Ten things writers have to say about writing (plus blindness, gardening, sandboxes…)

Ten things writers have to say about writing

“It’s really, really hard to make something that’s interesting. It’s like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that’s written or anything that’s created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity.”

Ira Glass, creator of public radio’s This American Life 


“I believe that writers write for perceived communities, and if you are a lifelong professor of English, it’s quite likely that you will write poems that your colleagues would like. I worked every day with people who didn’t read poetry, who hadn’t read it since they were in high school, and I wanted to write for them.”

Ted Kooser, United States poet laureate


“Hard to develop the silence and humility necessary for creating good art if you are always yelling ‘look at me’ like a three-year-old who has just shit in the sandbox.”

Jim Harrison, Michigan-born poet and novelist


“The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.”

Evelyn Waugh, British novelist


“Comedy and horror are opposite sides of the same coin. I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf.”

Robert Bloch, novelist/screenwriter who developed the Norman Bates character for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho


“I speak of God’s splendid irony in granting me at once 800,000 books and darkness.”

Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian poet who finally got his dream job of working in a library…and soon after lost his vision


“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

Flannery O’Connor, novelist and writerly tough love proponent


“Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant. In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

Margaret Atwood, novelist, poet, gardener


“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

Calvin Trillin, humorist


The New Year always brings us what we want
Simply by bringing us along—to see
A calendar with every day uncrossed,
A field of snow without a single footprint.

Dana Gioia, from his poem “New Year’s”