Writing Quotes This Week

Writing Brings Satisfaction Like Nothing Else

The object we call a book is not the real book, but its seed or potential, like a music score. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the seed germinates and the symphony resounds. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. The child I once was read constantly and hardly spoke, because she was ambivalent about the merits of communication, about the risks of being mocked or punished or exposed. The idea of being understood and encouraged, of recognizing herself in another, of affirmation, had hardly occurred to her and neither had the idea that she had something to give others. So she read, taking in words in huge quantities, a children’s and then an adult’s novel a day for many years, seven books a week or so, gorging on books, fasting on speech, carrying piles of books home from the library.

REBECCA SOLNIT

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Writing Brings Satisfaction Like Nothing Else

Writing can’t be planned for or predicted, and when it happens, when the surge begins, it brings a satisfaction like nothing else. There are finer sensualities, sure, and basic emotions that give joy or connection when released, but as far as giving me a sustained sense that this is who I am, this is what I do, a full-fathom immersion in writing is the ultimate verification. Alone at my attic desk, catching the flow of words, when the flow is there to be caught — or generating it when it is there to be generated — I break with my more tentative self, claim some more necessary seeming “I.” The change has everything to do with finding words and their sequence. The joy prolongs itself for a short time after I stop — a resonance, a psychic afterglow — then it tapers away, the other life resumes. But I am already thinking toward the next occasion.

SVEN BIRKERTS

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A Book is a Heart That Only Beats in the Chest of Another

The object we call a book is not the real book, but its seed or potential, like a music score. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the seed germinates and the symphony resounds. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. The child I once was read constantly and hardly spoke, because she was ambivalent about the merits of communication, about the risks of being mocked or punished or exposed. The idea of being understood and encouraged, of recognizing herself in another, of affirmation, had hardly occurred to her and neither had the idea that she had something to give others. So she read, taking in words in huge quantities, a children’s and then an adult’s novel a day for many years, seven books a week or so, gorging on books, fasting on speech, carrying piles of books home from the library.

REBECCA SOLNIT

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Autobiography Begins with Memory

Autobiography is a life writing its life. . . . How does autobiography begin? With memory. And the consequent division of the self into the-one-who-was and the-one-who-is. The-one-who-is has the advantage of having been the-one-who-was. Once. The-one-who-was is, furthermore, at the present self’s mercy, for it may not wish to remember that past, or it may wish the-one-who-was was other than the one it was, and consequently alter its description, since the-one-who-is is writing the history and has the upper hand. Every moment a bit of the self slides away toward its station in the past, where it will be remembered partially, if at all; with distortions, if at all; and then rendered even more incompletely, with graver omissions and twists to the plot by the play of the pen, so that its text will no doubt be subsequently and inaccurately read, systematically misinterpreted and put to use in yet another version, possibly by a biographer bent on revising the customary view of you and surrounding his selected subject with himself, as Sartre surrounded Genet, as a suburb surrounds a town and slowly sucks its center out.

WILLIAM GASS

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Sentences Are the Bricks as Well as the Mortar

Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge. To write one is to document and to develop at the same time. Not all sentences end up in novels or stories. But novels and stories consist of nothing but. Sentences are the bricks as well as the mortar, the motor as well as the fuel. They are the cells, the individual stitches. Their nature is at once solitary and social. Sentences establish tone, and set the pace. One in front of the other marks the way.

JHUMPA LAHIRI

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