Ursula K. Le Guin (b. October 21): “If you have to die, commit suicide” & other quotes on writing

21 Oct


Ursula K. Le Guin, born 21 October 1929, is an American author first published in the 1960s. Her work often depicts futuristic or imaginary worlds different from ours in politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. She’s won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award several times.

Quotes on reading and writing:

  1. Write. Revise. If possible, publish.
  2. When I’m writing I don’t dream much; it’s like the dreaming gets used in the writing.
  3. Writing is my craft. I honour it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honoured by it. 
  4. The unread story is not a story; it’s little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. 
  5. If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.
  6. The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can’t have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life – rubbish.
  7. While we read a novel, we’re insane – bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices… Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.
  8. We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.
  9. Rewriting is as hard as composition is – that is, very hard work. But revising – fiddling and polishing – that’s gravy – I love it. I could do it forever. And the computer has made it such a breeze.
  10. The book itself is a curious artefact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.


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