156+ Best William Faulkner Quotes: Exclusive Selection

William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer and Nobel Prize–winning novelist. Much of his early work was poetry, but Faulkner became famous for his novels set in the American South, frequently in his fabricated Yoknapatawpha County, with works that included The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! Notable William Faulkner quotes will brighten up your day and make you feel ready to take on anything.

If you’re searching for motivating writing quotes and famous author sayings that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of inspirational Robert Fulghum quotes, powerful Tom Wolfe quotes, and Lewis Grizzard quotes.

Most Famous William Faulkner Quotes

When my horse is running good, I don’t stop to give him sugar. – William Faulkner

Why that’s a hundred miles away. That’s a long way to go just to eat. – William Faulkner

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth. – William Faulkner

A gentleman accepts the responsibility of his actions and bears the burden of their consequences. – William Faulkner

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. – William Faulkner

It’s all now you see: tomorrow began yesterday and yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow. – William Faulkner

I love Virginians because Virginians are all snobs and I like snobs. A snob has to spend so much time being a snob that he has little time left to meddle with you. – William Faulkner

War and drink are the two things man is never too poor to buy. – William Faulkner

I’d have wasted a lot of time and trouble before I learned that the best way to take all people, black or white, is to take them for what they think they are, then leave them alone. – William Faulkner

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others. – William Faulkner

No man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors. – William Faulkner

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation. – William Faulkner

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary. – William Faulkner

I could smell the curves of the river beyond the dusk and I saw the last light supine and tranquil upon tide flats like pieces of broken mirror, then beyond them lights began in the pale clear air, trembling a little like butterflies hovering a long way off. – William Faulkner

a fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change. Yes. A man will talk about how he’d like to escape from living folks. But it’s the dead folks that do him the damage. It’s the dead ones that lay quiet in one place and don’t try to hold him, that he can’t escape from. – William Faulkner

Your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory. – William Faulkner

The quality an artist must have is objectivity in judging his work, plus the honesty and courage not to kid himself about it. – William Faulkner

A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction. – William Faulkner

A man. All men. He will pass up a hundred chances to do good for one chance to meddle where meddling is not wanted. He will overlook and fail to see chances, opportunities, for riches and fame and well doing, and even sometimes for evil. But he won’t fail to see a chance to meddle. – William Faulkner

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. – William Faulkner

It’s not when you realize that nothing can help you — religion, pride, anything — it’s when you realize that you don’t need any aid. – William Faulkner

Like a fellow running from or toward a gun ain’t got time to worry whether the word for what he is doing is courage or cowardice. – William Faulkner

I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and self-respect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from. – William Faulkner

The most important thing is insight, that is to be – curious – to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. – William Faulkner

My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky. – William Faulkner

Believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. – William Faulkner

Time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was – only is. – William Faulkner

She was bored. She loved, had capacity to love, for love, to give and accept love. Only she tried twice and failed twice to find somebody not just strong enough to deserve it, earn it, match it, but even brave enough to accept it. – William Faulkner

The end of wisdom is to dream high enough to lose the dream in the seeking of it. – William Faulkner

Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him. – William Faulkner

One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat…nor make love for eight hours… – William Faulkner

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. – William Faulkner

They say that it is the practiced liar who can deceive. But so often the practiced and chronic liar deceives only himself; it is the man who all his life has been self-convicted of veracity whose lies find quickest credence. – William Faulkner

Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid. – William Faulkner

Who gathers the withered rose? – William Faulkner

The salvation of the world is in man’s suffering. – William Faulkner

Civilization begins with distillation – William Faulkner

Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich. – William Faulkner

The best fiction is far more true than any journalism. – William Faulkner

Wonder. Go on and wonder. – William Faulkner

The books I read are the ones I knew and loved when I was a young man and to which I return as you do to old friends. – William Faulkner

We have to start teaching ourselves not to be afraid. – William Faulkner

If a story is in you, it has to come out. – William Faulkner

Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing. – William Faulkner

Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. – William Faulkner

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863… – William Faulkner

You get born and you try this and you don’t know why, only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings, only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don’t know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way. – William Faulkner

Truth; that long clean clear simple undeniable unchallengeable straight and shining line, on one side of which black is black and on the other white is white, has now become an angle, a point of view. – William Faulkner

Pouring out liquor is like burning books. – William Faulkner

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore. – William Faulkner

To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi. – William Faulkner

Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest – William Faulkner

Don’t do what you can do – try what you can’t do. – William Faulkner

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. – William Faulkner

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window. – William Faulkner

If we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green… If we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t. – William Faulkner

Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain. – William Faulkner

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. – William Faulkner

Our most treasured family heirloom are our sweet family memories. The past is never dead, it is not even past. – William Faulkner

You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults. – William Faulkner

The ideal woman which is in every man’s mind is evoked by a word or phrase or the shape of her wrist, her hand. The most beautiful description of a woman is by understatement. Remember, all Tolstoy ever said to describe Anna Karenina was that she was beautiful and could see in the dark like a cat. Every man has a different idea of what’s beautiful, and it’s best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree. – William Faulkner

To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow. – William Faulkner

At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance-that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is to be-curiosity-to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got it or not. – William Faulkner

So, never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If you, not just you in this room tonight, but in all the thousands of other rooms like this one about the world today and tomorrow and next week, will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth. – William Faulkner

Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other. – William Faulkner

People need trouble – a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don’t mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy. – William Faulkner

A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once. – William Faulkner

There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others. But a man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty; then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t. – William Faulkner

I believe man will not merely endure, he will prevail…because he has a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. – William Faulkner

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. – William Faulkner

There are some things for which three words are three too many, and three thousand words that many words too less. – William Faulkner

No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race. – William Faulkner

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. – William Faulkner

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail. – William Faulkner

Perhaps they were right in putting love into books, . . . Perhaps it could not live anywhere else. – William Faulkner

Nicknames are vulgar. Only common people use them. – William Faulkner

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work — a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So, this award is only mine in trust. – William Faulkner

I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express . . . but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure must would have done better. – William Faulkner

Landlord of a bordello! The company’s good and the mornings are quiet, which is the best time to write. – William Faulkner

Well, it’s like this. I ain’t got to but I can’t help it. – William Faulkner

Even at sixty-two, I can still go harder and further and longer than some of the others. That is, I seem to have reached the point where all I have to risk is just my bones. – William Faulkner

The work of the artist is to lift up peoples hearts and help them endure – William Faulkner

Some things you must always be unable to bear. – William Faulkner

And that’s how the book grew. That is, I wrote that same story four times. None of them were right, but I had anguished so much that I could not throw any of it away and start over, so I printed it in the four sections. That was not a deliberate tour de force at all, the book just grew that way. That I was still trying to tell one story which moved me very much and each time I failed, but I had put so much anguish into it that I couldn’t throw it away, like the mother that had four bad children, that she would have been better off if they all had been eliminated, But she couldn’t relinquish any of them. And that’s the reason I have the most tenderness for that book, because it failed four times. – William Faulkner

The most beautiful description of a woman is by understatement – William Faulkner

A hack writer who would not have been considered a fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old provensure-fireliterary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy. – William Faulkner

An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. – William Faulkner

You can’t beat women anyhow and that if you are wise or dislike trouble and uproar you don’t even try to. – William Faulkner

Try to be better than yourself. – William Faulkner

You should approach Joyce’s Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith. – William Faulkner

I had learned a little about writing from Soldier’s Pay – how to approach language, words: not with seriousness so much as an essayist does, but with a kind of alert respect, as you approach dynamite; even with joy, as you approach women: perhaps with the same secretly unscrupulous intentions. – William Faulkner

Success is feminine and like a woman, if you cringe before her, she will override you – William Faulkner

I can remember how when I was young, I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind — and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town. – William Faulkner

She forced herself once more to think of nothing, to keep her consciousness immersed, as a little dog that one keeps under water until he has stopped struggling – William Faulkner

The only rule I have is to quit while it’s still hot. Never write yourself out. Always quit when it’s going good. Then it’s easier to take it up again. If you exhaust yourself, then you’ll get into a dead spell and you’ll have trouble with it. – William Faulkner

…if there was anything at all in the Book, anything of hope and peace for His blind and bewildered spawn which He had chosen above all others to offer immortality, THOU SHALT NOT KILL must be it… – William Faulkner

So long as the deceit ran along quiet and monotonous, all of us let ourselves be deceived, abetting it unawares or maybe through cowardice… – William Faulkner

The writer has three sources: imagination, observation, and experience – William Faulkner

Most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be. – William Faulkner

Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if we were mad enough to do what that other man or woman is doing. – William Faulkner

How do our lives ravel out into the no-wind, no-sound, the weary gestures wearily recapitulant: echoes of old compulsions with no-hand on no-string: in sunset we fall into furious attitudes, dead gestures of dolls. – William Faulkner

You don’t dare think whole even to yourself the entirety of a dear hope or wish let alone a desperate one else you yourself have doomed it. – William Faulkner

It was like something you have dreaded and feared and dodged for years until it seemed like all your life, then despite everything it happened to you and all it was was just pain, all it did was hurt and so it was all over, all finished, all right. – William Faulkner

That which is destroying the Church is not the outward groping of those within it nor the inward groping of those without, but the professionals who control it and who have removed the bells from its steeples. – William Faulkner

Don’t bother just to be better than others. Try to be better than yourself. – William Faulkner

You can’t. You just have to. – William Faulkner

The Swiss are not a people so much as a neat, clean, quite solvent business. – William Faulkner

I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is; I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it. – William Faulkner

You have to write badly in order to write well. – William Faulkner

I am trying to say it all in one sentence, between one cap and one period. – William Faulkner

It has always seemed to me that the only painless death must be that which takes the intelligence by violent surprise and from the rear so to speak since if death be anything at all beyond a brief and peculiar emotional state of the bereaved it must be a brief and likewise peculiar state of the subject as well and if aught can be more painful to any intelligence above that of a child or an idiot than a slow and gradual confronting with that which over a long period of bewilderment and dread it has been taught to regard as an irrevocable and unplumbable finality, I do not know it. – William Faulkner

The necessity of the idea creates its own style. The material itself dictates how it should be written. – William Faulkner

No one individual can tell the truth. – William Faulkner

Had Passion and Purity never encountered, Tenderness had never come into the world. – William Faulkner

I draw no petty social lines. A man to me is a man, wherever I find him. – William Faulkner

A writer strives to express a universal truth in the way that rings the most bells in the shortest amount of time. – William Faulkner

True poetry is not of earth, ‘T is more of Heaven by its birth. – William Faulkner

…I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray half light where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who. – William Faulkner

Necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride. – William Faulkner

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. – William Faulkner

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. – William Faulkner

All men are just accumulations dolls stuffed with sawdust swept up from the trash heaps where all previous dolls had been thrown away. – William Faulkner

One day I was talking to Cora. She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too. – William Faulkner

They will endure. They are better than we are. Stronger than we are. Their vices are vices aped from white men or that white men and bondage have taught them: improvidence and intemperance and evasion-not laziness: evasion: of what white men had set them to, not for their aggrandizement or even comfort but his own. – William Faulkner

When I was little there was a picture in one of our books, a dark place into which a single weak ray of light came slanting upon two faces lifted out of the shadow. – William Faulkner

And I will look down and see my murmuring bones and the deep water like wind, like a roof of wind, and after a long time they cannot distinguish even bones upon the lonely and inviolate sand. – William Faulkner

A man’s moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream. – William Faulkner

You could do so much for me if you just would. If you just knew. I am I and you are you and I know it and you don’t know it and you could do so much for me if you just would and if you just would then I could tell you and then nobody would have to know it except you and me. – William Faulkner

Knowing not grieving remembers a thousand savage and lonely streets. – William Faulkner

The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on. From that night the thousand streets ran as one street, with imperceptible corners and changes of scene … – William Faulkner

He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty: he might have seen himself as in numberless avatars, in silence, doomed with motion, driven by the courage of flagged and spurred despair; by the despair of courage whose opportunities had to be flagged and spurred. – William Faulkner

Just when do men that have different blood in them stop hating one another? – William Faulkner

She is like all the rest of them. Whether they are seventeen or fortyseven, when they finally come to surrender completely, it’s going to be in words. – William Faulkner

An artist is completely amoral in that he will rob, beg, borrow, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. – William Faulkner

The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him. – William Faulkner

Love doesn’t die; the men and women do. – William Faulkner

We have all heard what we wanted to hear! Truth that sounds right to our ears! – William Faulkner

I don’t care much for facts, am not much interested in them, you can’t stand a fact up, you’ve got to prop it up, and when you move to one side a little and look at it from that angle, it’s not thick enough to cast a shadow in that direction. – William Faulkner

Everything in Los Angeles is too large, too loud and usually banal in concept… The plastic asshole of the world. – William Faulkner

I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it. – William Faulkner

I’ve got to feel the pencil and see the words at the end of the pencil. – William Faulkner

You men,’ she says. ‘You durn men. – William Faulkner

The writer in America isn’t part of the culture of this country. He’s like a fine dog. People like him around, but he’s of no use. – William Faulkner

Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart. – William Faulkner

I decline to accept the end of man. – William Faulkner

The poets are wrong of course […] But then poets are almost always wrong about facts. That’s because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth: which is why the truth they speak is so true that even those who hate poets by simple and natural instinct are exalted and terrified by it. – William Faulkner

Don Quixote — I read that every year, as some do the Bible. – William Faulkner

I’m bad and I’m going to hell, and I don’t care. I’d rather be in hell than anywhere where you are. – William Faulkner

I don’t think anybody can teach anybody anything. I think that you learn it, but the young writer that is as I say demon-driven and wants to learn and has got to write, he don’t know why, he will learn from almost any source that he finds. He will learn from older people who are not writers, he will learn from writers, but he learns it — you can’t teach it. – William Faulkner

Gough never pretended to perfection or to sainthood – well, hardly ever. Although when he set off the metal detector at airport security, he would blame his aura. – William Faulkner

Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race. – William Faulkner

It’s terrible to be young. It’s terrible. Terrible – William Faulkner

In the South you are ashamed of being a virgin. Boys. Men. They lie about it. Because it means less to women, Father said. He said it was men invented virginity not women. Father said it’s like death: only a state in which the others are left and I said, But to believe it doesn’t matter and he said, That’s what’s so sad about anything: not only virginity and I said, Why couldn’t it have been me and not her who is unvirgin and he said, That’s why that’s sad too; nothing is even worth the changing of it… – William Faulkner

It’s always the idle habits you acquire which you will regret. Father said that. That Christ was not crucified: he was worn away by a minute clicking of little wheels. That had no sister. – William Faulkner

When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they don’t really know what they mean. Pressed, they will go a step further and say, Well, ignorance then. The child is neither. There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it … his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it. – William Faulkner

Yes sir. You can be more careless, you can put more trash in [a novel] and be excused for it. In a short story that’s next to the poem, almost every word has got to be almost exactly right. In the novel you can be careless but in the short story you can’t. I mean by that the good short stories like Chekhov wrote. That’s why I rate that second – it’s because it demands a nearer absolute exactitude. You have less room to be slovenly and careless. There’s less room in it for trash. – William Faulkner

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