Quote: “A writer shouldn’t be engaged with other writers, or with people who make books, or even with people who read them.  The further you get away from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources.” Nelson Algren

This quote is printed in the margin of my journal of March 1980. My own words beside it are these: I suppose there’s a lot of truth in the statement. However, I  think the writer’s conference  inspired me onward. I’m still writing.
CalvinCougar © Freeda Baker Nichols

29 comments on ““A WRITER SHOULDN’T BE . . .”

  1. I am still collecting quotes; sometimes they are wrong in an interesting way, provoking more thought than the ones I agree with.

    So I thought of writing that, then your comment prompt blew me away. Hello! How nice to meet you!


  2. Here’s the full quote which may expose more of what Algren meant when he said it. The quote is in response to him saying in an interview that he didn’t know many writers, and the interviewer then asks “How do you avoid it?”. His answer, the full quote, is:

    “Well, I dunno, but I do have the feeling that other writers can’t help you with writing. I’ve gone to writers’ conferences and writers’ sessions and writers’ clinics, and the more I see of them, the more I’m sure it’s the wrong direction. It isn’t the place where you learn to write. I’ve always felt strongly that a writer shouldn’t be engaged with other writers, or with people who make books, or even with people who read them. I think the farther away you get from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources. I mean, a writer doesn’t really live, he observes.”

    Source: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4987/the-art-of-fiction-no-11-nelson-algren



  3. Ok, I actually disagree with the quote, but agree with you. I was a journalist for many years, and one of my mentors (who is now an evening news anchor on one of the major networks) once told me, “Melissa, if you want to be a good writer, read good writing.” I think becoming engaged with other writers is the best way to hone your own literary skills.


    • Thanks for your comment, Melissa. The quote, of course, was not mine, and yet, I found it interesting. The post received good response and I don’t think anyone agreed with the quote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OneAndNone says:

        I love this quote Freeda! Thank you for sharing

        In my perspective – The more I read, my thought patterns will form through the thoughts presented in the books I read, this is one of the reasons why we don’t find any good original thoughts whether it is in the art/writing anymore. Because everyone is busy trying to be “good” at something, good that is accepted by the society and received by the molded society. So i become a mold that withhold my own mold.

        In this mold that is formed from the memory of the books I read, created from the experience of that memory and the thoughts that emerge from this memory, I am just a memory of the past and I forget the very essence of me.

        I think this is what the quote is implying, the closer that i get to the thoughts i accept as mine and examine the origin of the thoughts of me that i think are mine. I get to know the real me, the source of my world, my life.

        Thank you for letting me share 🙂


  4. I like how you juxtaposed this controversial-ish quote about getting away from literary traffic with photos of your kitties. I think sometimes my cats inspire my writing more than anyone … if nothing else, they will snuggle in my lap as I type and are always there, even when no one is reading what I’ve written! (Glad to have found your blog via WP Bootcamp!) ~ Jackie


  5. Hi, Freeda. I like the Algren quote and tend to agree with it very much! Also, the photos of those wonderful cats are marvelous, too. Enjoyed your blog site. 🙂


  6. I Wilkerson says:

    Yes, the quote surprised me too. Cougar is looking masterful!


  7. Nothing like being with other authors for inspiration. Great community.


  8. That’s such a strange thought. It seems we get encouragement, comfort, and we learn from other writers. If I couldn’t ‘be’ with others in the writing community, my writing would suffer. xoxo


    • Sara says:

      @Robyn I agree that we learn a lot from other writers. But the thought is about approaching your target audience – “the farther you go from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources”. I find this strange too, but I analysed it to be true 🙂


      • Sara, thank you for your point of view. I see the quote as to “get out among the people who are going to be your characters.” Who knows exactly what is meant by Algren’s quote? lol Fun to discuss it though. Thank you for following my blog!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. My first thought was no way. It was meeting with other writers and sharing our work that helped me get started.

    Love those kitties. They remind me of Lola and Max.


    • The only thing I can think of is that if a writer has no contact at all with others in the writing/publishing business, then they would have more time to interact with people who might represent the varied characters in their stories. “Closer to sources.” A fresh outlook, perhaps?


  10. Dot says:

    I’m not sure what he meant because I have always heard the exact opposite.


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