text > The Agraphia Survey (Hyperlinked Collage)

"The Agraphia Survey" is an interactive collage of sentences collected from Google Books. Please press on the hyperlinked footnotes.


– I can’t write because I don’t have a pen. [1]

– Okay. Next!

– I can’t write because I don’t have any time to write. [2]


– I can’t write because I’ve always so much to say. [3]

Number 4!

– I can’t write because my head is so bad. [4]


– I can’t write because I have no hand to write. [5]


– I can’t write because I fear writing will reduce the welcomed distance between me and my feelings. [6]


– I cannot always say, what is cause and what is effect – whether I can’t write because I don’t, or whether I don’t write because I can’t. [7]

– Next!

– I’m no writer and I’m not able to write anything that makes sense. [8]

– Number 9!

– I wish I could write but I cannot. [9]


– I can’t write because I don’t understand anything any more! [10]

Dear participants in the survey! There are too many of you and I am alone! I cannot call every time upon each of you. When your turn in line comes, just step forward to my desk and explain why you cannot write. Also, please remember your number, I will collect the bibliographical data at the end of our survey! And, please, keep the queue straight. Next!

– I can’t write because I have too many distractions. I can’t write because I have no security, I’m worried about supporting my family. [11]

– I could have done better for myself in every way had I known how to write. [12]

– I’ve never really figured out an hourly wage for myself, but writing in general is not a high-paying profession. If you want to really make tons of money, you’d probably want to choose another career. [13]

– Twenty Dollars per page. Ten Dollars per column. Six Dollars per half column. Three Dollars and fifty century per one-fourth column. Fifteen cents per line. [14]

– This was back in 1878. [15]

– It didn’t change much when I was working. I encountered all kinds of discriminations. [16]

– Publishers are bloodsuckers on the ailing body of literature. [17]

Number 17, I would need proof for these sorts of allegations. I must remind everybody that this is a survey on the degradation of the art of writing, not a trade union meeting. Next in line please!

– You can explain that I can’t write because I’ve hurt my arm. I can pretend that my eyes are bad too. [18]

– I can’t write because my hand is palsied; and I can’t read because I hate poring over those little black figures! [19]

– I can’t write because I’ll dirty it (pointing to white sheet of paper), that’s a white dress. [20]

– …why I couldn’t write a book without all the vulgarity that you will find here. I could. I’ve written lots of those books. But I always felt constrained because I couldn’t write entirely in my own voice, which is, I am not too proud to say, often vulgar. If you have a sense of humor, there’s a good chance you know some colorful words yourself. So don’t be all judgy. [21]

Nobody will judge you here number 21, we’re just conducting a survey. Next!

– Depth and Height I wish I could write, but only spume comes out; I want to say much, but I get stuck in the middle. [22]

– Had I known how to write verses I should have turned it all into poetry. [23]

– Adorno wrote that you cannot write poetry after Auschwitz. What would he have said about comedy? Actually I have personal knowledge of this dilemma. [24]

– I am the best poet in New Orleans. [25]

– To Adorno’s affirmation: One cannot write poetry after Auschwitz, I would reply: yes, one can. And, even, one must. One must write from now on about this caesura, about this wound that ceaselessly reopens. [26]

– Adorno did not mean it literally, and Mr. Langer begins by discussing what oblique senses his words might have. [27]

Who is Mr. Langer? Let’s not turn this serious investigation into a messy academic dispute. Be more specific please. Next! 28!

– I am not able to write tourist sketches any more. [28]

– We cannot describe Nature without the help of terms that are human, although we cannot tell how it is that material things are emblematical of man. [29]

– I think that the purpose of poetry or writing in general is to entertain and instruct. [30]

– If I can’t think I’m not able to write. [31]

– …if I can’t write, I’m nobody, I’m nobody. [32]

– I can’t write. Because for one thing I haven’t time – and for another if I began to say things I’d begin to cry. [33]

– Why?

– Because writing is such a complex activity, requiring the coordination of so many technical and creative skills, it does require a lot of feedback – much of it negative – for the student to master its basic technical aspects: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Unfortunately, many of the people providing this feedback are less than supportive in correcting mistakes; worse, they are often unaware that constant criticism can damage the creative impulse. [34]

– Yeah, the whole thing of writing being very painful. I have to go into seclusion to find a safe space to write. I’ve never been able to write at my parents’ home. I’ve got through the process of getting the paper inside the typewriter and all that and I can’t write because it’s not my house, it’s my parents’ home. [35]

– In fact, because writing is such a lonely activity, and writers are bound by the assumptions they carry with them to their desks… [36]

– Writing is such a lonely affair. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this nagging urge to make sense of my life with words. [37]

– … but writing in general is not a social work. [38]

Thank you Mr. Bentham. Your participation in our study is very important. Next!

– I myself cannot write with people around me – I need solitude both for concentration and for the freedom to go through without embarrassment the kind of gesturing, wincing, and mumbling I often need to get a scene right. [39]

– It is impossible to write in any other way. Am I… [40]

Please no comments on other participants’ responses. We need first-person accounts of the actual experience. Next!

– I wish I could write, but somebody has to write for me, so that it won’t be so hard. [41]

– Some things I can't write because they are too personal. [42]

– I can’t write because I’m afraid of… [43]

– Afraid of what? Oh, okay. Next!

– I can’t write because of the weather. [44]

– I can’t write because I don’t remember the number of the house. [45]

– At Visegrad is an Authors' House, where writers can work and rest undisturbed… [46]

– Next!

– I can’t write because I can’t bring something into focus. I don’t know what that something is. [47]

– One of the standard excuses is that writing is such a solitary thing. You know, so lonely. [48]

Yes, I’ve heard this already! Next!

– I can’t write because of this problem, and I have to photocopy everything. Could I just take all the papers to one of the machines and copy with the lid up? [49]

Sorry but our photocopier is for internal use only. Number 50!

– I wish I could write – but I can’t properly express myself on paper. [50]

– Excuse me, may I borrow a pencil? [51]

– Thank you. [52]

– I’m not able to write more than a couple of hours. I can’t sit there all day and write. [53]

– I kind of told myself, if I’m not able to write a book, I’ll at least read ten books. [54]

– Reading is better than writing in every case… [55]

– …reading is easier than writing in normal graders, whereas writing is better than reading in (some) pathological children. [56]

– My writing is better than before SA A U D SD [57]

– Writing is better than speech for the creation of worlds. [58]

– Writing is better than reading in the evening; because, in writing, the eye is not so constantly strained to appreciate what follows: the mind having already conceived before the pen writes. [59]

– I don’t use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom. [60]

– I use a computer but I am afraid to ride a horse… [61]

– The Danish horses are so handsome in their form, and so beautiful in their coats… [62]

– Mules are often quicker in starting than horses, but in most cases they have… [63]

– Mules are stupid… [64]

Dear participants, I repeat. Don’t beat around the bush. I must remind you that this research was initiated by the Celestial branch of the PEN club in order to investigate what some consider to be an epidemic of agraphia. The president of the club put me in charge of collecting empirical data. You must answer in a concise manner what has prevented you, or someone you know, from writing; what are the major impediments in the practicing of this old and respectful craft, or what themes, scenes and experiences cannot be described or written about anymore, and so forth. Please don’t pick up on somebody’s else answer. Speak for yourself only and stick to the point. Don’t start threads of debate here, this is not an online forum! Number 65!

– I can’t write, because I don’t want to write. I can never say what I want to say in the way I want to say it. Something saps me all the time. [65]

– Similarly, I don’t write because I don’t want to write. A sufficient reason for a man. [66]


– … I can’t write because I got nothing to write about, and you can’t because you got too much to write about. [67]

I don’t have time to write because I have always to collect data! Next!

– I can’t write because I’m an ice cube and my mouth goes dry and there’s nothing to say and I’d rather eat ice cream. Okay. [68]

Sorry we don’t serve ice cream here. Next!

– I’m a writer and I can’t write because I don’t care enough about anything to write about it. [69]

– I wish I could write, but I’m too much sidetracked by current events to write. Actually, I guess I haven’t got the talent to write. [70]

– But it takes time and, besides, I have no desire to write a great deal. I know that people judge one by volume. [71]

– I don’t write because of record company schedules or because I need money or because I want to be more famous. [72]

– I do not allow reviewers to disturb me; but I cannot write when I have no audience. [73]

– You have to be a bit of an asshole to say “I don’t write because there’s an audience.” [74]

– Watch your language gentlemen! Next!

– Blake died unknown, yet in his “Songs of Innocence” he left the world a priceless book. [75]

– I have no desire to write libels. [76]

– People need labels to know what they are buying. And what’s the point of writing if you are continually bound by the labels you are given? Anything you write will be judged against that label. Is this work Asian enough? Is that play not gay enough? How dare he write about straight White people living in New England? [77]

Number 76 meant libels not labels. This is what happens if you don’t read our questionnaire carefully. Next!

– My writing is stupid /terrible/a waste of time. [78]

– You see, I can’t write because I haven’t any hands, but I can wheeze out a tale to a stenographer once in a while which any magazine would be glad to publish if it could get hold of it. [79]

We don’t publish up here! You must be already a published author to participate in our survey. 80!

– I can’t write because I have a lack of motor control caused by my cerebral palsy. [80]

– I can’t write because at that moment I sit down to write, someone comes into the room. [81]

– I’m afraid somebody will steal my idea. [82]

– They stole my plot; they stole my words; they stole everything… [83]

– Stealing ideas is as bad as stealing money. [84]

– … stealing ideas is unlawful. [85]

– Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. [86]

– I remember T.S. Eliot’s saying that there was no need to worry about China, since it was the only major nation which had never produced its own native cheese… [87]

– Stealing cheese makes me happy. [88]

– I have this great idea, you know for the book but I don’t want anyone to steal it. promise you won’t tell anyone… come on, promise me! [89]

– Okay!

– good. I remember the last time I had a great idea. it was homeopathic type clinic with acupuncture and all that kind of shit, next thing I knew, some asshole stole my idea… [90]

– Who stole it? [91]


– But seriously – who’d be that brave? Walter who? With Mow? [93]

– You see that son-of-a-bitch over there? [94]

– Is he also a writer? [95]

– A writer my ass! Akici says he writes poems; you’d think he was Senghor, poems so pretty that you’d sing them. But no one’s ever seen one of his books in the bookstore. [96]

– You ain’t got any idea. [97]

– Shut up, motherfucker, or I’ll shoot you right now. [98]

– You can’t shoot me. I already shot you. You gotta fall down. You’re dead. [99]

– Who's not dead? [100]

– Fucking dog-shit writer! You fucking try to kill me? [101]

Enough gentlemen! Enough! Please take your place in the queue, and let’s keep it straight. Number 98 please don’t threaten Mr. Hemingway, let’s respect our classics. I beg you all, please get back into the queue! This is not the place to solve conflicts! Next!

I can't write in the city. [102]

– I wish I could write but I can’t. [103]

– I’m not able to write anything. [104]

– Why write when you can talk? Most people think writing is torture, and they have no patience or time for reading. But those same folks love to talk and listen. Well, the hardware exists, and software is being developed to make it possible to function by directing streams-of-verbal-consciousness at refrigerators, televisions, stores, dashboards, school desks, and flush toilets. [105]

– ...Rifles, guns, pistols… [106]

­– No comments Number 106! State your own view.

– I’ve never been able to figure out whether I get depressed because I can’t write or whether I can’t write because I get depressed. [107]

– Imagine Ernest Hemingway saying, I can’t write because I haven’t got the spinach ready. [108]

You can ask him about this yourself. He already passed by. Look around for number 96. He may be fighting somewhere in the back of the club with the younger generations of writers and poets. Next!

– I can't write when you force me. [109]

– Next!

– I myself cannot write this letter, for you see I do not know how to write English. [110]

– The feeling is that there is less good writing around now in Britain, not because there are fewer new plays but because the ones… [111]

Go on!

– … because the ones who could help have been killed. [112]

– … they’ve been fed to the pigs. [113]

–  … bloody bastards! [114]

Dear participants. I am tired of shouting into this megaphone. The president asked me to conduct a serious, empirical investigation. Don’t come and just talk, give me facts. Tell me in a few sentences what prevents you from expressing yourself in writing. And keep the queue straight, don’t loiter! Those who have already answered go to the back of the club – our sponsor has offered some refreshments. Help yourself. Please, 115!

– Because in order to write one must first be convinced that every book ever written was made for one to borrow from. [115]

Okay! Next!

– I need inspiration in order to do anything. [116]

– Because without inspiration there can be no imagination. And without imagination the soul gets sick. [117]

– I myself cannot write poems, but I am a reader of poetry, and I find I am in need of it. Poetry educates imagination… [118]

– I have much too much imagination; I am not expected to worry about what people may be thinking. If I feel right about a thing, then it’s surely the right thing. [119]

– I have more imagination than he. I can close my eyes and want to be that which he cannot imagine me preferring to be. I can prefer to be different than I am now. The worm does not imagine becoming a butterfly, but I have seen the worm and the butterfly, so I don’t have to imagine. [120]

– Who are you calling a worm? [121]

– Katia’s expressing herself metaphorically. [122]

– You think I can’t write because I’m a woman? [123]

– Unfortunately there is a metaphorical worm in the metaphorical apple of Genesis. Eve is clearly not made of the same stuff as Lilith, who stood up to God Himself to avoid sin, unlike Abraham – who was ready to cut his own son’s heart out on God’s command… [124]

Stick to the subject! 125!

– I can’t write because I was born in another country and am embarrassed by my English. [125]

– I was always embarrassed by my body – the damned length of the thing, its obstinate… [126]


– You will say to him that I can’t write because I am ill. [127]

Number 128!

– Maybe that’s why I can’t write – because I don’t want to offend anyone. [128]

– I wish I could write but I cannot. Sign it for me, please. [129]

– The mark + may stand for the single word “Cross;” or in Algebra for the phrase “added to;” or before the name “John Smith” for the complex sentence, “This is the name of me John Smith, written for me and at my request because I myself cannot write it.” [130]

– I can’t write because my hand is shaking and anyway who would I send a card. [131]

– I can’t write because I’m not here at all. [132]

– I can’t write, because I’m ashamed! [133]

Ashamed of what?

He writes for movies and television. [134]

– What’s wrong with that? [135]

– Hollywood devours. Hollywood destroys. [136]

– This is not literature, but rather a Proletkult incubator where even with a magnifying glass you cannot find any distinction between one “individual” and another…[137]

– I keep thinking of Artaud: “Literature is bullshit.” He didn’t say writing was bullshit, he said literature is bullshit… [138]

– That guy was mad. [139]

– I am ashamed to write any real writing of passionate love to my fellow men. [140]

– I don’t want the kids in that school to know I can’t write, because they’ll think that I’m stupid. [141]

This survey is confidential, I can assure you. Next!

– If you cannot write on the walls of a school, then what walls can you write on? [142]

– Yeah yeah yeah: first it’s Robert and a broken heart and then writing is a pain in the ass and you’re Picasso. [143]

– Naw, but seriously, they got hella mad. They made me wipe off the graffiti with one of my potnas from the home who wrote his name next to mine. [144]

– …did they call the cops? No way! [145]

– Yes they did. Mr. Sergeant Copley. [146]

– In Table 4.1. the target is a pump station at a water utility. In the pump station example there is a high probability that kids will spray graffiti on pump property. Although this has a high probability of occurring, the consequence of graffiti sprayed on walls or equipment is much less than the consequence of contamination of the local water supply. [147]

– We wish at every page to stop the writer, and ask what is the point he really seeks to establish. [148]

– Notices have been put up to catch his eye, with the terse command, “Do not write on the walls,” or the appeal to his better nature, “Please do not write on the walls.” [149]

– I thought this was about writing. [150]

– … and art and poetry… [151]

Yes 150 and 151, but we had been advised – for objectivity’s sake – to also include in our survey a few representatives from the law enforcement community. They may also conduct a creative writing class for the youngest among us. Next!

– Frequently, I can’t write because of my ardor; for the past quarter of an hour, I’ve been making an effort to write, my feelings are so strong that writing (the physical action) is hard work for me. The result is that my thought is slowed down. [152]

I understand Mr. Stendhal! Next!

– I can’t write because what I’m trying to write about is too painful to remember. [153]

– The actual process of writing is a pain in the ass. It’s hard work. At least for me. [154]

– I can’t write because I don’t know how to spell such-and-such. [155]

– He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use… [156]

This will not be necessary, thank you. Next!

At least he could use the spell-checker… [157]


– What’s the point of writing if no one will ever read it? [158]

– I always found it very difficult to publish an article whose idea did not conform to established norms. Each essay I wrote on the themes mentioned above was rejected several times, both in English and in Hebrew, before I found someone (and sometimes literally tricked someone) who would publish it. [159]

– I consider that the literary agents are killing good authorship. Their forcing method causes writers to sell work as fast as they can write it. [160]

– The literary agents are ruling the day. Under strong American influence, they have kidnapped the publishing industry into a sort of crazy financial world. [161]

– … many formerly “pure” elite literary  journals have been forced to downgrade themselves into popular, tabloid-like magazines… [162]

– You log on one of their web sites, give them your poems – of course they reject them – but then in a couple of weeks you begin to receive spam with the title of your poems in the subject. Assholes. [163]

– This is pathetic. [164]

– Spammers are the… [165]

What? Finish up!

­– … the most creative, and the most dramatic of our novelists – and the only true poets amongst them. [166]

– Spammers are stupid. [167]

– To publish or not to publish? To write or not to write? [168]

– It is very difficult to publish in Nigeria. [169]


– I’m not able to write beyond a very short time, but I must do something or my head will run clean away with me. [170]

– Writing – is a pain cried forth, Writing – is a cry of mirth. [171]

– I don’t write because I don’t know what to say to you. [172]

– I myself cannot write about South Africa without writing about blacks. [173]

– I wish I could write, but I can’t at present; I am simply stunned with shock and grief. [174]

What causes you grief?

– The inability to write with the right hand. [175]

– No. I can write on the toilet. [176]

– … I’ve decided I’ll write only when there are enough words in my head to create a flow on to paper through a warmed-up pen. [177]

– I can't write because it’s not clear. When it is clear, I’ll write at once. [178]

– My dear child, I myself cannot write so beautifully; I am too old for anything of the kind. [179]

– I can’t half write because the old rag-man is just squalling, besides that I can’t write because my sleeves are so tight. [180]

Number 183! Please Mr. Ruskin?

– I can’t write because…. [181]


– … because I cannot drag myself away… [182]

­– … because I cannot be accused of regretting the ancient system; because when I bewail the ruined state of the church of France, I cannot be accused of being a fanatic priest; because, in considering the re-establishment of lawful authority as the only means of safety, I cannot be accused of being a partisan, or of expecting favors; because, in attacking those citizens, who have set the kingdom in flames, and prevented the public mind by their writings, I shall not be accused of undervaluing the liberty of the press. [183] Because I cannot paint with enmity in my heart; because I cannot act with enmity; because I cannot live with a solitary enemy on the earth… [184]

– … the zombies had blocked his line of sight. [185]

– … my pubic hair never grew – not that this is unusual in Ch… [186]

– Enough. [187]

­– One might wonder what all this has to do with writing. [188]

You know, I stopped wondering. I am so tired of these writers’ nonsense that there are moments when I zone out and simply make automatic records, like a machine or the surrealists. Next!

– Well, I can’t write because I have not yet been a dock walloper, I have not yet gone to China, I have not yet fallen in love with six women and lost five of them? [189]

– I can’t write because I want to go and look at Table Mountain again. [190]

– Where is the mountain again?

– It is in South Africa… [191]

– Next!

– I have evolved the theory that I can’t write because I haven’t been making love! [192]

– Next!

– It’s as hard to write about sex as it is to write about death, though to write it well because, it’s so easy to write about it poorly. [193]

– It is difficult to write about death today. [194]


– I didn’t have sex for six months. [195]


– I can’t write because my hands tremble, and I cannot see well. [196]

– I am ill, I wish I could write, but I can’t get a grip on myself. [197]

– I’m sorry to hear about that Mr. Pushkin.

–  I can’t write because the tune of an old waltz possesses my mind. When a tune does that there just isn’t anything you can do about it. [198]

– My problem often is not that I cannot write when I sit at my desk, but that I do not write what I should be writing. [199]

– With me it is different for I cannot write when I’m riding on horseback around the country. [200]

– ... I can’t think straight, can’t get any good from reading, and I can’t write, because my hands shake so badly. [201]

– Next!

– ... I can’t write because I’m not depressed enough. [202]

– What should I write about? [203]

– Write about your favorite pet — one you have now or have had in the past. [204]

– I have turned my back upon the pet, for I cannot write when she is before me… [205]

– You can write about the weather, family activities, school, and friendships. [206]

– Write about your day, listing not only what you did but also how you felt. [207]

– You can write about your family trip to Niagara Falls or you can write about meeting the Dalai Lama. You can talk about what a perfect student, brother, friend, or all-around good guy you are, or you can write about the day you threw a temper tantrum after losing the state tennis finals. The beauty of the personal statement is that it is completely personal. [208]

– You can write about your girlfriend, you can write about your car, you can write about your day, you can write about struggles you're going through in work. [209]

– Write about your feelings, your hopes, and your dreams for your life after the Holocaust. [210]

– You can write about your pain. You can write about how much it hurts. [211]

– Can we write about your girlfriend? [212]

I must remind everyone that this is not about what you can but rather what you Cannot write! 213!

– Don't write about the Holocaust. People will think you're a coarse-textured unrepentant Jew. [213]

– Don't write about subjects that all the magazines are filled with. [214]

– Don't write about pig-sties because they are ‘real.’ [215]

– Don't write about something you haven't done yet. [216]

– Don't write about war, whether you're against or for, it's the same fucking war. [217]

– Don't write unless you have something to write about. [218]

Stop giving advice here. Speak about your own experience! 219!

– I cannot write when my head is full of worry, I need a clear mind at my desk… [219]

Very good! Next!

– I can’t write because my finger… [220]

What’s wrong with your finger?

– My finger got a slight prick… [221]

– I wish I could write but I can’t spell a lick. [222]

– Since my eyes gave out I’m not able to write a word. [223]

– I can’t write because someone stacked my chair. [224]

– I cannot write when Kilajon [Destruction] comes, because he always comes at unexpected times. Also Zilumet [Shadow of Death] has written you often lately, and he will actually write you. You must be surprised why many of our acquaintances have not written lately, they are by Mavetzky [Deathsky], that’s why they don’t have time to write you. [225]

– There is a great deal which I can’t write because of censorship. [226]

– I can talk but I cannot write. When I sit down and get a pen or a pencil in my hand I become paralyzed. [227]

– Had I known how to write about modern society, fast young ladies, roué young gentlemen, fair murderesses with golden hair, and all the “sensation” tribe; but it was no use, – I was too old and stiff to change my ways. The old Tooljapoor Brahmin spoke truly, “Much, very much money, passed through my hands,” and yet I continue poor. But I am thankful, – thankful for having… [228]

That’s enough doctor Taylor. Next!

– There are many stories I’m not able to write yet because I just don’t know enough. I know you’re supposed to write about what you know, but I tend to get obsessed with what I don’t understand. [229]

– I wish I could write about Moldova. [230]

– I wish I could write, but I know my limitations and they stop this side of authorship. But why did you ask me if I could write a play, Emma? [231]

Number 231 my name is not Emma, and I must remind you that I am the one who asks questions here, okay? Next, and keep the queue straight!

– It is impossible to write because the new girls who have taken the top flat knock politely on my door… [232]

– I don’t write because I have a mission to heal the world. [233]

– I don’t write because I have writer’s block. [234]


Is there such a thing as writer’s block? Have you experienced it? [235]

– There is no such thing as writer’s block. My father drove a truck for forty years. And never once did he wake up in the morning and say “I have truck driver’s block today. I am not going to work.” [236]

– Writer’s block is real. It happens. Some days you sit down at the old typewriter, put your fingers on the keys and nothing pops into your head. Blanko. Nada. El nothingissimo. [237]

– There is such a thing as “writer’s block,” and you should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked…  [238]

– Can I bum a cigarette? [239]

239! This is a smoking free facility by the way. Get back in line. Next!

­– I don’t have writer’s block. I have life block. I’m terrified I’ll be glued to my keyboard one day and the house will burn down around me and I won’t even notice. [240]

– I never have writer’s block, either, because I free associate. Now whether it’s good or not, is different. If I have a story-making block, I put the story away and try not to think of it consciously. I get ideas when I take a walk or when I do the dishes. Sometimes I make snippets that don’t form a story, but they are compost for another story. [241]

– I wrote about my kittens. If I hadn’t written about them I’d have barbecued them! They were driving me nuts at the time. It was only because of the typewriter that the kittens survived. [242]

– I do not particularly care for cats – more of a dog man. [243]

– More of a dog than me. [244]

– Throughout my career, I was… [245]

– Achoo! [246]

– Bless you! [247]

– …twice named dog writer of the year… [248]

– Today it’s dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere. Cats are hardly mentioned. [249]

– Uh, huh, I’m a cat writer. [250]


– Tell your master that as far as barking goes, poets are like dogs. [251]

He is not my master, we live in a free age. He is the president of the PEN club and this is a Non Governmental Organization, a NGO, a democratic institution. Okay? Stick to the subject! Next!

– My dearest Sir – I don’t write because I have got anything to say, nor, indeed, because I have got nothing to say; for that were a most woeful reason for you, who are to read that nothing; but I write because – because – because – because – because – because – and if that should not be reason adequate, I confess I have none more forcible! [252]

– Sometimes I don’t write because I am lazy, Sometimes, I don’t write because most of my energy goes to pursuing and maintaining relationships (stamina a curse I can’t release). [253]

– That’s why I don’t write. Because I can’t write casually, as you suggest, of the day’s news. Why in God’s name should I? You can read the newspapers. [254]

– Next!

– The most significant words lost all meaning. [255]

– I still believe in the power of words, even if I’m not able to write them. [256]

– Words are useless, especially sentences. [258]

– … books are useless… [259]

– … our eyes are useless… [260]

– … vocal organs are useless… [261]

– … men are useless members of society. [262]

– … all toy dogs are useless… [263]

– I know we’re already all tired but let’s make the last effort and finish this survey. There are only a few of you left. Let’s finish it quickly and get to the refreshments. Yes, and keep the queue straight! Thank you! 264!

– Writing is a pain! [264]

– Next!

– One of the most prominent women writers – Agatha Christie, I think – says writing is “agony.” [265]

– Writing is a pain and I’d rather get it over with… [266]

– Writing is a pain in the butt. [267]

– It’s more painful than that. [268]

– For me, writing is painful. [269]

– Oh! This is such a pain. [270]

– It’s such a pain in the ass. [271]

– But pain in the ass is pain in the ass. [272]

– Writing is too painful for me, and I’m not good in English. [273]

– I’m not good at anything. [274]

– Writing is torture. It is very hard work. [275]

– Writing is pain, agony, and backache. [276]

– Writing is painful. [277]

– It is unbearable. [278]

– Oh my God, it hurts! [279]

– That’s true for me too… [280]

– For me too. [281]

– And for me, too. [282]

– No, fuck writing. [283]

Please don’t shout all at once, I wont be able to keep track of your records. And you shouldn’t cry and wail here, we are not at a funeral. You yourself chose this career. Please Mr. Aristotle.

– If writing is a pain to a man, he will not write. [284]

Yes, that’s what I just said.

– Writing is a pain and a joy. [285]

– I kind of like writing because I usually get good ideas. [286]

– I like writing book reviews… [287]

– I love to write stories. [288]

– Some find writing a strain, others a release. Some need absolute silence and freedom from distractions, while others are able to write in any circumstances. A few seem incapable of writing an ungrammatical sentence; others must concentrate on ideas first and attend to matters of grammar and style later. Some cannot bear to have their writing revised; others are reluctant to let it go without multiple revisions. Some flourish under  deadlines, but many find it impossible to write to order. All this… [289]

It’s enough 289. Thank you. Next!

– My thoughts strike me so suddenly and continue to pour out so abundantly that I lose a lot of minor details I’m not able to write down fast enough, though I am working at full blast. [290]

– Since I’m not able to write under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as many writers can and do, I found other ways to drug myself. [291]

– How? [292]

– You take an onion and peel it and peel it, right to the heart, and there’s nothing there. There must be something, you believe, there must be – you take another onion and start peeling it, keep on peeling, at last, nothing. [293]

– How does it feel though? [294]

– It feels good and warm and lazy. [295]

– That’s crazy shit, man! Some crazy shit! [296]


– I cannot write when there is someone here, only at (the dead of) night in my silent house, no voices, ears or eyes. I am my own surveillance. [297]

– My problem often is not that I cannot write when I sit at my desk, but that I do not write what I should be writing. My book writing time is when I catch up with correspondence, which miscellaneous writing chores, and with making all kinds of notes and jottings. Sometimes, in order to write, I have to stop writing. [298]

– I’m not able to write very well, for my mother couldn’t teach me that, as she lay in bed so long, but I learned to read nicely. [299]

– Her daughter, Ana Maria, also couldn’t write. [300]

– I cannot write when I am in Sri Lanka because I am too much at home there. I am too comfortable, too secure, too integrated as a human being to write. [301]

– Sometimes, the best way to write about Alaska is to get away from it. A great burden is removed. [302]

– So I’m not able to write in English and my Spanish is deteriorating. It’s a difficult situation. How about the translation of… [303]

No translations. Only in English. Next!

– If I find I’m not able to write I quit. [304]

– But if I can’t talk and I’m not able to write stories, what am I meant to do? [305]

– Since my eyes gave out I’m not able to write a… [306]


­– … a faultlessly and stylistically sophisticated Greek without outside help. [307]

– I’m not able to write a good script… [308]

You are being too modest Monsieur Godard. Next!


– I’m always last in line. [310]

You are not the last one. Please 311!

– Me, I’m pretty easy to pick on as well. At school, I’m always last in a queue and last in class. I’m always first to lose my lunchbox or my pocket money. I’m usually the first to be caught for something I’ve done and first to get blamed for something I haven’t. I always admit it because I’m not organized enough to deny anything. And, compared to everything else in my life, it really doesn’t matter. I’m the human version of Matt. Both bald. Both victims. Both scapegoats. No one else… [311]

Dear participants in the survey. Thank you very much, you have provided valuable information on the problem of writing. I have made a report which contains your answers and their bibliographical references and will submit it to the president of the club. The results of our survey will also be available on-line. You can click on your number and check the accuracy of your answer. Those who were born before the era of the Internet and Google Books, well, you will have to take my word that I tried to record the answers and the sources as accurately as possible. Thank you very much. And good-bye – good-bye.


1. Hull, Geoffrey. Mai Kolia Tetun: A Course in Tetum-Praça the Lingua Franca of East Timor. (North Sydney; Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, 1999), 40.
2. Peplow, Michael W., and Robert S. Bravard. Samuel R. Delany: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1962-1979, (Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1980).
3. Ruskin, John. "Letters of John Ruskin." The Atlantic Monthly XCIV (1904). 386.
4.  Schreiner, Olive. The Letters of Olive Schreiner, 1876-1920. (Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1976), 26.
5. Zwiren, Scott. God Head. (Normal, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996), 92.
6. Ellis, Carolyn. Final Negotiations: A Story of Love, Loss, and Chronic Illness, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995), 156.
7. Hauptmann, Moritz, Alfred Kurt Immanuel Schöne, Ferdinand Hiller, and Arthur Duke Coleridge. The Letters of a Leipzig Cantor. (London, New York,: Novello, 1892), 183.
8. Sauvapong, Seni, and Marcel Barang. Wanlaya's Love (TMC, 1996), 122.
9. Anderson, Maxwell. Joan of Lorraine: (DPS, 1974), 36.
10. Goodman, Aubrey. The Golden Youth of Lee Prince; a Novel. (New York,: Simon and Schuster, 1959), 177.
11. Levin, Meyer. In Search, an Autobiography. (New York,: Horizon Press, 1950), 139.
12. Drew, Benjamin. Refugees from Slavery: Autobiographies of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2004), 61.
13. Camenson, Blythe. Careers in Writing, (Chicago, Ill.: VGM Career Books, 2001), 45.
14. Science News. S. E. Cassino, 1878. 18
15. "Looking Backward." The Kodak Magazine I, no. 6 (1920). 56.
16. Gillespie, Sheena, and Robert Singleton. Across Cultures: A Reader for Writers. (Allyn and Bacon, 1993), 453.
17. Hayes, Joseph. Impolite Comedy: A Comedy in Three Acts. (New York : French, 1977), 21.
18. Glasscock, Sarah. 10 Women Who Helped Shape America: Short Plays for the Classroom. (New York: Scholastic Professional Books, 1996), 74.
19. Busk, Rachel Harriette. Patrañas; or Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional. (London: Griffith and Farran, 1870), 126
20. American Neurological Association. Journal of nervous and mental disease 81 (1935), 285.
21. Adams, Scott. Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice. (New York: Portfolio, 2007), 5.
22. Braymer, Nan, César Vallejo, and Lillian Lowenfels. Modern Poetry from Spain and Latin America. (New York,: Corinth Books; [distributed by Citadel Press, 1964), 14.
23. Luzzi, Joseph. Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 87.
24. Barnes, Peter. To Be or Not to Be. (London: British Film Institute, 2002), 8.
25. Faulkner, William. Mosquitoes. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997), 84.
26. Kaplan, Brett Ashley. Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 99.
27. Congress for Cultural Freedom, Stephen Spender, and Irving Kristol. "Encounter." 75 v. London: Encounter Ltd., 1976.
28. Crane, Hart. Letters, 1916-1932. (Berkeley,: University of California Press, 1965), 396.
29. Knight, William Angus. The Philosophy of the Beautiful, Being a Contribution to Its Theory. (New York,: C. Scribner's sons, 1898), 247.
30. Jose, Sionil. Solidarity. Vol. 125-128: Solidaridad Pub. House, 1990. 91.
31. Jahadhmy, Ahmed. Plays in Swahili: (for Swahili Language Students): College Printing & Typing Co.
32. Lurie, Alison. Truth and Consequences : A Novel. (New York: Viking, 2005), 199.
33. Glaspell, Susan. The Visioning; a Novel. (New York,: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1911), 213.
34. Goldberg, David E. The Entrepreneurial Engineer: Personal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Skills for Engineers in a World of Opportunity. (Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, 2006), 56.
35. Anzaldúa, Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating. Interviews = Entrevistas. (New York: Routledge, 2000), 226.
36. Bartholomae, David. Writing on the Margins: Essays on Composition and Teaching. (Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2004), 51.
37. Kiosse, Connie. The Best of Friends, Two Sisters, One Journey: (Infinity Publishing, 2003), 49.
38. Bentham, Jeremy, and John Bowring. The Works of Jeremy Bentham. (Edinburgh: W.Tait, 1843), 180.


For the full report on the survey contact the department of writing.