Quotenik
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writing

“In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. They were not necessarily the same sentences the professors pointed out, which would turn up for further explication on an exam. I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.”

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source: “My Life’s Sentences,” Opinionator Blog, New York Times, March 17, 2012.

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medium: Blog

via: Crashingly Beautiful

“Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. Erasmus instructed them how to do it; and if they did not have access to his popular De Copia, they consulted printed models or the local schoolmaster. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.”

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source: The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010), 149–150.

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medium: Nonfiction

“I’m repeatedly asked how I write, what my ‘process’ is. My answer is simple: I think patiently, trying out sentences in my head. That is the root of it. What happens on paper or at the keyboard is only distantly connected. The virtue of working this way is that circumstance—time, place, tools—make no difference whatsoever. All I need is my head. All I need is the moments I have.”

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source: “Where Do Sentences Come From?,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, The Opinionator, New York Times, August 13, 2012.

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medium: Op-Ed

“I’m so used to writing with a pincushion that I don’t know if I can learn other ways or not, but I did go right down and buy a bottle of Carter’s [rubber cement]. The smell stimulates the mind and brings up dreams of efficiency. Long ago when my stories were short (I wish they were back) I used to use ordinary paste and put the story together in one long strip, that could be seen as a whole and at a glance—helpful and realistic. When the stories got too long for the room I took them up on the bed or table & pinned and that’s when my worst stories were like patchwork quilts, you could almost read them in any direction…. The Ponder Heart [novella originally published in the New Yorker in 1953] was in straight pins, hat pins, corsage pins, and needles, and when I got through typing it out I had more pins than I started with. (So it’s economical.)”

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source: letter to William Maxwell, September 10, 1953, in What There Is to Say We Have Said, ed. by Suzanne Mars (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011), 41–42.

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medium: Letter

“A lot of the work I do is taking the bare sentence that says what you sort of want to say—which is where a lot of writers stop—and making it into an arching kind of thing that has both strength and beauty. And that is where the sweat comes in. That can take a long time and many revisions. A single sentence, particularly a long, involved one, can carry a story forward. I put a lot of time into them. Carefully constructed sentences cast a tint of indefinable substance over a story.”

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source: “The Art of Fiction No. 199,” interviewed by Christopher Cox, in Issue 188 of The Paris Review, 2009.

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medium: Interview

“I am glad you thought the new story all of a piece. It was a supreme effort, really, that I made to have it so, but I thought the odds were against me, and felt worn out and depressed afterwards. If there was any way to get the envelope back out of the slot in the post-office after mailing, like with a long hook and a string—you would never get a story, though I will race down in the middle of the night, I’m so anxious to put it in.”

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source: April 23, 1942 letter to her agent, Diarmuid Russell, in Author and Agent, by Michael Kreyling (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991), 89.

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medium: Letter

“My father used to say, of car after car, this is my last LaSalle, or Cadillac, or whatever, but it never was, at least not for longer than he expected. I feel quite sure this is my last book. Unless I am hit on the head with a falling rock and vast reservoirs of hitherto unperceived material are revealed to me. As it stands I feel pretty much that I have left no stone unturned.”

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source: letter to Eudora Welty, December 17, 1990, in What There Is to Say We Have Said, ed. by Suzanne Marrs (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011), 433.

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medium: Letter

“All my life. I’ve been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn it over and say, ‘Hey, there’s a story.'”

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source: Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, by Sam Weller (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2010).

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medium: Interview

“Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life, or commercial entertainment, and look likely to last longer than the euro. There’s no escaping stories, or the pressures to tell them.”

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source: “Can Science Explain Why We Tell Stories?,” Page-Turner Blog, The New Yorker, May 18, 2012.

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medium: Blog

“Writers do not live one life, they live two. There is the living and then there is the writing. There is the second tasting, the delayed reaction.”

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source: The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1 1931–1934 (New York: The Swallow Press, 1966), 73.

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medium: diary

“The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”

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source: Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (London: Frederick Warne and Co. 1870), 544.

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medium: Nonfiction

“Occasionally I will leave behind a sentence that I know is missing a word, and I’ll go back to it later. I wrote a sentence like that yesterday. A man is talking about his wife, who’s a singer. She has just woken up in the morning, and he says, ‘Even half asleep like this, she sounded a true, dark note, a thrilling…’ I put in ‘cadence,’ but I know it’s not the right word—so the sentence is just sitting there, waiting for me to find the right, the exact, the only word.”

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source: “The Art of Fiction No. 200,” interviewed by Belinda McKeon, in Issue 188 of The Paris Review, 2009.

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medium: Interview

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“Please—take care of your health! Being a poet is one of the unhealthier jobs—no regular hours—so many temptations!”

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source: letter to Robert Lowell, August 26, 1963, in Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), 495.

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medium: Letter

“I remember standing on a street corner with the black painter Beauford Delaney down in the Village, waiting for the light to change, and he pointed down and said, Look. I looked and all I saw was water. And he said, Look again, which I did, and I saw oil on the water and the city reflected in the puddle. It was a great revelation to me. I can’t explain it. He taught me how to see, and how to trust what I saw. Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you’ve had that experience, you see differently.”

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“Let it all begin once more, the step-by-step joyful effort to lift a poem out.”

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source: The House by the Sea (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 49.

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medium: Journal

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