"I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am."
– Jane Austen
Susan here – Sometimes we talk about the craft of writing here at Word Wenches, and sometimes about writers through history. The insights and nuggets of wisdom that writers share have value no matter how many years or centuries have passed. As writers and readers, we’re always learning and creating, and the thoughts of other writers about the craft and the reasons to write are as fresh and meaningful now as then. The more things change – the more they stay the same.
From ancient Egypt to more modern writers, here's what some of them had to say about writers and writing…
“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in few.” – Pythagoras
"Would I had phrases that are not known, utterances that are strange, in new language that has not been used, free from repetition, not an utterance which has grown stale, which men of old have spoken."
"Complaint of Khakheperraseneb," from a fragment of an Egyptian writing tablet, c. 2000 BCE, British Museum
"Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom then bear fruit, then ripen." — Epictetus, Greek philosopher
“A tale is but half told when only one person tells it.” – Grettir’s Saga (Icelandic)
“Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.”
– Peter Abelard, d. 1142
"Poetry's object is truth."
– Christine de Pizan, d. 1434
"All I ask is the privilege for my masculine part, the poet in me … If I must not, because of my sex, have this freedom … I lay down my quill and you shall hear no more of me." – Aphra Behn, 17th c. playwright
"Thou didst, in strains of eloquence refin'd, Inflame the soul, and captivate the mind."
– Phillis Wheatley, 18th century poet and slave
"Young Waverley drove through the sea of books, like a vessel without a pilot or a rudder."
– Sir Walter Scott, Waverley
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
"I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in."
– Robert Louis Stevenson
"The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes."
– Agatha Christie
Whether the book is new or a very old classic — writers and the writing process hasn't changed much. And we can always learn from them. Do you have a favorite writer quote you'd like to share?
(BTW, the painting at the top of the blog by George Kilburne is the gorgeous image we chose for our Word Wenches Facebook page header!)