Kurt Vonnegut’s 10 Best Writing Quotes

Kurt Vonnegut, author of SlaughterHouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, and Cat’s Cradle, is a master of using humor to make sense of this crazy world. He takes complex subject matters — that are often grim and hopeless — and interprets them in his writing with a style that is concise, conversational, and witty. 

As writers navigating our own absurd world, there is a lot we can learn from Vonnegut. Here are 10 writing quotes from the author that had made us laugh at the bleakness of reality. 

1. “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”

2. “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”

3. “Jokes are efficient things and they must be as carefully constructed as mouse traps. And so for me to write a page of a novel is a very slow business, because the whole thing has to be rigged in order to snap at the end. My books are essentially mosaics, thousands and thousands of tiny little chips all glued together, and each chip is this thing I learned to do—this thing I learned to make as a child—which is a little joke.”

4. “Novel writing doesn’t breed serenity. It is lying, you know, and the novelist has to spend a lot of time during the course of his writing worrying about whether he is going to get away with his lies. If he fails to, his novel isn’t going to work.”

5. “I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours.”

6. “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they’re made of.”

7. “Novelists have, on the average, about the same IQs as the cosmetic consultants at Bloomingdale’s department store. Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”

8. “I’m simply interested in what is going to happen next. I don’t think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don’t have that feeling. I don’t have that sort of control. I’m simply becoming. I’m startled that I became a writer.”

9. “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”

10. “The proper ending for any story about people it seems to me, since life is now a polymer in which the Earth is wrapped so tightly, should be the same abbreviation, which I now write large because I feel like it, which is this one: ETC.”

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Haruki Murakami’s 10 Best Writing Quotes

Haruki Murakami is a best-selling Japanese writer known for his novels: Norwegian Wood, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. Murakami’s stories are described as dream-like fantasies, where ordinary people face extraordinary scenarios, where magic and nostalgia blur the lines of reality. 

In times of turmoil and political chaos, when confusion clouds our judgements, books that delve in surrealism offer peculiar comfort. For writers creating works during these strange times — uncertain how to make sense of the world around us — we can turn to Murakami for a bit of guidance.  

Here are the top 10 quotes on writing from the author who shows us that enchantments are hiding in the everyday shadows. 

1) It’s a dark, cool, quiet place. A basement in your soul. And that place can sometimes be dangerous to the human mind. I can open the door and enter that darkness, but I have to be very careful. I can find my story there. Then I bring that thing to the surface, into the real world. 

2) There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.

3) I often recall these words when I am writing, and I think to myself, ‘It’s true. There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.’ I find the thought reassuring. It means that vast, unknown stretches still lie before us, fertile territories just waiting for us to cultivate them.

4) When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come. I don’t choose what kind of story it is or what’s going to happen.

5) Dreaming is the day job of novelists, but sharing our dreams is a still more important task for us. We cannot be novelists without this sense of sharing something.

6) Good style happens in one of two ways: the writer either has an inborn talent or is willing to work herself to death to get it.

7) I think memory is the most important asset of human beings. It’s a kind of fuel; it burns and it warms you. My memory is like a chest: There are so many drawers in that chest, and when I want to be a fifteen-year-old boy, I open up a certain drawer and I find the scenery I saw when I was a boy in Kobe. I can smell the air, and I can touch the ground, and I can see the green of the trees. That’s why I want to write a book.

8) The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake. If it’s a real dream, you cannot control it. When writing the book, you are awake; you can choose the time, the length, everything. I write for four or five hours in the morning and when the time comes, I stop. I can continue the next day. If it’s a real dream, you can’t do that.

9) Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.

10) I know how fiction matters to me, because if I want to express myself, I have to make up a story. Some people call it imagination. To me, it’s not imagination. It’s just a way of watching.

Do you like reading fantasy? Check out my review of 10 books from 10 different fantasy sub-genres.

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