15 EB White Quotes on Writing

Author E.B. White would turn 119 today. To honor the prolific, versatile and adroit writer — Charlotte’s Web, Here is New York, The Elements of Style and countless New Yorker essays are among his many varied works — here are 15 excellent E.B. White quotes on writing.

  1. “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”
  2. “Writing is hard work and bad for the health.”
  3. “Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along.”
  4. “I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that doesn’t have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many men are born upright.”
  5. “Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.”
  6. “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.”
  7. “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
  8. “A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. … A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy: true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down.”
  9. “The best writing is re-writing.”
  10. “Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about man; write about a man.”
  11. “Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject.”
  12. “The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.”
  13. “A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.”
  14. “Although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.”
  15. “Use the smallest word that does the job.

Fin.

The Incredible Arthur Ellerman

The Ellerman crew circa 1917. Based on his football background, I think Arthur’s standing second from right.

 

A history book’s minor character becomes the author’s editorial sidepiece, resulting in an essay that includes log cabins, net neutrality, research methods, Twin Peaks, romance, politics and one very good dog.

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“Novelists are failed poets.” Word.

“Poetry— the sound and look of language—definitely played a role in my writing of this novel. Novelists are failed poets, as they say. A good turn of phrase, a beautiful description, and lyricism, I feel, are central to any good writing. Form and content aren’t separate.”

– Douglas Light, author of Where Night Stops, to Paul Cohen at The Millions.

 

Is This The Best Book Cover Ever? (Yes.)

Artist and writer Anita Willets-Burnham took two trips circumventing the globe, first in 1921 and again in 1928, and both times she brought her four children. She wanted to show them the world outside the classroom.

In 1930, she wrote about these travels – and how to afford them – in a memoir-meets-budget travelogue  called Round the World on a Penny. Above is an image of the 1940 reedition of the best-seller, which boasts probably the best book cover in history, esp. the little monkey in the bottom right.

That is all.

Speaking of Writing Books…

….Don’t forget WW Norton/Countryman Press recently published my first endeavor, The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History, in which I use humor and cultural analysis to show how this seemingly simple structure shaped the complex American identity, for better and for worse.