10 quotes about writing from Hunter S. Thompson

The founder of gonzo journalism was born on this day in 1937. To mark the occasion, we compiled some of his finest sayings for writers.


The late Hunter S. Thompson was many things—journalist, raconteur, enthusiastic drug user. But more than anything else, he was a writer, a career he sought from an early age. On the anniversary of his birth (July 18), we compiled 10 of Thompson’s finest quotes for writers:

On writing and sex

“Writing is the flip side of sex—it’s good only when it’s over.”

On distraction

“No music + Bad TV = Bad mood & no pages.”

–from a sign that hung in his home (via PR Daily)

On (blown) deadlines

“Every deadline was a crisis … No doubt it has something to do with a deep-seated personality defect, or maybe a kink in whatever blood vessel leads into the pineal gland … On the other hand, it might easily be something as simple and basically perverse as whatever instinct it is that causes a jackrabbit to wait until the last possible second to dart across the road in front of a speeding car.”

–from “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72”

On the pains of editing

“One of the advantages of being dead, I guess, is that somebody else can edit all this.”

–from a 1997 interview with The Atlantic

On the importance of research

“No honest writer, for instance, would validate—with his byline—a third-hand account of a Scottish gamekeeper who claims to be a werewolf. You’d have to confront the man (assuming he’s alive), and get a fix on his head by discussing other things.”

–from a letter to Playboy editor John Grabree, Sept. 16, 1967

On the allure of writing

“As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says ‘you are nothing’, I will be a writer.”

–from “Gonzo

On the importance of language

“I think the trick is that you have to use words well enough so that these nickel-and-dimers who come around bitching about being objective or the advertisers don’t like it are rendered helpless by the fact that it’s good. That’s the way people have triumphed over conventional wisdom in journalism.”

–from a 1997 interview with The Atlantic

On the personal benefits of writing

“I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively … For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don’t lie to yourself and use the wrong words.”

–from a letter to Larry Callen, July, 14, 1958 (found in the collection of his early letter, “The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman)”

On the literary muse

“Events of the past two years have virtually decreed that I shall wrestle with the literary muse for the rest of my days. And so, having tasted the poverty of one end of the scale, I have no choice but to direct my energies toward the acquisition of fame and fortune. Frankly, I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left me.”

–from a letter to Arch Gerhart, Jan. 29, 1958 (found in the collection of his early letter, “The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman)”

On the pains of being a writer

“The only other important thing to be said about “Fear & Loathing” at this time is that it was fun to write, and that’s rare—for me, at least, because I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like f*cking—which is fun only for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling. Nothing is fun when you have to do it—over and over, again and again—or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old.”

–from The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

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