Delany on Writers

A friend of mine, Deborah Biancotti, frequently posts cool quotes on her livejournal, often about writing. So, this one’s for you, Deb:

Writers are people who write. By and large, they are not happy people. They’re not good at relationships. Often they’re drunks. And writing—good writing—does not get easier and easier with practice. It gets harder and harder—so that eventually the writer must stall out into silence. The silence that waits for every writer and that, inevitably, if only with death (if we’re lucky, the two may happen at the same time: but they are still two, and their coincidence is rare), the writer must fall into is angst-ridden and terrifying—and often drives us mad. (In a letter to Allen Tate, the poet Hart Crane once described writing as “dancing on dynamite.”) So if you’re not a writer consider yourself fortunate.

Samuel R. Delany About Writing


  1. elizabeth bear on #

    Gee. That cheered me up. *g*

  2. Justine on #

    It’s a very cheery book, Elizabeth, a regular laugh riot!

    Actually, About Writing really is quite wonderful and has made me think about writing in lots of different ways. I can’t remember the last time I read a book on writing that did that to me. I think it may be the best one I’ve ever read.

    I’m not entirely convinced that even Chip totally believes what he says in this particular quote. He musta been exagarrating for rhetorical effect. At least I hope so!

  3. deborahb on #

    Thanks, I feel better now. 😉

  4. John Scalzi on #

    Delany clearly needs a hug.

  5. shelly rae on #

    And yet, I know more cheerful writers (I mean is there anyone more cheerful than Connie Willis?) than I do drunks–and at least one of the drunk writers I know got himself sober and was pretty darn cheerful afterwards. So, what John scalzi said…

  6. shelly rae on #

    But now I’m wondering…do you need a hug Justine?

  7. Justine on #

    Chip’s one of the cheeriest people I know. The quote comes from a letter where he’s working very hard to persuade someone who, um, doesn’t seem to have much talent that writing is not for them. He suggest volunteer work instead.

  8. you know who on #

    I thought it was funny and so did Deb and Elizabeth Baer. Your irony wasn’t lost on everybody!

    Are you finished with the book yet? Can we do lunch or dinner or something? Should I not be asking about the book?

  9. roger on #

    Shelly Rae, my dear, your so called “cheerful writer friends” are merely fooling you. Tears of a clown, ma girl, tears of a clown.

  10. Justine on #

    You know who: I’ll be freer after the 24th. I hope!

    Roger: Play nice!

  11. A.R.Yngve on #

    Actually, delany has the right idea in painting a bleak picture of the Suffering Poet.

    It IS important to deter talentless idiots from afflicting the world with their bad books. Only the truly driven talents will not be deterred by the “So You Want To Be A Writer” Speech. (Or the truly deranged…)

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