
“… A writer always begins by being too complicated… The first thing a young writer, at least in this country, sets out to do is to show his readers that he possesses a dictionary, that he knows all the synonyms; so we get, for example, in one line, red, then we get scarlet, then we get other different words, more or less, for the same color: purple.”*
“When I write, I write because a thing has to be done. I don’t think a writer should meddle too much with his own work. He should let the work write itself, no?”*
“….Perhaps in order to write a really great book, you must be rather unaware of the fact. You can slave away at it and change every adjective to some other adjective, but perhaps you can write better if you leave the mistakes. I remember what Bernard Shaw said, that as to style, a writer has as much style as his conviction will give him and not more.”*
“I never reread what I’ve written. I’m far too afraid to feel ashamed of what I’ve done.”
“I remember that Stevenson wrote that in a well-written page all the words should look the same way. If you write an uncouth word or an astonishing or an archaic word, then the rule is broken; and what is far more important, the attention of the reader is distracted by the word. One should be able to read smoothly in it even if you’re writing metaphysics or philosophy or whatever.”*
“Poetry springs from something deeper; it’s beyond intelligence. It may not even be linked with wisdom. It’s a thing of its own; it has a nature of its own. Undefinable.”*
“Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.”
“When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.”
Have you read Borges? Which is your favorite quote?
Quotes marked * are taken from the Paris Review Interview the Art of Fiction No. 39.