Before The Great Gatsby: Vintage Quotes and Wisdom From F Scott Fitzgerald

(Your Moment of Friday Writing Zen)

Successful Writing - The very first issue of what would become Writer's Digest

Fitzgerald! Hemingway! “Writing for the talkies!” Bradbury! Photo-plays! Kerouac! King! Capote! (Vintage exclamation points!)

At Writer’s Digest, one of my favorite things to do is to go spelunking in the magazine archives. WD has been around for 92 years (since it was first published as “Successful Writing”) which gives a motivated nerd a lot of thrills in digging around when he’s not editing, writing or having mini panic attacks about production deadlines.

The finds: Legendary writers with decades-old advice that’s still evergreen (think quotes from Great Gatsby scribe F. Scott Fitzgerald, et al.). Novel strategies. Charming letters to the editor. Delightfully outdated advertisements. Quirky and humorous odds and ends galore.

I’ll be posting some of my favorites here every Friday in a new series.

Since this is the debut post, here’s a smattering of clips from our first year, 1920-1921, featuring wisdom from Fitzgerald and others.

Enjoy. And good luck on your photo-plays.

(Also, anyone who remembers my writing prompt blog, Promptly, might recall me talking about my health being endangered by the towering stacks of books on my desk—new titles sent to us by publishers, authors and so on. After reviewing the books, I used to do giveaways—and once again, the stacks tower. Thus, we’ll pick one commenter at random every week to win a book. There are novels, instructional writing titles, biographies, etc.—I’ll email the winner the list, and he or she can just choose whatever strikes his/her fancy.)


Writer's Digest - Editor's Mail Box: F. Scott FitzgeraldLetters From F. Scott Fitzgerald, pre-Great Gatsby


Writer's Digest - Experiments in early house ads“Be Sure to Get a Copy of This Big Number”


Writer's Digest - More from author F. Scott FitzgeraldQuote of the month from young scribe F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I wear brown soft hats in winter, Panamas in summer, loathe dress suits and never wear one, and prefer people with greenish-gray eyes.” And: “I’d rather watch a good shimmy dance …”


Writer's Digest - The Duck ScenarioWrite about Cogley’s ducks! (Anyone need a writing prompt?)


Writer's Digest - A personal authorial announcementNotice: Aged Author Soon to Wed


Writer's Digest - Feature article“Eminent Author Declares That a Writer Who Declines to Use Motion Pictures is Like a Business Man Who Ignores the Telegraph and Telephone”


Writer's Digest - Having faith in your workAn article (with apologies for the cropping/size) that still rings true: “Have Faith: Have faith in your ability to write, and above all have faith in your stories. There are some stories which I write which I don’t care much about after they are finished, and I am not surprised if they don’t sell. But the majority of them I believe in, and even though they are knocked by the editors, laughed at by my friends, who are firmly convinced that they know a good story when they see one, I keep them going. There was an item in one of the magazines some time ago of an author whose story sold on the 200th submission. It had been going the rounds for seven years, and he had paid out over fifty dollars in postage. When asked why he had kept it going so long, he said simply, ‘I believed it was a good story.’ He had faith in it and faith won.”

Want more from the archives? Check out our January 2012 issue (The Novelist’s Survival Kit), which features “Tried & True: Timeless Novel Advice” from the likes of Stephen King and 22 others. And for 90 tips from our 90-year retrospective in 2010, click here.

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3 thoughts on “Before The Great Gatsby: Vintage Quotes and Wisdom From F Scott Fitzgerald

  1. G.

    “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.” F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love this one! Every writer should take this one to heart.

  2. Lina Moder

    This is my favorite quote “Have Faith: Have faith in your ability to write, and above all have faith in your stories.” It’s interesting to see how writers – even the GREATS – struggled with the same things then as now.

    And what’s also fun is to see how fonts, layout and style have changed over the years!


    linamoder at gmail dot com

  3. Jamie

    I love the “Have Faith” blurb. The numbers of rejected submissions in the late teens/early 20s is actually a bit refreshing because it shows that it’s always been hard. And to know that F Scott Fitzgerald would like my eyes. . .wow!

    I’m also wondering if this is the place to leave comments for the giveaway? I would think there would be more comments if it was, but I seem to be first so maybe it’s elsewhere? Either way, this was a very cool zen entry.


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