George Sand on the Agony and Ecstasy of Writing

George Sand young

George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin; 1804-1876) the French novelist, memoirist, and essayist, was noted as much for her adventurous life and loves. Her writing life took her through great ups and downs, something familiar to those of us endeavor to live by the pen.

Her literary output was almost super-human, and encompassed more than seventy novels, countless essays and works of journalism, several plays,  and a multi-volume autobiography. It’s hard to think of another author, past or present, who comes close to being as prolific, and she managed to live a life filled with love, family life, and not a little scandal.

Here is a selection of quotes by George Sand on the joys and agonies of the writing life, many from her most loyal compatriot and correspondent, Gustave Flaubert.


“I let myself be distracted”

“While you are running around to get material for your novel, I am inventing all sorts of pretexts not to write mine. I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies, something I am reading fascinates me and I set myself to scribbling on paper that will be left in my desk and bring me no return.

That has amused me, or rather that has compelled me, for it would be in vain for me to struggle against there caprices; they interrupt me and force me…you see that I have not the strength of mind that you think.”  (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1869)


“A frenzy of work”

“As for my frenzy of work, I will compare it to an attack of Herpes. I scratch myself while I cry. It is both a pleasure and a torture at the same time. And I am doing nothing that I want to! For one does not choose one’s subjects, they force themselves on one. Shall I ever find mine? Will an idea fall from Heaven suitable to my temperament?

Can I write a book to which I shall give myself heart and soul? It seems to me in my moments of vanity, that I am beginning to catch a glimpse of what a novel ought to be. But I still have three to four of them to write before that one (which is, moreover, very vague), and at the rate I am going, if I write these three or four, that will be the most I can do.”  (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1866)


“I don’t believe in sorrows”

“I don’t believe in all the sorrows that people predict for me in the literary career on which I’m trying to embark. You have to know and appreciate what motives drive me and what goal I’m pursuing. My husband has fixed my living allowance at 3,000 francs. You know that’s not much for me, for I like to give money away, and not bother counting.

I therefore think only of improving my well-being through some earnings, and as I’ve no desire to be known, I won’t be. I will attract neither the envy nor hatred of anyone. Most writers are nourished by bitterness and battles, I know, but those that have no other ambition to make a living, live in the shade, peacefully.”  (From a letter Jules Boucoiran, 1831)

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George Sand quote on writint

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“A violent, indestructible passion”

“I am more than ever intent upon following a literary career. In spite of the repugnance which I sometimes experience, despite the days of idleness and fatigue which cause me to break off my work, in spite of the life, more than quiet, which I lead here, I feel that henceforth my existence has an aim.

I have a purpose in view, a task before me, and, if I may use the word, a passion. For the profession of writing is nothing else but a violent, indestructible passion. When it has once entered people’s heads it never leaves them.”   (From a letter to Jules Boucoiran, March, 1831)


“One writes for all the world”

One writes for all the world, for all who need to be initiated; when one is not understood, one is resigned and recommences. When one is understood, one rejoices and continues. There lies the whole secret of our persevering labors and of our love of art. What is art without the hearts and minds on which it pours? A sun which would not project rays and would give life to no one.   (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1866)

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George Sand
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