Quoth the Writer, Evermore

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Quoth the writer, evermore.

It’s an obvious distortion of an oft-quoted line from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” But Edgar is no longer with us. It’s doubtful he would mind. quoth writer“The Raven” was once required reading in school. It begins with Poe’s version of “It was a dark and stormy night.” Poe began, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten love…”

Writers have been writing about writing since writers started pondering about perhaps someday maybe writing.

Consider these examples. Despite the era in which they were written, they stand as true and inspiring as the day they were penned. Evermore.


quoth writer pen“The pen sometimes builds a more enduring monument than can the hammer or chisel.” ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher’s Stone, 1882

“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977



“What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.” ~Logan Pearsall Smith, “All Trivia,” Afterthoughts, 1931

“It is not my sentence that I polish, but my thought. I pause until the drop of light that I need is formed and falls from my pen.” ~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824), translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866


“In literature, when nine hundred and ninety-nine souls ignore you, but the thousandth buys your work,quoth writer reader or at least borrows it — that is called enormous popularity.” ~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931)


“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it.” ~Jack London, “Getting Into Print,” 1905

“It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.” ~Ann Beattie, Picturing Will, 1989


quoth writer water“There’s only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that’s a writer sitting down to write.” ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966





Writers quoth…evermore!

What quote about writing inspires you to be a better writer? Or inspires you to value the writing you’re producing?


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  1. In writing, and in life, for they are indivisible:
    * Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam…”
    * Sam: “I know… It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here… But we are… It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the ending, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand… I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only the didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something…”
    * Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?”
    * Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo… And it’s worth fighting for.”

  2. “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”
    ~Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

  3. The quote about taking off after inspiration with a club! It is 5:12 am here and our generator is giving us difficulty and the power might run out at any time, ending my writing for the day. And yet, I am tempted to look at facebook! No, I’m going to jump into that puppy story and write the scene wherein they attempt to catch a squirrel using a Rube Goldberg machine and instead trap their 25lb puppy! Here I go, club in hand.

  4. I loved all these quotes, Cynthia! I had forgotten Poe wrote the line, “Once upon a midnight dreary . . . ”
    *The quote you shared that really resonated with me was the Joseph Joubert one. “It is not my sentence that I polish, but my thought. I pause until the drop of light that I need is formed and falls from my pen.” I love the idea of polishing, clarifying, honing my thought so that the words say what best expresses it.
    *The quote I’ve been pondering lately is one by Anne Lamott:
    “This business of becoming a writer is all about asking yourself: How alive am I willing to be?”
    Thanks for this food for thought!

  5. I can’t think of a quote. But … how does a writer draw a reader in and inspire them? For me … a character’s sweet, tender vulnerability draws a reader and turns them loose on their own pages. * I just read Laura Frantz’s The Lacemaker. I love it. When Laura writes with a sweet vulnerability, I can’t put the book down. And while reading her novel, a scene from my own novel came to my mind that I needed to change, to soften. The comment made shouldn’t come from my main character … it had to come from a secondary one. I haven’t thought about that scene in so long. 🙂

  6. Toni Wilbarger says:

    “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.” — Oswald Chambers

  7. Kelly Perry says:

    …what he whispers…

    I love that.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      We’ve all read authors who shout without meaning. We’ve read authors whose very shout was what penetrated our hardened crust. And then there are those authors who tiptoe into the room, leave a little something poignant on the nightstand, and exit before we realize we’ve been disturbed.

      Hey, I think I just wrote a quoth!

  8. I am finding that the value of good quotes is not that they inspire an outward reach, but that they define the myriad possibilities within the walls of our reality. They apply to writing and to life, which actions – it finally comes clear! – are inseparably symbiotic.
    * On Sunday, with Barb having to be at work, I was in the yard – it was a lovely day – and I collapsed. A neighbour (a police officer) called 911 and my wife, and both arrived in short order. And thus the scene was set for Barb to have to tell these caring, concerned professionals that transporting me to hospital was not a consideration, because no viable medical options exist and I am DNR (do not resuscitate) in any event. They helped get me back to the house; I recall almost none of this, except lying on my back in the cool dirt and watching a jet pull a contrail across a clear January sky.
    * DNR carries a savage grace; the acronym stands astride my path with a granite finality and the cold reassurance that death will be painful, but not prolonged by technology gone too far. The prison yard I pace is small, but is it meaningless?
    * No, because meaning is a choice. Only I can strip my days of purpose, and I believe there IS a purpose, even if my only witness is God. And so, the quote, once again from Lord Of The Rings:
    “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    • Carol Ashby says:

      That last Gandalf quote was the one my son chose as his personal motto for his high school annual during his senior year. So true for us all!

    • Mary Kay Moody says:

      Powerful truth, Andrew, for all of us ~ honed with laser-like intensity in your days. Thank you for reminding all of us. Your visual of the plane pulling a contrail is beautifully vivid. And savage-grace. Prayers, my friend.

  9. Carol Ashby says:

    It’s not specifically a writer’s quote, but it’s something that applies to all creative work that requires many tasks not related to the creativity.
    *Scientific research is highly creative, pursuing knowledge never before known and devising ways to do things that were never before done. But it also involves too much safety paperwork that doesn’t add to the safety and maintenance of equipment like vacuum pumps with dirty oil that has to be changed.
    *Authors have to cultivate a fan base even before they have a book to attract fans, and even published authors have to market and build platform when they’d rather be writing the next book.
    *So here’s the saying I used to encourage us at work when something necessary but unpleasant had to be done before we could do the creative part we loved. “With this much manure, there’s got to be a pony somewhere.”
    *We’ll find that pony someday if we keep looking for it while we wield the shovel.

  10. My favorite has long been Sinclair Lewis quoting advice given him:

    “And as the recipe for writing, all writing, I remember no high-flown counsel but always and only Mary Heaton Vorse’s jibe, delivered to a bunch of young and mostly incompetent hopefuls back in 1911: ‘The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.’”

  11. Thank you, dear Cynthia, for this lovely and inspiring post. Quotes–I love them.
    Yes, to this one: “…what he whispers.” ~ Logan Pearsall Smith
    A writing quote by William Stafford that I treasure and have written in my journal is: “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he would not have thought of it if he had not started to say them.”
    I learn when I write; I learn about me, the world, and God.
    A writer is someone who has learned to listen and dip their pen deep into thoughts evoked.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  12. Mary Kay Moody says:

    A comment by Tchaikovsky, though I’m guessing he didn’t have authors in mind when he said it: “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”

    And a bit of fun guidance for when we writers have our first book signing (publisher Sidney Stark to author Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) ~ “Perhaps … you should refrain from throwing the book at the audience.) Never hurts to plan ahead. 🙂