“All students should be encouraged to write some article after reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. They should realize the information, and they must present their assimilation in their own words. Otherwise, how they can become preachers?”

Letter to: Brahmananda – Los Angeles 1 July, 1969


“Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.”

Chaitanya Caritamrta Adi 1.106

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”


“Be brief, brother, be brief”


“Matra laghava matram putrotsavah” translation: “”If I could shorten something by even half a syllable I would be as happy as if I just had a son born to me””

Jiva Goswami from Hari Namamrta Vyakaranam (the Sanskrit Grammar of the Holy Name)

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Lettres provinciales.

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Marcus T. Cicero (106-43 BC) (This is arguable, it is attributed to many including Pascal, Twain, Voltaire, Hemingway (though this has been proven wrong), T.S. Eliot, and Proust. Pascal (1623-1662) seems to get the most love for this (but in French, so see alternative translation above) and since he is older than the more modern writers it might be safe to assume the others were quoting him, but I went with Cicero, because he is the oldest of them all and maybe Pascal was quoting him. Good writers borrow, great writers steal :-) )

“Sorry for the letter, i didn’t have time to write a postcard.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

Henry David Thoreau

“You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.”

Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”


“No one who has read official documents needs to be told how easy it is to conceal the essential truth under the apparently candid and all-disclosing phrases of a voluminous and particularizing report.”

Woodrow Wilson

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”

Mark Twain

“The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.”


Write like a blogger

(mostly from Seth’s Blog)

You can improve your writing (your business writing, your ad writing, your thank you notes and your essays) if you start thinking like a blogger:

1. Use headlines. I use them all the time now. Not just boring ones that announce your purpose (like the one on this post) but interesting or puzzling or engaging headlines. Headlines are perfect for engaging busy readers.

2. Realize that people have choices. With 80 million other blogs to choose from, I know you could leave at any moment (see, there goes someone now). So that makes blog writing shorter and faster and more exciting.

3. Drip, drip, drip. Bloggers don’t have to say everything at once. We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time. (300- 600 words)

4. It’s okay if you leave. Bloggers aren’t afraid to include links or distractions in their writing, because we know you’ll come back if what we had to say was interesting.

5. Interactivity is a great shortcut. Your readers care about someone’s opinion even more than yours… their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant.

6. Gimmicks aren’t as useful as insight. If you’re going to blog successfully for months or years, sooner or later you need to actually say something. Same goes for your writing.

7. Don’t be afraid of lists. People like lists.

8. Show up. Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.

9. Say it. Don’t hide, don’t embellish.

10.Use categories and tags to show up in search engines.

11. Use key words in your post titles.

Quotes About Writing

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

– Mark Twain

“By writing according to our realization we become more and more convinced and all doubts are destroyed.”

– Srila Prabhupada, Letter to: Pusta Krsna — Hyderabad 23 March, 1973

“Realization means you should write, every one of you, what is your realization. What for this Back to Godhead is? You write your realization, what you have realized about Krsna. That is required. It is not passive. Always you should be active. Whenever you find time, you write. Never mind, two lines, four lines, but you write your realization.”

– Srila Prabhupada, Sri Brahma-samhita, Verse 32 Excerpt — Los Angeles, August 14,1972

“Writing is the most disciplined form of thinking. It allows us to be precise, to stand back and examine what we have thought, to see what our words really mean, to see if they stand up to our critical eye, to see if they make sense and can be understood by others.”

– Donald Murray

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

~ William Strunk, Jr.

“Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”

— Dalai Lama

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”

– Enrique Jardiel Poncela

“Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

– John Ruskin

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

– Mark Twain

“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

– Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

– Oscar Wilde

“A true yogi observes Me in all beings and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized person sees Me, the same Supreme Lord, everywhere.”

Bhagavad-Gita 6.29

“A novelist must preserve a child-like belief in the importance of things which common sense considers of no great consequence.”

– W. Somerset Maugham

“There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it.”

– Morley Callaghan

“I hope you will continue this attitude and improve the quality and writing of Back To Godhead both nicely.”

– Srila Prabhupada; Letter to: Rayarama — Seattle 15 October, 1968

“There is no good writing, only good rewriting.”

– Justice Brandeis

“Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

– Colette, Casual Chance

“The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best friend.”

– Isaac Bashevis Singer

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”

– Hart Crane

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

– Anton Chekhov

“First of all the jokers would talk in such a way that the Lord and His associates would enjoy their humor, which would refresh the morning mood.”

– Krishna Book 70: Lord Krsna’s Daily Activities

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

– Erma Bombeck

Discussions About Writing Poetry

Here is a link to a page that has a lot of discussion on writing poetry. In the beginning is more specific stuff to their workshopping but scroll down a bit and a lot of good information.

You can post poems there and get them critiqued but not a place for fragile egos. Should you feel the urge to submit a poem , READ THE GUIDELINES BEFORE POSTING. One quote from them: “If you want to receive comments or praise for your work, but don’t want to (or feel unable to) comment on the works of others, then you’re not looking for a workshop, you’re looking for a posting board. pffa is not for you. To paraphrase Buckminster Fuller – nobody’s a passenger here, everybody’s crew.”

Quotes About Poetry

Excerpted from a much larger collection here.

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968

Science is for those who learn; poetry, for those who know. ~Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason. ~Novalis

There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing. ~John Cage

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. ~T.S. Eliot, Dante, 1920

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. ~Plato, Ion

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. ~Kahlil Gibran

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either. ~Robert Graves, 1962 interview on BBC-TV, based on a very similar statement he overheard around 1955

Poetry is what gets lost in translation. ~Robert Frost

Imaginary gardens with real toads in them. ~Marianne Moore’s definition of poetry, “Poetry,” Collected Poems, 1951

“Most poems are never finished,” (I was defensive). He sighed: “No, most poems are never started.” ~Dr. Sun Wolf

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life. ~George Sand, 1851

Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition. ~Eli Khamarov, The Shadow Zone

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. ~Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821

Poetry is the key to the hieroglyphics of Nature. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things. ~Stephen Mallarme

I am looking for a poem that says Everything so I don’t have to write anymore. ~Tukaram

You can’t write poetry on the computer. ~Quentin Tarantino

Poetry is perfect verbs hunting for elusive nouns. ~J. Patrick Lewis, http://www.jpatricklewis.com

A poem should not mean
But be.
~Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica, 1926

A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses. ~Jean Cocteau

Poets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind, because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science. ~Sigmund Freud, quoted in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations by Alan L. Mackay, 1991

To be a poet is a condition, not a profession. ~Robert Frost

Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. ~Carl Sandburg

Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth. ~Samuel Johnson

I’ve written some poetry I don’t understand myself. ~Carl Sandburg

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth. ~Jean Cocteau

The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats

Poetry is frosted fire. ~J. Patrick Lewis, http://www.jpatricklewis.com

If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it’s going to be average. ~Derek Walcott

A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer…. He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring. ~E.B. White

The poet… may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather. ~Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination, 1950

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. ~Rita Dove

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep. ~Salman Rushdie

Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them. ~Dennis Gabor

Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer. ~Terri Guillemets

Pitfalls to avoid in writing poetry

Thirteen Ways To Say This Poem Sucks

(based on the shape of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens)


Mountain of formula buzz words
Spinning its wheels with
Nothing in mind going nowhere.


It has three big flaws:
A bit worn,
Boring and misses the mark.


The language is flat, evoking no feeling.
Trying a bit too hard to be edgy.


Cliché and triteness
It’s bad.
Cliché and triteness and redundancy
It’s bad.


I do not know which is worse,
Poor breaks and awkward phrasing
Or the tongue twisting word choices,
The oral dissonance
Or lack of tune.


Cliches fill this over long attempt
With cluttered images.
The too abrupt transitions
Jarring, too often;
Falls flat on its face.
Parody of a metaphysical attempt.


Hidden overly poetic
Stuff is not working, why bother?
Trying too hard to show something,
It becomes silly,
Loses focus for the reader.


Too much telling of details
In forced, unnatural rhythms,
Any smart reader can guess at.
Not enough showing how this
Felt and happened.


Mistaken thinking the subject itself
Ennobles the effort;
Attempted by earnest thousands.


Here you are telling the reader
How to feel about this,
Rather than showing them
And letting them decide.


This is over the top.
Your metaphors
And symbolism
Are so out of sync
With your intended message
It’s hard to understand.


Typical teenage drivel.
Unable to get any coherency from it.


The images are imaginative
The language rich
And the rhythms flow.
It hangs together,
Really sucked me in.

(I wrote this 2004 when I was obsessing on poetry and workshopping my attempts online in a well moderated and very serious forum. Practically all the lines in this were from actual critiques on submitted poems ( a number of different poems, not just mine).  I tried to pick representative lines from the typical categories of errors committed when writing poetry)


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