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Food for thought

10 inspirational quotes for aspiring writers — from Kerouac to Orwell

I went to the courthouse last week to get a temporary passport, since I had lost mine promptly before my trip to Mexico. After filling out my application form and handing it off to the corresponding administrator, the government worker paused at the bottom of the page. "What do you do," she asked. "You didn't list an occupation; you have to fill that out."

Immediately the thought "do not list writer" flashed in my mind. I write ads, I write articles, but I certainly can't list "writer"... that would almost be as pretentious as listing "artist" because I take photographs or enjoy oil painting now and then. "Writer" felt like a farce. But it did feel more awkward to list something else since that would be a lie. Without knowing an ambiguous name for "writer." I hurriedly scribbled it down.

I waltzed over to the clerk, she looked at the form. "Writer — have you written any books?" My heart sunk in my chest; I had expected this response. "No," I said weakly, "not yet."

What does it take to be a "writer," and not just a freelance article hamster pumping out content for various news sources? What separates the wheat from the chaff? Later that evening I ran across an article by my favorite author, Zadie Smith called "Zadie Smith's 10 rules for writing."

Linked underneath were additional nuggets of wisdom from many beloved writers, past and present. I thought as a gift for every blossoming author out there, I would compile my favorite 10 rules on writing from some of the world's most gifted authors.

Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.' All that matters is what you leave on the page. — Zadie Smith

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.  — John Steinbeck

A writer, like an athlete, must 'train' every day. What did I do today to keep in 'form'? — Susan Sontag

Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through. — Henry Miller

Be in love with your life. — Jack Kerouac

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. — Kurt Vonnegut

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action. — Kurt Vonnegut

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper. — E.B. White

Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it. — Ezra Pound

Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it... It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else. — George Orwell

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