20 Years of Harry Potter, 20 Quotes by JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling
(Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP)

1. “Writing for me is a kind of compulsion, so I don’t think anyone could have made me do it, or prevented me from doing it.”

2. “I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

3. “You have to resign yourself to the fact that you waste a lot of trees before you write anything you really like, and that’s just the way it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot, cause I wrote an awful lot before I wrote anything I was really happy with.”

4. “I think writing about the time in Hermione’s life that I write about – growing from childhood into womanhood, literally, I think it brought back to me how very difficult it is. So much is expected of you as you become a woman, and often you are asked to sacrifice parts of you in becoming a girl, I would say. Hermione doesn’t.”

5. “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

6. “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.”

7. “I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence, because a lot of publishers turned it down!”

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8. “Yes, it has made me happier. Finishing them has made me happier. Before I wrote the Potter books, I’d never finished a novel. I came close to finishing two.”

9. “Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother.’ And I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield.”

10. “I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.”

11. (talking about her characters and scenes) “I imagine them very clearly and then attempt to describe what I can see. Sometimes I draw them for my own amusement.”

12.I can write anywhere. I made up the names of the characters on a sick bag while I was on an airplane. I told this to a group of kids and a boy said, “Ah, no, that’s disgusting.” And I said, “Well, I hadn’t used the sick bag.””3

13. “I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.

14. “During the first five years that I was writing the series, I made plans and wrote small pieces of all the books. I concentrate on one book at a time, though occasionally I will get an idea for a future book and scribble it down for future reference.”

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15. “I write nearly every day. Some days I write for ten or eleven hours. Other days I might only write for three hours. It really depends on how fast the ideas are coming.”

16. “Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.

17. “I’ve only suffered writer’s block badly once, and that was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets. I had my first burst of publicity about the first book and it paralysed me. I was scared the second book wouldn’t measure up, but I got through it!”

18. “I didn’t write with a target audience in mind. What excited me was how much I would enjoy writing about Harry. I never thought about writing for children — children’s books chose me. I think if it is a good book anyone will read it.”

19. “Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.”

“20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.

Next: George R.R. Martin’s 20 Quotes on Writing

see also:

Bukowski on Writing

George Orwell on Writing

Stephen King on Writing

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s 20 Quotes on Film

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1. “The film [Stalker] needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theater have time to leave before the main action starts.”

2. “I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman.”

3. “The completion of Ivan’s Childhood marked the end of one cycle of my life, and of a process that I saw as a kind of self-determination. It was made up of study at the Institute of Cinematography, work on a short film for my diploma, and then eight months’ work on my first feature film. I could now assess the experience of Ivan’s Childhood, accept the need to work out clearly, albeit temporarily, my own position in the aesthetics of cinema, and set myself problems which might be solved in the course of making my next film: in all of this I saw a pledge of my advance onto new ground. The work could all have been done in my head.”

4. “It is obvious that art cannot teach anyone anything, since in four thousand years humanity has learnt nothing at all. We should long ago have become angels had we been capable of paying attention to the experience of art, and allowing ourselves to be changed in accordance with the ideals it expresses. Art only has the capacity, through shock and catharsis, to make the human soul receptive to good. It’s ridiculous to imagine that people can be taught to be good…Art can only give food – a jolt – the occasion – for psychical experience.”

5. “…art must must carry man’s craving for the ideal, must be an expression of his reaching out towards it; that art must give man hope and faith. And the more hopeless the world in the artist’s version, the more clearly perhaps must we see the ideal that stands in opposition – otherwise life becomes impossible! Art symbolises the meaning of our existence.”

6. “Of course people don’t learn from experience; today’s directors constantly use styles of performance that belong patently to the past. Even Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent is marred for me by her determination to be expressive and significant: the result is that her ‘parable’ has meaning only on one level. As so often happens, her effort to ‘stir’ the audience makes for an exaggerated emphasis on her characters’ emotions. It is as if she were afraid of not being understood, and had made her characters walk on invisible buskins. Even the lighting is calculated to instill the performances with meaning. Unfortunately the effect is stilted and false. In order to oblige the audience to sympathize with the characters, the actors have been made to demonstrate their suffering. Everything is more painful, more tortured, than in real life – even the torment and the pain; and above all, more portentous.”

7. “Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.”

8. “What can it mean to them when they have not shared with the author the misery and joy of bringing an image into being?”

9. The poet has nothing to be proud of. He is not master of the situation, but a servant. Creative work is his only possible form of existence, and his every work is like a deed he has no power to annul. For him to be aware that the sequence of such deeds is due and ripe, that it lies in the very nature of things, he has to have faith in the idea; for only faith interlocks the system of images for which read system of life.”

10. “In world cinema there have been many attempts to create a new concept in film, always with the general aim of bringing it closer to life, to factual truth. Hence pictures like Cassavetes’ Shadows, Shirley Clarke’s The Connection, Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer. These notable films are marked, apart from anything else, by a lack of commitment; complete and unconditional factual truth is not consistently pursued.”

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11. “We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.”

12. “Substitution . . . the infinite cannot be made into matter, but it is possible to create an illusion of the infinite: the image.”

13. “What can one say, for instance, about the way Antonioni works with his actors in L’Avventura? Or Orson Welles in Citizen Kane? All we are aware of is the unique conviction of the character. But this is a qualitatively different, screen conviction, the principles of which are not those that make acting expressive in a theatrical sense.”

14. “What is art? (…) Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that none the less reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.”

15. “The director’s task is to recreate life, its movement, its contradictions, its dynamic and conflicts. It is his duty to reveal every iota of the truth he has seen, even if not everyone finds that truth acceptable. Of course an artist can lose his way, but even his mistakes are interesting provided they are sincere. For they represent the reality of his inner life, of the peregrinations and struggle into which the external world has thrown him.”

16. “There is one film that could not be further removed from the principle of direct observation, and that is Eisenstein’s  Ivan’s The Terrible. Not only is the whole film a kind of hieroglyphic, it consists of a series of hieroglyphics—major, minor and minute. There is not a single detail that is not permeated with the author’s intent.”

17. “A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something. And if I know for sure that I’m a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?”

18. “In theater actual blood cannot be convincing as a demonstration of poetic truth if it merely has meaning on one level, as a natural function. Blood in cinema, on the other hand, is blood, not a sign, not a symbol of anything else. Therefore when the hero of Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds is killed surrounded by sheets hanging out to dry, and he presses one of these to his chest as he falls, and his scarlet blood spreads across the white linen to make a red and white symbol of the Polish flag, the resulting image is more literary than cinematic, even though it is extraordinarily powerful emotionally.”

19. “Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”

20. “Let everything that’s been planned come true.”

see also:

Martin Scorcese’s 20 Quotes on Film

Stanley Kubrick’s 20 Quotes on Film

Sidney Lumet’s 20 Quotes on Film

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George Orwell’s 20 Quotes on Writing

george orwell, george orwell quotes, george orwell 1984, 1984 george orwell, 1984 by george orwell

1. “If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

2. “- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
– Never use a long word where a short one will do.
– If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
– Never use the passive where you can use the active.
– Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
– Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

3. “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

4. “For after all, what is there behind, except money? Money for the right kind of education, money for influential friends, money for leisure and peace of mind, money for trips to Italy. Money writes books, money sells them. Give me not righteousness, O lord, give me money, only money.”

5. “In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear. And, after all, the worst crimes are not always the punishable ones. By encouraging necrophilic reveries one probably does quite as much harm as by, say, picking pockets at the races. One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other. The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, “This is a good book or a good picture, and Continue reading “George Orwell’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

6 Things I Learned from Charles Bukowski

I have this post and James Altucher to thank to for making me aware of Charles Bukowski, one of my favourite writers.

Thought Catalog

Bukowski was disgusting, his actual real fiction is awful, he’s been called a misogynist, overly simplistic, the worst nxarcissist, (and probably all of the above are true to an extent) and whenever there’s a collection of “Greatest American Writers” he’s never included.

And yet… he’s probably the greatest American writer ever. Whether you’ve read him or not, and most have not, there’s 6 things worthy of learning from an artist like Bukoswski.

I consider “Ham on Rye” by Bukowski probably the greatest American novel ever written.  It’s an autobiographical novel (as are all his novels except “Pulp” which is so awful it’s unreadable) about his childhood, being beaten by his parents, avoiding war, and beginning his life of destitution, hardship, alcoholism, and the beginnings of his education as a writer.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit he’s an influence. Many people hate him and I’m much more afraid of being judged…

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Sidney Lumet’s 20 Quotes on Film

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All of these quotes were chosen from Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies. Additionally, the comments in front of some of the quotes were added due to the collaboration of Christopher Murrie, A.C.E.

1. Blue or red may mean totally different things to you and me. But as long as my interpretation of a colour is consistent, eventually you’ll become aware (subconsciously, I hope) of how I’m using that colour, and what I’m using it for.

2. Don’t let the difficulty of actually achieving a shot make you think that the shot is good. (This times a million. The audience doesn’t care how hard/cool it was to get that shot. If it isn’t right, it isn’t right. As an editor, this one gets me pretty frustrated. Don’t be precious.)

3. There are no small decisions in movie-making. Nowhere does this apply more than in editing.

4. Almost every picture is improved by a good musical score. To start with, music is a quick way to reach people emotionally. (True. But be careful when using temps. Make your scenes play without music first. Then, score enhances what is already great. It is too easy to lean on music to make a scene play when it otherwise wouldn’t. Hell, I like to cut with no sound at all sometimes just to make every idea play as best I can purely on the basis of the visuals.)

5. Everything becomes creative if the person doing the job is. Continue reading “Sidney Lumet’s 20 Quotes on Film”

Vladimir Nabokov’s 20 Quotes on Writing

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1. “Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both truth and art.”

2. “It is a singular reaction, this sitting still and writing, writing, writing, or ruminating at length, which is much the same, really.

3. “There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three — storyteller, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer…The three facets of the great writer — magic, story, lesson — are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought…Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.”

4. “The thought, when written down, becomes less oppressive, but some thoughts are like a cancerous tumor: you express is, you excise it, and it grows back worse than before.”

5. “No writer in a free country should be expected to bother about the exact demarcation between the sensuous and the sensual; this is preposterous; I can only admire but cannot emulate the accuracy of judgment of those who pose the fair young mammals photographed in magazines where the general neckline is just low enough to provoke a past master’s chuckle and just high enough not to make a postmaster frown.” Continue reading “Vladimir Nabokov’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

Isaac Asimov’s 20 Quotes on Writing

His series "Foundation"
His series “Foundation”

1. “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

2. “It’s the writing that teaches you.”

3. “Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his type writer or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.”

4. ” For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.”

5. “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

6. “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’Continue reading “Isaac Asimov’s 20 Quotes on Writing”

George R.R. Martin’s 20 Quotes on Writing

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His sign photo: HERE

1. “The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.”

2. “The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).

And write. Write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings. Using someone else’s world is the lazy way out. If you don’t exercise those “literary muscles,” you’ll never develop them.

Given the realities of today’s market in science fiction and fantasy, I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest.”

3. “I hate outlines. I have a broad sense of where the story is going; I know the end, I know the end of the principal characters, and I know the major turning points and events from the books, the climaxes for each book, but I don’t necessarily know each twist and turn along the way. That’s something I discover in the course of writing and that’s what makes writing enjoyable. I think if I outlined comprehensively and stuck to the outline the actual writing would be boring.”

4. “I get up every day and work in the morning. I have my coffee and get to work. On good days I look up and it’s dark outside and the whole day has gone by and I don’t know where it’s gone. But there’s bad days, too. Where I struggle and sweat and a half hour creeps by and I’ve written three words. And half a day creeps by and I’ve written a sentence and a half and then I quit for the day and play computer games. You know, sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. [Laughs]”

5. “Life is very full of sex, or should be. As much as I admire Tolkien — and I do, he was a giant of fantasy and a giant of literature, and I think he wrote a great book that will be read for many years — you do have to wonder where all those Hobbits came from, since you can’t imagine Hobbits having sex, can you? Well, sex is an important part of who we are. It drives us, it motivates us, it makes us do sometimes very noble things and it makes us do sometimes incredibly stupid things. Leave it out, and you’ve got an incomplete world.” Continue reading “George R.R. Martin’s 20 Quotes on Writing”