Quotes from the Lost Generation on Writing

ernest miller hemingway
I've recently started reading  The Paris Wife; at 70 pages in, I'm completely captivated by this historical fiction piece and forgetting it's not an autobiography. More so, I'm reminded of my fascination and love of The Lost Generation— an era of writers, poets, painters, sculptors and artists that occupied Paris in the 1920s.  Many of the 20th century's greatest authors came from this era: Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and T. S. Eliot.

While fiction, it's in reading The Paris Wife that I'm reminded of and learning so much about Hemingway's efforts to become a writer– how the path to greatness and glory is not easily found for anyone; how we all have to take jobs to pay our bills while spending our spare time pursuing our passions.  With that in mind, here are 10 quotes from authors in The Lost Generation on the act of writing, reading, and creating.

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting… It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.
– Gertrude Stein

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
– John Steinbeck

You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.
– Ernest Hemingway

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
– T.S. Eliot

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
– John Steinbeck

All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.
Ernest Hemingway

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done.
– Ernest Hemingway

Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.
-Gertrude Stein

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
– T.S. Eliot

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
– John Steinbeck

Cut out all of these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.
– T.S. Eliot

All good writing is like swimming under water and holding your breath.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

As fashion weeks rears its head (and you're getting ready for IFB Con!),  I hope these quotes prove as inspiring, perplexing, challenging, and moving as they are to me.

[Image credit: Hemmingway and a crowd, from Food Republic]

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9 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.- Definitely my favorite quote. Alexander Wang started to make sweaters that eventually became so popular that it help him become more successful. It just takes one good idea.

  2. Sophie

    OMG The Paris Wife is amazing 🙂 I read it this summer. It’s my second favourite book of all time. I haven’t read the rest of the article yet but I just have to comment about my love for the book The Paris Wife <3

  3. Sophie

    This is my second comment but I’ve read it now and I love these quotes more than anything <3 I wish I'd lived in '20s Paris so, so bad. I just love everything about that generation x

  4. Filipa

    I love these authors and their quotes. I have a book where I write all the quotes I find inspirational. I guess these are going there as well!


  5. tiffany

    these quotes are very inspirational especially when you feel like giving up!


  6. Gogui O.

    I clicked this article out of curiosity and the first sentence literally catched me. The Paris Wife is a great book which as stated above made me even fall more in love with this “Lost Generation”. I have this book highlighted with the favorite quotes from it as well as my twitter page as I was reading it!

  7. Tiffy Diamond

    As a screenwriter I loved this post, so much of it rings true.

  8. Erin

    If you loved The Paris Wife, be sure to read Paris Without End: The True Story of Ernest Hemingway’s First Wife!