The only successful way to write, and the only one I have found, is to be the character. Give up on trying to control them. Writers always talk about hearing voices. That's what they mean.

I never set out to be a published writer.

There has always been a tension in my life between the romantic and the practical. I can't hole myself up in a cabin and write down ideas for the rest of my life. I also need to be able to clean out a dog bite.

Medicine is a supremely useful profession. Fiction writing is not.

You know that thing people say, 'poetry is the hardest, stories are the second hardest, novels are the easiest?' I'm here to tell you that novels are the hardest. Writing a novel is unbelievably difficult. It's nightmarish.

When I write, I can become this ecstatic, crazy fellow, hearing the voices and just loosening up and letting them grow.

People are surprised when Hollywood characters act the way a real person would.

In the winter, I read next to a wood-burning stove. In the summer, we have a place up in Michigan where I like to read in a hammock. It's almost entirely hidden by cedar trees and right up by the water. You can climb in there and see nothing but water and be seen by nobody. It's perfect.

I read for the sensation of becoming another person; I write for the same sensation.

The Internet is changing American fiction - and I don't mean in some kind of metaphysical way.

I'm becoming more of a novelist as I get older. The novel just seems the truer form. There's less artifice involved.

When you're in medicine - especially when you're a resident in a public hospital - you feel like you're doing your part. But not when you're a writer.

I have a very bad memory. I can't remember my own life very well.

John Cheever was the first writer I ever read who sort of had that similar sensation that, you know, life is nasty, miserable, brutish and short, but that occasionally, there's a certain river of light, a kind word, a telling gesture that sort of illuminates something.

A novel, at least for me, cannot be visualized at one time.

I like certain people's work better than my own.

'How does your life turn out?' That's the ultimate novelistic question to me.

I don't have a pen name, so I'm thinking of getting a doctor's name. What would you call that, a stethoscope name?

There once was this powerful, both capital and political, class who cared about supporting and affirming a solid middle class in this country.

Medicine involves dealing with people who are going through changes and cycles, often people trapped in bodies that are going out from under them. Spending time with them lets you think their way, gives you insights as a writer.

Mathematicians don't like it when they're associated with mental illness and sort of bristle when you say that they can't get along socially, that they're not good with people.

Writers of literature make very little money.

I was never writing for commercial success. It's nice that it has come, but it is not important.

I'm fascinated by power, by those that can be publicly generous and privately ruthless.

Every time I'd sing or play piano when I was a child, my dad would yell up from the basement, 'That's B-flat!'

Books were king, but now movies are king, and books are sort of ignored. So now there's no sense of a welcoming community where you live.

Doubt is the enemy of mania. It's trying to get aloft strung with weights. The moment I like writing is three sentences in, when somehow those weights drop away, and you can invent. I cannot tell you the dread I have.

No one knows why books do well.

It's safe to say that all poets are manic-depressives, but fiction writers are on that scale, too.

In medical school, you're taught to write in this convoluted, Latinate way. I knew the vocabulary as well as anyone, but I would write kidney instead of nephric. I insisted on using English.

I can only remember two books from college that moved me: E.M. Forster's 'Howards End' and F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.'

Point of view gets me. If I can feel like a character rather than a reader, I'll read that book.

Your first book is kind of a labor of ignorance. You don't realize the difficulty of it. Your second book is sort of a labor of fear. Then you sort of either hit a stride, or you don't.

If you're concentrating so damn hard on a piece of mathematics or a musical - a piece of music or a piece of art, the restraint that holds the rest of - the rest of the world back off and vanishes in the rest of your life.

I don't think there is such a thing as pure imagination. I think it's a combination of memory and invention.

Fiction is about small ambition, small failed ambition, small disappointed hope.

One of my favorite ways to find fictional inspiration, by the way, is to browse historical timelines. I also like world atlases - any country with a squiggly coastline seems to inspire me, as do visual dictionaries, those reclusive creatures of the reference shelf.

You don't idea your way into a plot but plot your way into an idea.

What's more interesting than the arc of lives?

It's the writer's job to disarm the reader of his logic, to just make the reader feel.

Feeling useful in medicine allows me to not feel so stupid when making up stories.

Why say 'utilize' when you can say 'use'?

To me, point of view is everything.

Medicine ended up being the best thing I ever did for my writing.

I think that's what poets try to do: They try to sidestep neurology and go straight to meaning.

Bausch is a wonderful storyteller. He's a mature writer who has a lot of confidence in the quality of character. He doesn't need to hook you with a sneaky plot and zany characters.

The short story can't really hold an interesting event. It can't hold a death or a war or a loss of great magnitude the way either a long story or a novel can.

I started out writing stories because that's all I wanted to read, but now I don't know if I'll ever write one again.

I think one of the things that is essential for happiness in life, or at least for non-sadness, is producing something. I guess that's why I spend so much time and agony writing books. But working on carpentry is sort of like all the pleasure with none of the agony.