As time went on, we learned to arm ourselves in our different ways. Some of us with real guns, some of us with more ephemeral weapons, an idea or improbable plan or some sort of formulation about how best to move through the world. An idea that will let us be. Protect us and keep us safe. But a weapon nonetheless.— Colson Whitehead
The most interesting Colson Whitehead quotes that are free to learn and impress others
It is failure that guides evolution; perfection provides no incentive for improvement, and nothing is perfect.
Most people say, "Show, don't tell," but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they're like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do.
Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you.
You can’t rush inspiration. … Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, Only you understand me.
Memory is the most malicious cutter of all, preserving, recasting, panning in slow motion across the awful bits so that we retain every detail.
I can't blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I've spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I'll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.
Sanctimony and self-regard are as American as smallpox blankets and supersize meals.
His legs remembered the correct position for squatting down with toys.
He played. He fit the round male studs into the round female grooves. He got some thinking done as he hunkered down on his fallen-sleep legs.
The only time "early bloomer" has ever been applied to me is vis-a-vis my premature apprehension of the deep dread-of-existence thing. In all other cases, I plod and tromp along. My knuckles? Well dragged.
Talking about New York is a way of talking about the world.
For years I felt that I wasn't ready to take on slavery.
It's a huge topic, and I didn't want to mess it up.
I write the books that I'm compelled to and I definitely learn things about the world when I write them, and I hope that other people get something out of them, enjoy them, see the world differently when they're done.
In keeping with my family's affection for doomed product lines and hexed formats, we purchased a Betamax. The year before, we'd bought a TRS-80 instead of an Apple II, and in due course we'd unbox Mattel's Intellivision, instead of Atari's legendary gizmo. This was good training for a writer, for the sooner you accept the fact that you are a deluded idiot who is always out of step with reality the better off you will be.
I can't say that you should extract this or that value from my books explicitly.
They are up for interpretation. In terms of the obligation, I think we're all individuals on this planet, trying to scratch our way through the day, and if you're writing a book exposing atrocities in Rwanda or writing a murder mystery set in a mountain village, I think both ways of spending you time are valid and both books are probably fine to read.
Best to let the broken glass be broken glass, let it splinter into smaller pieces and dust and scatter. Let the cracks between things widen until they are no longer cracks but the new places for things. That was where they were now. The world wasn't ending: it had ended and now they were in the new place. They could not recognize it because they had never seen it before.
Growing up devouring horror comics and novels, and being inspired to become a writer because of horror novels, movies, and comic books, I always knew I was going to write a horror novel.
Google "brooklyn writer" and you'll get, Did you mean: the future of literature as we know it?
A lot of people, when they first hear about the Underground Railroad, think it really is a subway or a locomotive. When they find out it's not, they feel a little disappointed. So I thought, What if it was a literal underground train network traveling from state to state, with each state it goes through representing a different opportunity or danger?
A monster is a person who has stopped pretending.
Colored, Negro, Afro-American, African American.
... Every couple of years someone came up with something that got us an inch closer to the truth. Bit by bit we crept along. As if that thing we believed to be approaching actually existed.
New York City does not hold our former selves against us. Perhaps we can extend the same courtesy.
What does the perfect elevator look like, the one that will deliver us from the cities we suffer now, these stunted shacks? We don't know because we can't see inside it, it's something we cannot imagine, like the shape of angels' teeth. It's a black box.
Early on my career, I figured out that I just have to write the book I have to write at that moment. Whatever else is going on in the culture is just not that important. If you could get the culture to write your book, that would be great. But the culture can't write your book.
There will be no redemption because the men who run this place do not want redemption. They want to be as near to hell as they can.
The fallout from slavery is ongoing. I am not sure the issue of race in America will ever be completely solved.
I always have a few ideas that are percolating, and then after I've finished a book and it's a year later, and things are sort of festering and things are disgusting in my house and I have to get back to work, whatever project I keep thinking about is the one I end up working on. Sort of a very simple process of elimination.
In terms of why everything is different, each book is different than the one before because I'm so bored of what I just finished I want to work on something different. The next book becomes an antidote to what I did before.
The city knows you better than any living person because it has seen you when you are alone.
To put off the inevitable, we try to fix the city in place, remember it as it was, doing to the city what we would never allow to be done to ourselves. . . . New York City does not hold our former selves against us. Perhaps we can extend the same courtesy.
Being a slave meant never having the stability of knowing your family would be together as many years as God designed it to be. It meant you could come back from picking cotton in a field to find that your children are gone, your husband's gone, your mother's gone. It meant knowing you are property that could be sold to the highest bidder, of value only to continue to support the plantation economy.
In other words, fiction is payback for those who have wronged you.
The Declaration of Independence is that sacred American text so full of meaning and purpose and yet quite empty if you examine it and pull it apart because the words "All Men" exclude a vast number of citizens.
Isn't it great when you're a kid and the world is full of anonymous things? Everything is bright and mysterious until you know what it is called and then all the light goes out of it...Once we knew the name of it, how could we ever come to love it?...For things had true natures, and they hid behind false names, beneath the skin we gave them.
You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.
I'd never been much of an athlete, due to a physical condition I'd had since birth (unathleticism). Perhaps if there were a sport centered around lying on your couch in a neurotic stupor all day, I'd take an interest.
It had been a humdrum couple of days, reaffirming his belief in reincarnation: everything was so boring that this could not be the first time he'd experienced it.
I want to keep growing as a writer. I find myself doing unexpected projects and sort of challenging my idea of where I am in my career, or what I'm supposed to be doing. In fact, I'm not supposed to be doing anything. Just finding projects that are challenging to me. I want to be a writer who keeps growing and figuring out new things and hopefully people will follow me along as I publish these things.
I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it's like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it's like writing in Manhattan, but there aren't as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee.
I think being a writer was a crappy job when you just had typewriters.
It was crappy when we just had ink and paper. And it's sort of crappy now. It's always just you and the page. That doesn't change.
Hipsters seek refuge in church, Our Lady of Perpetual Subculture.
There is some discussion as to whether or not they are still cool but then they are calmed by the obscure location and the arrival of their kind. Keep the address to yourself, let the rabble fund it themselves. Wow, this crappy performance art is really making me feel no so terrible about my various emotional issues.
Pain could be killed. Sadness could not, but the drugs did shut its mouth for a time.
When it comes to how the slaves treat each other: If you've been brutalized all your life - if you have seen your children sold or your mother beaten and raped and you have been tortured yourself - you are not going to be up for your best behaviour. Even in the 21st century, 100 people in the midst of terrible suffering are not going to be their best people.
I write books and either people read them or they don't read them.
The rise of Facebook or e-books doesn't change the difficulty level of writing sentences and thinking up new ideas.
We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them.
A society manufactures the heroes it requires.
New York City in life was much like New York City in death.
It was still hard to get a cab, for example.
What isn't said is as important as what is said.
I like movies. I've written screenplays as a sort of procrastination thing for me. Like I'll work for a couple months on this idea that's been kicking around and then like 30 pages in I'll just go try a novel because it's a lot easier. That's what I know. So why am I killing myself?
In the 1930s, the government paid writers to interview 80- and 90-year-old former slaves, and I read those accounts. I came away realizing - not surprisingly - that many slave masters were sadists who spent a lot of time thinking up creative ways of hurting people.
If I have three ideas and I'm working on one more than the others, that sort of tells me that I should work on that one.