QUOTE FOR TODAY

Scriptcat has painstakingly collected over 300 quotes on writing, screenwriting, filmmaking, and the artist’s journey.

Enjoy and share!

“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling

“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa

“Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter—you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.” —Orson Welles

 Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

“Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.”—Paddy Chayefsky

Hemingway said it best, I still believe, though, that it is very bad for a writer to talk about how he writes. He writes to be read by the eye and no explanations or dissertations should be necessary. You can be sure that there is much more there than will be read at any first reading and having made this it is not the writer’s province to explain it or to run guided tours through the more difficult country of his work.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner

“If there ever was one analogy for what a screenwriter must accomplish, it’s this: To create a source of life, to find the bedrock of a given idea, to prevent most of the work from evaporating.”—FX Feeney

“That’s one of the nice things about writing, or any art; if the thing’s real, it just lives. All the attendant hoopla about it, the success over it or the critical rejection—none of that really matters. In the end, the thing will survive or not on its own merits. Not that immortality via art is any big deal. Truffaut died, and we all felt awful about it, and there were the appropriate eulogies, and his wonderful films live on. But it’s not much help to Truffaut.” — Woody Allen for The Paris Review, 1985

“It’s not magic that fills the blank pages—it’s a passion for the craft, followed by an ass in the seat, staring at a screen, using a solid story road map, and the discipline and techniques to churn out pages.”—Scriptcat

“I could be just a writer very easily. I am not a writer. I am a screenwriter, which is half a filmmaker. … But it is not an art form, because screenplays are not works of art. They are invitations to others to collaborate on a work of art.”—Paul Schrader

 “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in his 1878 letter to his benefactress.

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.” —Leigh Brackett

“Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop.”—Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, page 23.

“Time stays long enough for those who use it.”—Leonardo da Vinci

“I read part of it all the way though.”—Samuel Goldwyn

“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”— Picasso

“There is only one type of story in the world — your story.”—Ray Bradbury

“Starting tonight, every night in your life before you go to sleep, read at least one poem by anyone you choose. Poetry and motion pictures are twins. You’ll get more out of reading poetry than you will get out of any other kind of reading. You are people with eyes. You must find ways of extending this vision and putting it on film. As an experiment all of you could get out of here and shoot a cinematic haiku. Just go through a book of Japanese haiku and shoot a thirty-second film. They’re purely cinematic, very visual. You must read poems every night of your life in order to enable yourself to refresh your images. In forty years you’ll thank me for telling you this.”—Ray Bradbury, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

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

“Yes, screenwriting is character, story and structure, but it’s also about feel… like you’re working with emotional clay.” — Scriptcat

“A writer is not a film’s maker but its originator, then a writer must, if she or he is to emerge and make a mark, create a body of work that is not just aimed at posterity but at surviving the food chain which constitutes modern film production.” — Richard Price, screenwriter of The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Mad Dog & Glory, Clockers, & Ransom.

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”—Ray Bradbury

“The angels are the director’s thoughts. The lighting is his philosophy.”—Douglas Sirk

“We are continually humbled by the enormity of the craft, but we keep learning and getting better with every new screenplay and experience.” — Scriptcat

As an artist, you are always striving toward an ultimate achievement but never seem to reach it. You shoot a film, and the result could have always been better. You try again, and fail once more. In some ways I find it enjoyable. You never lose sight of your goal. I don’t do my job to make money or to break box office records, I simply try things out. What would happen if I were to achieve perfection at some point? What would I do then?” — Woody Allen for The Talk, 2012

“I find that when you open on a group of people sitting down and talking, the scene sits down with them.” He said, “The best antidote for that is an entrance. Begin the scene with someone entering, and somehow it’s more interesting.”—Howard Hawks

“You must be arrogant enough to believe that you can “make it”—but humble enough to know it’s a long journey with much to learn.”—Scriptcat

“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”—Leonardo da Vinci

“So the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost. All the wrong environment will do is run his blood pressure up; he will spend more time being frustrated or outraged. My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.”—William Faulkner

“There is no point in having sharp images when you’ve fuzzy ideas.” – Jean-Luc Godard

“There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.” — Stephen King

“That’s one of the nice things about writing, or any art; if the thing’s real, it just lives. All the attendant hoopla about it, the success over it or the critical rejection—none of that really matters. In the end, the thing will survive or not on its own merits. Not that immortality via art is any big deal. Truffaut died, and we all felt awful about it, and there were the appropriate eulogies, and his wonderful films live on. But it’s not much help to Truffaut.” — Woody Allen for The Paris Review, 1985

“I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.”— Orson Welles

To me, the torture is getting the idea, working the idea out — its general plot, structure and story. But once I know that, I can write a screenplay in two, three weeks. It’s the difference between writing it and writing it down. It becomes pleasurable for me and flows easily because I’ve done all the spade work beforehand.” –Woody Allen in The Hollywood Reporter, 2012

“I have a theory: not to bore the audience. You make pictures, in a way, for yourself, but you also make them for an audience.”—director William Wyler, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.” – George Cukor

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”— Stephen King

“A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred is merely a popinjay. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”—Ernest Hemingway

“The reward of suffering is experience.”—Aeschylus, Ancient Greek Dramatist known as the founder of Greek Tragedy

“Unlimited budgets make for a lack of precise decision-making.”—producer Lynda Obst in her new book: Sleepless in Hollywood

“Starting tonight, every night in your life before you go to sleep, read at least one poem by anyone you choose. Poetry and motion pictures are twins.”—Ray Bradbury

“Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.”—John Truby

“Luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets an opportunity and delivers the goods.”—Scriptcat

“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Faulkner

“The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.” – Raymond Chandler

“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”—John Steinbeck

“One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make a fortune writing like John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce nothing but pale imitations, by and large, because vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”—Stephen King

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”—
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 1 Scene 4

“I have a theory: not to bore the audience. You make pictures, in a way, for yourself, but you also make them for an audience.”—director William Wyler, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“Don’t focus on where you’re not (famous or A-list writer)—focus on where you’re at—hopefully screenwriting. Regardless of success or experience, we’re all equals in front of that blank page channeling the muse.”—Scriptcat

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed.  It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.  Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.  In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”—Aristotle

“Make entertaining pictures, because people don’t go to see movies about a bunch of problems. They’ve got enough problems of their own. Motion pictures are entertainment, and if you’re going to preach, if you’re going to force your ideas on the audience, you’re taking chances.”— director Howard Hawks, interview in Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

I want to risk hitting my head on the ceiling of my talent. I really want to test it out and say, ‘Okay, you’re not that good. You just reached the level here.’  I don’t ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”—Quentin Tarantino

“Writing is very hard work, and having done both writing and directing, I can tell you that directing is a pleasure and writing is a drag… but writing is just an empty page—you start with absolutely nothing. I think writers are vastly underrated and underpaid. It’s totally impossible, thought, for a mediocre director to completely screw up a great script.”— director Billy Wilder

“If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.”—John Steinbeck

“After you’ve started shooting, producers come to you and ask, “What is the theme of our picture?” They were very proud, you know, to have a theme. There’s a kind of joke among us writers. You tell them, “The theme? Don’t you know? The theme of this is ‘You can’t eat soup with a fork.’” And he says, “That’s terrific.” —Billy Wilder, interview in Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me.”—Kurt Vonnegut

“You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Most directors do not want to rewrite the script. They have more pressing commitments on the sound stage. The writer’s best insurance against a rewrite is to have an understanding of the directorial problems. Write a scene that can’t be played, no matter how beautiful the words or thoughts, is begging for a revamp.”—Jerry Lewis

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”—Ray Bradbury

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

“It’s all about making sure the film bounces off that sheet and comes to life in the mind of the audience. What is a film outside the audience’s mind?”—director George Stevens, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“The telephone and visitors are the work destroyers.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Because so much of directing is just getting the script right. Getting the beats to play, and knowing what to emphasise. To me, screenwriting isn’t just exit, enter, speak your lines. It’s really about establishing a rhythm, and directing on paper, to some extent.”—Shane Black

“As an artist, you are always striving toward an ultimate achievement but never seem to reach it. You shoot a film, and the result could have always been better. You try again, and fail once more. In some ways I find it enjoyable. You never lose sight of your goal. I don’t do my job to make money or to break box office records, I simply try things out. What would happen if I were to achieve perfection at some point? What would I do then?” — Woody Allen for The Talk, 2012.

“One of the most important tools that a filmmaker has are his/her notes.”—Francis Ford Coppola

“Life in the movie business is like the beginning of a new love affair. It’s full of surprises and you’re constantly getting fucked.”—David Mamet

“The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”—Ray Bradbury

“So give yourself that chance to put together the 80, 90 pages of a draft and then read it very in a nice little ceremony, where you’re comfortable, and you read it and make good notes on it, what you liked, what touched you, what moved you, what’s a possible way, and then you go about on a rewrite.”—Francis Ford Coppola

“People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.”—William Faulkner

“Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”—Rod Serling

“The well is where your “juice” is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself. What you know is if you have it, or you have to wait for it to come back.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Dramatic economy, which includes the ability of a writer to cut what at one point he might have considered to be his best work ever, is one of the most important skills a writer can have. It is learned only through much experience, combined with a ruthless attitude and utter lack of sentimentality.”—Alexander MacKendrick, “Sweet Smell of Success”

“Perhaps you can write only one page a day,
but if you do it every day, at the end of the year
you’ll have 365 pages of script.”—director Akira Kurosawa

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“The problem is that being creative has glamour. People in the business end of film always say, “I want to be a producer, but a creative producer.” Or a woman I went to school with who said, “Oh, yes, I married this guy. He’s a plumber but he’s very creative.”—Woody Allen

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

“… That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility.  They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public.  But alone with the work they are chase and humble.  They know they are not the source of the creations they bring into being.  They only facilitate.  They carry.  They are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddesses they serve.—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“If you’re worried about failing, you ought to get into a different business, because statistics will tell you that sixty or seventy percent of the time you’re going to fail.  By fail I mean that the movie won’t make money.  Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks, director of Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Bird of Youth, In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”—William Falukner

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” ― Stella Adler

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson

“What is directing? It’s trying to use a lot of people and some very heavy apparatus, and give it all the lightness of a pen while you are writing.”—director David Lean, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“It’s art. It’s commerce. It’s heartbreaking and it’s fun. It’s a great way to live.”—Sidney Lumet

“Directors have always been accused of rewriting unnecessarily-particularly by writers. Actually, most of the time it is deletion because a scene won’t work. You loved it in the original script, okayed it during pre-production, but when you get to the top of the second page of the scene you suddenly discover there is a resolution. It wasn’t evident until you took it in front of the camera. Oops, that’s the scene! There is no point in mucking up what is already good.”—Jerry Lewis

“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about”—Steven Spielberg

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”—Tom Clancy

“I used to try to write better than certain dead writers of whose value I was certain. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”—Ernest Hemingway

“No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life.”—Samuel Goldwyn

“I think students must be taught to visualize, they have to learn there is a rectangle up there and it has to be filled. Personally I never look through the camera. What for? To find out whether the camera is lying?”— director Alfred Hitchcock, interview in Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“The script must keep you off balance. Keep you surprised, entertained, involved, and yet, when the denouement is reached, still give a sense that the story HAD to turn out that way.”—Sidney Lumet

“Don’t write stage directions. If it is not apparent what the character is trying to accomplish by saying the line, telling us how the character said it, or whether or not she moved to the couch isn’t going to aid the case. We might understand better what the character means but we aren’t particularly going to care.”—David Mamet

“All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.”
Ernest Hemingway 

“Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu

“I’ve often been asked why the film industry hasn’t generated more acting talent. The answer is simple: the men at the top do not care. They live on the basis of product being made today.
There is a sad but true saying in the industry: “Is it good?” “No, but we’ll have it Friday.”—Jerry Lewis

“It’s all about making sure the film bounces off that sheet and come to life in the mind of the audience. What is a film outside the audience’s mind?”—director George Stevens, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.”—Aristotle

“A good writer should know as near everything as possible. Naturally he will not. A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.”—Ernest Hemingway

“… In fact, when the camera is in motion, in the best-directed scenes, the audiences should not be aware of what the camera is doing. They should be following the action and the road of the idea so closely, that they shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on technically.”—John Huston

“Writing is very hard work, and having done both writing and directing, I can tell you that directing is a pleasure and writing is a drag… but writing is just an empty page—you start with absolutely nothing. I think writers are vastly underrated and underpaid. It’s totally impossible, thought, for a mediocre director to completely screw up a great script.”— director Billy Wilder, interview in Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“The film (The Power and the Glory) made a lot of enemies. Writers at that time worked in teams, like piano movers. And my first solo script was considered a distinct menace to the profession.”Preston Sturges

When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”—Stephen King

“Not only do you attack each scene as late as is possible, you attack the entire story the same way.”—William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade.

“The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.”—Ernest Hemingway

“I have a theory: not to bore the audience. You make pictures, in a way, for yourself, but you also make them for an audience.”—director William Wyler, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”—Charles Dickens

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” — Joseph Campbell

“Any good director gets a professional family when he starts a film. They immediately check him out to discover how much information he possesses. They also want to know if he has balls. They will challenge him the first day and every day until the wrap-s-unless he proves he knows what he’s doing.”—Jerry Lewis

“…dialogue comes easy if the attitudes are right. You’re just playing with something in order to get away from the usual thing. It’s also an example of what Hemingway called “oblique dialogue” and what I call “three-cushion dialogue.” You’re not saying anything—you’re just letting it bounce around two or three times for the meaning to be picked up.”—Howard Hawks

“One of the things that young writers falsely hope exists is inspiration. A lot of young writers fail because they aren’t putting in the hours. I had a great, great editor, Hiram Haydn, who had many children and was a novelist. Toward the last years of his career, the only time he could write was Sunday morning. He would write four hours every Sunday morning. And he would get books done. It would take him years, but I think it’s crucial that we have some kind of rhythm. Whether you can write all day every day, or whether you can write four hours on Sundays, whatever it is, you have to protect that time.”—William Goldman

“Just tell the story, physically and visually. Don’t censor. Let the final form come last.”—director Carol Reed

“Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”—Ray Bradbury

“I don’t think of it as an art. When it works it’s skill & craft & some unconscious ability”—Ernest Lehman

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”—John Steinbeck

“What is directing? It’s trying to use a lot of people and some very heavy apparatus, and give it all the lightness of a pen while you are writing.”—director David Lean, Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“The artist has the Universe in his mind and hands.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“I had a ritual once of lighting a candle and writing by its light and blowing it out when I was done for the night … also kneeling and praying before starting (I got that from a French movie about George Frideric Handel) … but now I simply hate to write.”—Jack Kerouac

“All good writing is like swimming under water and holding your breath.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.”—John Steinbeck

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again”—Ernest Hemingway

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”—Hunter S. Thompson

“I don’t think that writers or painters or filmmakers function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form: they like words, or the smell of paint, or celluloid and photographic images and working with actors. I don’t think that any genuine artist has ever been oriented by some didactic point of view, even if he thought he was.”—Stanley Kubrick

“Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capacity to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

If [financial success] came early enough and you
loved life as much as you loved your work,
it would take much character to resist the temptations.
Once writing has become your major vice and
greatest pleasure, only death can stop it. Financial security
then is a great help as it keeps you from worrying.
Worry destroys the ability to write.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”—Martin Scorsese

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu

“To understand your fear is the beginning of really seeing.” — Bruce Lee

“Still, the writing is also the hardest part—creating something from nothing—and it’s a very, very lonely job.—Akira Kurosawa

“There’s delusion—we all know what that is and who that is—then there’s a lifer—one who creates because he must. It’s the lifeblood of an artist.” — author/musician Bill See

“There are no small screenwriting dreams—just small screenwriters. A bit of insanity helps the journey”—Scriptcat

“There are two kinds of scenes: Pet the Dog Scene & Kick the Dog scene. The studio always wants a “Pet the Dog” scene so everybody can tell who the hero is.”—Paddy Chaydfsky

“There are no minor decisions in movie making. Each decision will either contribute to a good piece of work or bring the whole movie crashing down around my head many months later.”—Sidney Lumet

“People come to you and say, “Boy we love your work. We love this and we want to buy it.” Then, as soon as they buy it, the teeth come out. You become not the father of the work, but the stepfather. All of a sudden, you’re an outsider, a villain. I have often said to people, “Look, I’ll do the script for free for you if you’ll shoot my mistakes instead of yours. My mistakes are better.”—Ray Bradbury, interview in Conversations with The Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute.

“A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue.”—David Mamet

“Everything must serve the idea—I must say this again and again. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and the most direct and clear. I don’t believe in overdressing anything. Just what is required. No extra words, no extra images, no extra music. But it seems to me that this is a universal principle of art. To say as much as possible with a minimum of means. And to be always clear about what you are trying to say. That means, of course, that you must know what you are trying to say. So I guess my first principle is to understand myself, and then to find the simplest way to make others understand it, too.”—John Huston, Film Quarterly, Vol.19, No. 1, Autumn, 1965.

“The problem is that screenwriters don’t focus enough on storytelling.”—Scott Frank

“Take a person like Picasso, you know, who does double profiles and has gone through cubism and God knows what, but he knows every muscle in the human body. If you ask him to draw the figure of a man or a woman, there wouldn’t be a muscle out of place. You’ve got to know your craft in order to express the art.”—Alfred Hitchcock

“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.” —Charles Bukowski

“The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘Don’t Think!’”—Ray Bradbury

“Reading, in the showbiz game, is work. Drudgery even—antithetical, I might argue, to why most writers toil. We write to be read. Hopefully enjoyed. Even to later be complimented. But most importantly, we’d like to know that we entertained. That the reader either laughed or was moved to tears or struck by some worthy emotion summoned by the strings of words we’ve chosen.”—screenwriter Doug Richardson.

“I’ll give you my theory. One of the reasons that screenwriters are never going to get what they should is because people who write about the entertainment business want to be in the movie business. They believe that screenwriters don’t do anything, so they can do it too. The director is in charge of all visuals and the stars write all the classy dialogue. So what does a screenwriter do? His position is very small in the public’s mind. And I don’t think that’s going to change.”—William Goldman

“The main thing for a writer is to find out who you are. Now, that’s not going to please everybody. You have to discover what your real talent is—what really interests you as a writer. That’s really the thing. Not how popular you can be. But what really is your metier.”—Horton Foote

“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”—William Butler Yeats

“What’s unique about screenwriting is that it’s an act of prophecy. The screenwriter is a bit of the Gypsy with a crystal ball. You say, I’m writing this on a page and it’s going to be blown up on a screen so damned big that you believe it, with actors I don’t know if anybody’s going to get, in settings I don’t know where and how they can be done; and it’s going to turn out this way…” You’re guessing. There’s a big of Gypsy in you. An act of prophecy.”—Robert Towne

“A really creative writer ought to become a director, which means that in addition to being creative he must also be very tough physically and morally.”—Raymond Chandler, Chandler on The Film World and Television

“Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“Your screenwriting career is not a Dali-esque delusion, but the result of work, talent, focus, sacrifice, patience & luck.”—Scriptcat

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”— William S. Burroughs

“…because it’s only in your twenties and in your seventies and eighties can you do the greatest work… The enemy of life is middle age. Youth and old age are great times—and we must treasure old age and give genius the capacity to function in old age—and not send them away…”—Orson Welles

“I have no idea who the characters are, later, their personalities take over anything I might want to do. I end up writing not from my own will, but from theirs—they come alive as I write and make me do things that I couldn’t have planned.”—Akira Kurosawa

“There’s a powerful magic about being a writer that I still marvel at.”—Sidney Lumet

“As an artist, I feel that we must try many things — but above all we must dare to fail.”
—John Cassavetes

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen”—Joseph Campbell

“Screenwriting is such a very special branch of literature. In some ways, it’s closer to the poetic form than it is to the dramatic. A lot of writers think that they write down to an audience if they do a motion-picture script.”—John Huston

“When I first meet with the scriptwriter, I ask him what is the story about—what do you see—what was your intention?”—Sidney Lumet

“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”—Leslie Gordon Barnard

“In any negotiations you must be prepared to lay your head on the block. A writer never has anything to fight with but whatever guts the Lord gave him. He is always up against business organizations that have enough power to destroy him in an hour. So all he can do is try to make them understand that destroying him would be a mistake because he may have something to give them.”—Raymond Chandler, Feburary 27, 1957, “Chandler on the Film World & Tv

“For the nicest thing Hollywood can possibly think of to say to a writer is that he is too good to be only a writer.”—Raymond Chandler

“Art films aren’t necessarily photography. It’s feeling. If we can capture a feeling of a people, of a way of life, then we made a good picture.”—John Cassavetes

“In the early days of television, when the “kitchen sink” school of realism held sway, we always reached a point where we “explained” the character. Around two-thirds of the way through, someone articulated the psychological truth that made the character the person he was. Chayefsky and I used to call this the “rubber-ducky” school of drama: “Someone once took his rubber ducky away from him, and that’s why he’s a deranged killer.” That was the fashion then, and with many producers and studios it still is.  I always try to eliminate the rubber-ducky explanations. A character should be clear from his present actions. And his behavior as the picture goes on should reveal the psychological motivations. If the writer has to state the reasons, something’s wrong in the way the character has been written. Dialogue is like anything else in movies. It can be a crutch, or when used well, it can enhance, deepen, and reveal.”—Sidney Lumet

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” — Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing, 1916

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.”—Rudyard Kipling, “If”

“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

“Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.”—Michael Crichton

“Breaking into this business, making your first sale is an incredible event. The most important thing about the first sale is for the very first time in your life something written has value and proven value because somebody has given you money for the words that you’ve written, and that’s terribly important, it’s a tremendous boon to the ego, to your sense of self-reliance, to your feeling about your own talent. I remember the first sale I made was a hundred and fifty dollars for a radio script, and, as poor as I was, I didn’t cash the check for three months. I kept showing it to people.“—Rod Serling

“But it is not at all unthinkable for anyone to tell a writer how to write. It comes with the territory.”—Ernest Lehman

“We all have the tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally manage to control our impatience; we understand the superior value of getting what we want through hard work. For some people, however, this inveterate lazy streak is far too powerful.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“Having spent too many years in show business, the one thing I see that succeeds is persistence. It’s the person who just ain’t gonna go home. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to go home. This is what I’ll be doing until they put me in jail or in a coffin.” —David Mamet

“Your work will be rejected, but don’t allow your skewed perception of failure to open the darkest places of fear and insecurity in your creative soul.”—Scriptcat

“I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.”—Orson Welles

“Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized.”—Rod Serling.

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible adventures.”—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

 “With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job. It’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There is plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Only you know the hard work, sacrifices and time it took to reach this level of your career. Surround yourself with like-minded people who truly champion your overall screenwriting goals and not just support you for one project. Remember always—it’s your career.”—Scriptcat

“[As a screenwriter] I have a sense of exile from thought, a nostalgia of the quiet room and balanced mind. I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn’t have to be great writing, it doesn’t even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine.” —Raymond Chandler from “Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler”

“Any script that’s written changes at least thirty percent from the time you begin pre-production: ten percent while you fit your script to what you discover about your locations, ten percent while your ideas are growing as you rehearse your actors who must grow into their parts because the words mean nothing alone, and ten percent while the film is finally being edited. It may change more than this but rarely less.” —Sam Peckinpah

“This is when I know I’m working on something that I love:  I can’t wait to get up the next morning and continue to work on it again.”—Scriptcat”

“Think of the mind as a muscle that naturally tightens up over time unless it is consciously worked upon. What causes this tightening is twofold. First, we generally prefer to entertain the same thoughts and ways of thinking because they provide us with a sense of consistency and familiarity. Sticking with the same methods also saves us a lot of effort. We are creatures of habit.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“You may have a perfectly good scene, but as the character becomes clearer to you, you realize the scene you are doing has little or no characterization, so you beigin to add character to the man. You’re actually doing the same scene, but you’re giving him a few different words and you’re getting a few different attitudes into it.”—director Howard Hawks, interview with Peter Bogdanovich in “Who the Devil Made It”

“Master storytellers never explain. They do the hard, painfully creative thing—they dramatize.”—Robert Mckee, “Story”

“So now it was all over, he thought.  So now he would never have a chance to finish it… now he would never write the thing he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.  Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that is why you put them off and delayed the starting.  Well he would never know, now.” —Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

“We stand cliffside and stare into the black void below while our dreams burn as red-hot fuel for our courage.”—Scriptcat

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” — Raymond Chandler

“But the Artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling.  If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer his whole life.  In the hierarchy, the Artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, “What can this person do for me?”  “How can this person advance my standing?”  In hierarchy, the Artist looks up and looks down.  The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee

“I detest the word plot.  I never, never think of plot.  I think only and solely of character. Give me the characters; I’ll tell you a story–maybe a thousand stories. The interaction between and among human beings is the only story worth telling.”—Stirling Silliphant

“I can pick up a screenplay and flip through the pages.  If all I see is dialog, dialog, dialog, I won’t even read it.  I don’t care how good the dialog is — it’s a moving picture.  It has to move all the time… It’s not the stage.  A movie audience doesn’t have the patience to sit and learn a lesson.  Their eyes need to be dazzled.  The writer is the most important element in the entire film because if it ain’t on the page it ain’t going to be on the screen.”Robert Evans

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can assume great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

“Every scene should be able to answer three questions: “Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?”—David Mamet

“Although [making a movie] can be like trying to write ‘War and Peace’ in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling.”—Stanley Kubrick

“I’m old fashioned or primitive enough to believe that if somebody grabs your arm and says, “Jesus, look at that shot,” then you’ve lost him. “—Billy Wilder

“Those of us who have had good work can admit the truth, which is: Good work is an accident. That’s not being falsely modest, there’s a reason that the accidents are going to happen to some of us and will never happen to the other people: we’ve got some sort of knowledge, or instinct, of how to prepare the ground for the accident to happen. Because some people work in a way that they shortcut any chance of the accident happening.”—director Sidney Lumet, interview with Peter Bogdanovich in “Who the Devil Made It”

“Hollywood is a fickle mistress, so keep grounded by constantly doing the work—when you finish a script, start writing another and then another”—Scriptcat

“Of the total creative effort represented in a finished work, 75 percent or more of a writer’s labor goes into designing the story… designing story tests the maturity and insight of the writer, his knowledge of society, nature, and the human heart.  Story demands both vivid imagination and powerful analytic thought.”—Robert McKee

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”—Pablo Picasso

“Fame and money are gifts given to us only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.”—Ray Bradbury

“Form does not mean “formula.” There is no screenplay-writing recipe that guarantees your cake will rise… You must master the principles of story composition. This craft is neither mechanics nor gimmicks… without craft the best the writer can do is snatch the first idea off the top of his head, then sit  helpless in front of his own work, unable to answer the dreaded questions: Is it good?  Or is it sewage?  If sewage, what do I do?”—Robert McKee

“Writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout.”—Ray Bradbury

“Character-driven story” is redundant. All stores are “character-driven.”  Event design and character mirror each other. Character cannot be expressed in depth except through the design of the story.”—Robert McKee, “STORY”

“Stories are like relics, part of an undiscovered preexisting world.  The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”—Stephen King

“There’s a certain pride among people who’re good—a race car driver, a flier, a baseball player, a hockey player, anything like that—the primary thing is to do a really good job. They forget everything else in order to do it right—it’s their job; they’re supposed to do it. You get a stunt team in air acrobatics—if one of them is no good, they’re all in trouble.”—director Howard Hawks, interview with Peter Bogdanovich in “Who the Devil Made It”

“Writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.”— Charles Bukowski

“I’m interested first in the action and next in the words they speak. If I can’t make the action good, I don’t use the words… some of the stuff handed to you on paper is perfectly good to read, but isn’t any good on the set.”—Howard Hawks

“It’s not really about the movie business, it’s about staying in the picture.”—Robert Evans

 “Yes, nifty dialogue helps one hell of a lot; sure, it’s nice if you can bring your characters to life.  But you can have terrific characters spouting just swell talk to each other, and if the structure is unsound, forget it.”—William Goldman

“From an instant to eternity, from the intracranial to the intergalactic, the life story of each and every character offers encyclopedic possibilities. The mark of a master is to select only a few moments but give us a lifetime.”— Robert McKee

“You must not come lightly to the bank page.”—Stephen King, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

“When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost—and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”— T.S. Eliot

“Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.  Master storytellers know how to squeeze life out of the least of things, while poor storytellers reduce the profound to the banal. You may have the insight of a Buddha, but if you cannot tell story, your ideas turn dry as chalk.”—Robert McKee, “Story”

“While Paramount was very firm about budget of ‘Star Trek,’ I’ve learned financial compromises can lead to creative inspiration.”—JJ Abrams

“Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”—Ray Bradbury

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” — Stephen King

“There are no “old” movies—only movies you have already seen and ones you haven’t.”—Peter Bogdanovich

“You have to understand that people feel threatened by a writer.  It’s very curious. He knows something they don’t know.  He knows how to write, and that’s a subtle, disturbing quality he has.  Some directors without even knowing it, resent the writer in the same way Bob Hope might resent the fact he ain’t funny without twelve guys writing the jokes.  The director knows the script he is carrying around on the set every day was written by someone, and that’s just not something that all directors easily digest.” —Ernest Lehman

“I did all my directing when I wrote the screenplay. It was probably harder for a regular director. He probably had to read the script the night before shooting started.”—Preston Sturges

“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”—Stephen King

“It’s a funny thing about life if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”—W. Somerset Maugham

“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”—Ray Bradbury

“When you start a movie script, it’s like entering a dark room: You may find your way around all right, but you also may fall over a piece of furniture and break your neck. Some of us can see a little better than others in the dark, but there is no guaranteeing the audience’s reaction.”—Billy Wilder

“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.” —Steven Pressfield

“You have to be very productive in order to become excellent.  You have to go through a poor period and a mediocre period, and then you move into your excellent period.  It may be very well be that some of you have done quite a bit of writing already. You maybe ready to move into your good period and your excellent period.  But you shouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a very long process.”—Ray Bradbury

“It’s such an exhausting thing, you know, facing that empty page in the morning.”—Billy Wilder

“You can’t go around to theatres handing out cards saying, ‘It isn’t my fault.’ You go onto the next one.”–Preston Sturges

“Collaborative effort requires sharing that tiny little space which we reserve for ourselves.  We’ve got to bring it out and share it for a while, even if we put it back afterward.”—Stanley Kramer

“Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks

“I try to tell my story as simply as possible, with the camera at eye level.  I just imagine the way the story should be told, and I do it. If it’s a scene that I don’t want anybody to monkey with or cut, I don’t give them any way to cut it.”—Howard Hawks

One of the problems with screenwriters is that they think first in terms of plot or in terms of metaphor, and they’re going the reverse way; it’s awfully hard to do. Once you have a plot, it’s hard to infuse a theme into it, because it’s not an indigenous expression of the plot; that’s why you must start with the theme and not the plot.

“Metaphor is extremely important to a movie. A perfect example is Deliverance, where you have point A and point B, and four men going from A to B—the first time [theme] for the men, the last time [metaphor] for the river. On the strength of that metaphor, you could put the Marx Brothers in that boat and something would happen. When somebody walks up to you and says, ‘I’ve got a great idea for a Western and this is the twist,’ you know right off the bat that they’re in trouble, because they’re coming at it the wrong way.”—Paul Schrader

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.” —William Faulkner

“The professional understands delayed gratification.  He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… the professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work.  He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that.  He recognizes it as reality. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep the huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.” — Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write.  Let them think you were born that way.”Ernest Hemingway

“There’s no such thing as talent;  you just have to work hard enough.” — David Mamet

“Good screenwriting is about carpentry.  It’s a juggling of beginnings, middles and endings so they all inevitably seem to be moving correctly together.  Your first draft is dangerously important.  Don’t ever kid yourself into thinking, “It’s okay, it’s just the first draft.”  Beware of that thought, because it’s ten times more difficult to go in a certain direction once you’ve gone in another direction.”—Ernest Lehman

“The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble.  It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” —Raymond Chandler

“The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.”—Billy Wilder

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”—Jack London

“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”Somerset Maugham

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it… creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.  I’d type a little faster.”— Isaac Asimov

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma.  In the afternoon, I put it back in.” —Oscar Wilde

“The amateur plays for fun.  The professional plays for keeps.  To the amateur, the game is his avocation.  To the pro it’s his vocation.  The amateur is a weekend warrior.  The professional is there seven days a week… the professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it.  He commits full-time.  Resistance hates it when we turn pro.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“Ever tried.  Ever failed.   No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.” —Samuel Beckett

I hate talk about morality, but the moral center of the piece is in my eyes essential. — Orson Welles, Cahiers du Cinema, no. 87 (Sept. 1958)

“… the more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it.  The payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro).  The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude.  It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” — Robert Frost

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” — Anton Chekhov

The key word in art—it’s an ugly word but it’s a necessary word—is power, your own power.  Power to say, “I’m going to bend you to my will.”  However you disguise it, you’re gripping someone’s throat. You’re saying, “My dear, this is the way it’s going to be.—Elia Kazan

“Scriptwriting is the toughest part of the whole racket… the least understood and the least noticed.”
—Frank Capra

“When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ‘ I say, ‘Your salary.'” —Alfred Hitchcock

“Other writers, producers, and directors of low-budget films would often put down the film they were making, saying it was just something to make money with. I never felt that. If I took the assignment, I’d give it my best shot.”
— Roger Corman

“There are no rules in filmmaking Only sins! And the Cardinal sin is dullness.” — Frank Capra.

“Film is the greatest educational medium the world has ever known.” — John L. Sullivan in Preston Sturges’ film “Sullivan’s Travels.”

“A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.” — Billy Wilder

“Hollywood is a showman’s paradise. But showmen make nothing; they exploit what someone else has made. The publisher and the play producer are showmen too; but they exploit what is already made. The showmen of Hollywood control the making – and thereby degrade it. For the basic art of motion pictures is the screenplay; it is fundamental, without it there is nothing. Everything derives from the screenplay, and most of that which derives is an applied skill which, however adept, is artistically not in the same class with the creation of a screenplay.” —Raymond Chandler

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Work every day.  No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.” –  Hemingway

Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.  — Stephen King, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

“Film’s thought of as a director’s medium because the director creates the end product that appears on the screen.  It’s that stupid auteur theory again, that the director is the author of the film. But what does the director shoot – the telephone book?  Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.” —Billy Wilder

“We’re only interested in one thing, Bart.  Can you tell a story? Can you make us laugh?  Can you make us cry?  Can you make us want to break out in joyous song?  Is that more than one thing?  Okay!” – Jack Lipnick to Barton Fink

In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed, “even if I didn’t write anything, I made sure I sat down at my desk every single day and concentrated.”  Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.

“There is one crucial rule that must be followed in all creative meetings. Never speak first. At least at the start, your job is to shut up.”  – William Goldman

“You’re in a profession in which absolutely everybody is telling you their opinion, which is different. That’s one of the reasons George Lucas never directed again.” –  Francis Ford Coppola

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” — Billy Wilder

“An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.”
— Billy Wilder

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson

“By writing much, one learns to write well.”  – Robert Southey

“I have spent forty years sitting alone at a typewriter, and will report that it takes time, and effort, trial and error, to learn how to structure one’s day productively when there is no one there but you.” – David Mamet

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration.  It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing and desire, desire to do it.  If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” Chances are you are.   The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident.  The real one is scared to death.”  – Steven Pressfield from “The War of Art”

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” – Hemingway

“What you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.” – Unknown

“The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important the accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it.  The payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro).  The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude.  It inoculates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.”  – Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” — Hemingway

“All men dream: but not equally.   Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T. E. Lawrence

“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”  – Woodrow Wilson

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” ~ Woody Allen

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits.  There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them”. – Bruce Lee

“Practice isn’t painful when you love what you do…  talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”  – Stephen King, “On Writing.”

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.” – Billy Wilder

“The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.” – Orson Welles

You know what my philosophy of life is?  That it’s important to have some laughs, but you gotta suffer a little too, because otherwise you miss the whole point to life.” – Broadway Danny Rose

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King


“The wise screen writer is he who wears his second-best suit, artistically speaking, and doesn’t take things too much to heart.  He should have a touch of cynicism, but only a touch. The complete cynic is as useless to Hollywood as he is to himself.  He should do the best he can without straining at it.  He should be scrupulously honest about his work, but he should not expect scrupulous honesty in return.  He won’t get it.  And when he has had enough, he should say goodbye with a smile, because for all he knows he may want to go back.” – Raymond Chandler

“‘But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'”

The quote in a larger context seems to be from W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951.


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