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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

kurt-vonnegut-quotes-on-writing-the-complete-collection Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

Eccentric and darkly humorous—these words aren’t enough to describe Kurt Vonnegut, an American novelist who penned the classic novels “Cat’s Cradle,” “Slaughterhouse-Five,” and “Breakfast of Champions.” His satirical literary style made him a prominent figure in literature, even considered by many as one of the most influential American authors of the twentieth century. As a result, Kurt Vonnegut’s devoted following, including casual readers of his works, consult his words for quotes on writing and other aspects related to the field.

American writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, fought, and became a prisoner of war—his experiences taking part in most of his writings. However, before establishing his writing career, Vonnegut worked several jobs, including teacher, newspaper reporter, and public relations employee for General Electric. As a writer, he created a variety of writings: three short story collections, five works of non-fiction, fourteen novels, and five plays. The darkly humorous and eccentric author filled his works with satire and wit, something readers and writers acknowledge and somehow admire from his writings.

Vonnegut’s writings have become American classics, and it’s understandable why. Apart from his unusual writing style, his distinctive literary voice boosted his career for him. He might not be the best writer during his time, but his influence in the field is undeniable. Moreover, there’s so much to learn from him. Truthfully, even his quotes on writing and other aspects are much sought-after by readers and writers alike.

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Writing

American author Kurt Vonnegut remains one of the most prominent American writers and novelists of the 20th century. His writings, especially “Slaughterhouse-Five,” established Vonnegut’s place among the renowned American fiction writers. Its dramatic power and exploration of the human condition and war paved the way for the book’s popularity—becoming a bestseller eventually. Later, his other writings, collection of essays, short stories, and plays drew attention, further proving his excellence in his craft. No wonder people look for his words of wisdom when it comes to writing!

The list of quotes below covers Kurt Vonnegut’s words about writing.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Kurt Vonnegut

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.

Kurt Vonnegut

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.

Kurt Vonnegut

There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

Kurt Vonnegut

Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.

Kurt Vonnegut

Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.

Kurt Vonnegut

We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.

Kurt Vonnegut

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Kurt Vonnegut

Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.

Kurt Vonnegut

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 are made of.

Kurt Vonnegut

If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut

If you can’t write clearly, you probably don’t think nearly as well as you think you do.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

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 meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.

Kurt Vonnegut

Just because you can read, write and do a little math, doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to conquer the universe.

Kurt Vonnegut

Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.

Kurt Vonnegut

Don’t you think that’s the main reason people find [writing] so difficult? If they can write complete sentences and can use a dictionary, isn’t that the only reason they find writing hard: they don’t know or care about anything?

Kurt Vonnegut

Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut

If you really want to hurt your parents and you don’t have nerve enough to be homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts.

Kurt Vonnegut

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

Kurt Vonnegut

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Kurt Vonnegut

I would not be interested in writing if I didn’t feel that what I wrote was an act of good citizenship or an attempt, at any rate, to be a good citizen.

Kurt Vonnegut

I paraphrase Aristotle: If you want to be comical, write about people to whom the audience can feel superior; if you want to be tragical, write about at least one person to whom the audience is bound to feel inferior, and no fair having human problems solved by dumb luck or heavenly intervention.

Kurt Vonnegut

People should practice an art in order to make their souls grow and not to make money or become famous. Paint a picture. Write.

Kurt Vonnegut

The biggest laughs are based on the biggest disappointments and the biggest fears.

Kurt Vonnegut

Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.

Kurt Vonnegut

All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

Kurt Vonnegut

The person who writes the bank’s commercials is not the person who makes the loans.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.

Kurt Vonnegut

As for myself: I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing sacred about myself or any human being, that we were all machines, doomed to collide and collide and collide. For want of anything better to do, we became fans of collisions. Sometimes I wrote well about collisions, which meant I was a writing machine in good repair. Sometimes I wrote badly, which meant I was a writing machine in bad repair. I no more harbored sacredness than did a Pontiac, a mousetrap, or a South Bend Lathe.

Kurt Vonnegut

I chose cultural anthropology, since it offered the greatest opportunity to write high-minded balderdash.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

There was a message written in pencil on the tiles by the roller towel. This was it: What is the purpose of life? Trout plundered his pockets for a pen or pencil. He had an answer to the question. But he had nothing to write with, not even a burnt match. So he left the question unanswered, but here is what he would have written, if he had found anything to write with: To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.

Kurt Vonnegut

Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.

Kurt Vonnegut

Thank God for novelists. Thank God there are people willing to write everything down. Otherwise, so much would be forgotten.

Kurt Vonnegut

That’s the secret of how to enjoy writing and how to make yourself meet high standards,” said Mrs. Berman. “You don’t write for the whole world, and you don’t write for ten people, or two. You write for just one person.

Kurt Vonnegut

It pains me even now, even a million years later, to write about such human misbehaviour. A million years later, I feel like apologizing for the human race. That’s all I can say.

Kurt Vonnegut

You can’t teach people to write well. Writing well is something God lets you do or declines to let you do.

Kurt Vonnegut

[I write] intuitively, reflexively, as if skiing down a steep mountain slope with no time to think.

Kurt Vonnegut

You develop a style from writing a lot.

Kurt Vonnegut

A lot of critics think I’m stupid because my sentences are so simple and my method is so direct: they think these are defects. No. The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.

Kurt Vonnegut

Homo Americanus is going to go on speaking and writing the way he always has, no matter what dictionary he owns.

Kurt Vonnegut

Novelists are people who have discovered that they can dampen their neuroses by writing make-believe. We will keep on doing that no matter what, while offering loftier explanations.

Kurt Vonnegut

The reason we write fiction is because it’s so much easier to exist spending part of each day in an imaginary world.

Kurt Vonnegut

There were creative-writin g teachers long before there were creative-writin g courses, and they were called and continue to be called editors.

Kurt Vonnegut

Start [writing] as close to the end as possible.

Kurt Vonnegut

So many people think that practicing an art is a good way to make a living. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. I’m talking about singing in the shower, I’m talking about dancing to the radio, I’m talking about writing a poem to a friend.

Kurt Vonnegut

This is what i find most encouraging about the writing trades: they allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.

Kurt Vonnegut

I am a monopolar depressive descended from monopolar depressives. That’s how come I write so good.

Kurt Vonnegut

I wonder now what Ernest Hemingways dictionary looked like, since he got along so well with dinky words that anybody can spell and truly understand.

Kurt Vonnegut

This is what I find encouraging about the writing trades: … They allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.

Kurt Vonnegut

I taught writing for a while and whenever somebody would tell me they were going to write about their dad, I would tell them they might as well go write about killing puppies because neither story was going to work. It just doesn’t work.

Kurt Vonnegut

If you want to make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story lines are great practical jokes that people fall for over and over again.

Kurt Vonnegut

The reason novels were so thick for so long was that people had so much time to kill. I do not furnish transportation for my characters; I do not move them from one room to another; I do not send them up the stairs; they do not get dressed in the mornings; they do not put the ignition key in the lock, and turn on the engine, and let it warm up and look at all the gauges, and put the car in reverse, and back out, and drive to the filling station, and ask the guy about the weather.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don’t want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that’s the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Quotes On Writers

Vonnegut has a talent for creating unusual worlds in his novels. Moreover, he skillfully blends science fiction, satire, black comedy, and humor in his writings, accompanying them with his humanist beliefs. As a writer, his unusual writing style involves long sentences and little punctuation. There’s so much to learn and know from Vonnegut, including his perspective on writing and as a writer. Hence, if you’re here for Vonnegut’s words on writers, pay attention to the following collection.

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

Kurt Vonnegut

Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer.

Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut

I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.

Kurt Vonnegut

I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write, I simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing. In the water I am beautiful.

Kurt Vonnegut

I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.

Kurt Vonnegut

There is this thing called the university, and everybody goes there now. And there are these things called teachers who make students read this book with good ideas or that book with good ideas until that’s where we get our ideas. We don’t think them; we read them in books. I like Utopian talk, speculation about what our planet should be, anger about what our planet is. I think writers are the most important members of society, not just potentially but actually. Good writers must have and stand by their own ideas.

Kurt Vonnegut

Somebody realized, hey, students are printing dummy ads and dummy news stories, why don’t they really print something. So there was the Shortridge Daily Echo, and a hell of a lot of writers have come out of Shortridge on that account. The head writer of the I Love Lucy show, Madelyn Pugh, was a schoolmate of mine. Dan Wakefield. Writing was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Kurt Vonnegut

Ink and paper are as cheap as sand or water, almost. No board of directors has to convene in order to decide whether we can afford to write down this or that. I myself once staged the end of the world on two pieces of paper- at a cost of …less than a penny, including wear and tear on my typewriter ribbon and the seat of my pants.

Think of that.

Kurt Vonnegut

Every writer has to write his speech.

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that writers are not marginal to our society, that they, in fact, do all our thinking for us, that we are writing myths and our myths are believed, and that old myths are believed until someone writes a new one.

Kurt Vonnegut

Mark Twain was so good with crowds that he became, in competition with singers and dancers and actors and acrobats, one of the most popular performers of his time. It is so unusual, and so psychologically unlikely, too, for a great writer to be a great performer, too.

Kurt Vonnegut

The only way to get anything out of a writer’s brains is to leave him or her alone until he or she is damn well ready to write it down.

Kurt Vonnegut

Nothing ever really ends. That’s the horrible part of being in the short-story business—you have to be a real expert on ends. Nothing in real life ends. ‘Millicent at last understands.’ Nobody ever understands.

Kurt Vonnegut

You can’t write novels without a touch of paranoia. I’m paranoid as an act of good citizenship, concerned about what the powerful people are up to.

Kurt Vonnegut

I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.

Kurt Vonnegut

My reason for writing is unfortunately in line with Hitler’s and Stalin’s: I think writers should serve their society

Kurt Vonnegut

I suppose that every writer is a gadfly; the crude term that every writer would like to do is mind-f**king. It’s to get into somebody else’s head. In a Bible-belt area like here it would be a felony to mind-f**k somebody.

Kurt Vonnegut

I like everything there is about being a writer except the way my neighbors treat me. Because I honor them for what they are, and they really do find me irrelevant on Cape Cod. There’s my state representative. I campaigned for him, and he got drunk one night and came over and said, ‘You know, I can’t understand a word you write and neither can any of your neighbors…so why don’t you change your style, so why not write something people like?’ He was just telling me for my own good. He was a former English major at Brown.

Kurt Vonnegut

Writers get a nice break in one way, at least: They can treat their mental illnesses every day.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Character

If there’s something notable about Vonnegut’s writings, it’s impossible not to mention his unusual characters. For example, his novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” featured an alien race known as the Tralfamadorians. The use of unique characters helped give his fiction a distinctive element, emploring human conditions while blending in fantasy.

Do you need some inspiration in crafting characters? You can rely on these quotes from Vonnegut for that much-needed push!

Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

Kurt Vonnegut

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 are made of.

Kurt Vonnegut

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 meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.

Kurt Vonnegut

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

Kurt Vonnegut

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Kurt Vonnegut

There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.

Kurt Vonnegut

Don’t put anything into a story that does not reveal character or advance the action.

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s the writer’s job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all.

Kurt Vonnegut

I used my daughter’s crayons for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Books

Like most writers, Vonnegut was a voracious reader who enjoyed science fiction, adventure, and fantasy genres. His fascination had a noticeable influence on him, considering the genre of most of his writings.

If you’re curious to see his outlook on books, look at the list of quotes below. It covers Vonnegut’s thoughts on books, readers, and reading.

I am beguiled by your physical beauty, and I am moved by how head-over-heels in love with books you are. And nowhere else have I found such thoughtful and literate reportage on the state of the American soul, as that soul makes itself known in the books we write.

Kurt Vonnegut

Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.

Kurt Vonnegut

There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers.

Kurt Vonnegut

But by accident, not by cunning calculation, books, because of their weight and texture, and because of their sweetly token resistance to manipulation, involve our hands and eyes, and then our minds and souls, in a spiritual adventure I would be very sorry for my grandchildren not to know about.

Kurt Vonnegut

I’m eighty-three and homeless. It was the same when World War II ended. The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people’s discharges and stuff. And my feeling was “Please, I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?” That what I feel right now. I’ve written books. Lots of them. Please, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. Can I go home now? I’ve wondered where home is. It’s when I was in Indianapolis when I was nine years old. Had a dog, a cat, a brother, a sister.

Kurt Vonnegut

I was hoping to build a country and add to its literature. That’s why I served in World War II, and that’s why I wrote books.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Creativity

Vonnegut is no doubt creative. His writings are enough to prove this point, especially how he crafted his plot and characters. It’s as if creativity was an innate trait for Vonnegut since birth. Although there weren’t many quotes about creativity from Vonnegut, the following list shall suffice your need for words of wisdom in this field.

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Kurt Vonnegut

If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut

Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow – whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don’t show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.

Kurt Vonnegut

A lack of seriousness has led to all sorts of wonderful insights.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Language

Language plays a huge part in literature. Hence, it’s an aspect you can expect writers like Vonnegut to discuss from time to time. There may not be many words of wisdom or quotes from Vonnegut about the language, you’ll learn his point of view on this subject through the following collection.

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

Kurt Vonnegut

He was seemingly born not only with a gift for language, but with a particularly nasty clock which makes him go crazy every three years or so.

Kurt Vonnegut

I just don’t think people get off on language anymore. Language used to be an elevated art. It used to be for people what music can be. But people don’t learn to do that anymore, so eloquence is merely a matter of waste. Who needs a good vocabulary and proper English? Eloquence – it’s dead and who needs it?

Kurt Vonnegut

Did you ever admire an empty-headed writer for his or her mastery of the language? No. So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes About Creative Writing

Are you looking for Kurt Vonnegut’s quotes about creative writing? You’ve reached the collection made for you. There are only a few quotes about creative writing. However, Vonnegut’s words will give you enough motivation to continue your craft, whether you’re a professional writer or not. He was a creative writer; therefore, you can count on his words regarding creative writing.

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

Kurt Vonnegut

Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.

Kurt Vonnegut

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 meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.

Kurt Vonnegut

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Vonnegut’s writing career spans over 50 years, and even after his death, people continued publishing his collections. His impact on literature is unquestionable, seeing how readers and writers look up to him and study his works for inspiration. Furthermore, his influence doesn’t end there—Kurt Vonnegut’s quotes on writing draw many authors’ attention, whether professional or not.

Need that push on writing other than these quotes of Kurt Vonnegut? Check out our selection of quotes on writing from other authors here.

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