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120 Rod Serling Quotes on Writing, Work, and Money

2. “If you want to prove that God is not dead, first prove that man is alive.”

3. “Our greatest responsibility is not to be pencils of the past.”

4. “Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”

5. “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.”

6. “Some people possess talent, others are possessed by it. When that happens, a talent becomes a curse.”

7. “Every superstate has one iron rule; logic is an enemy and the truth is a menace.”

8. “Being like everybody is the same as being nobody.”

9. “Imagination―its limits are only those of the mind itself.”

10. “The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic.”

11. “It is said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things. Science fiction is the improbable made possible, and fantasy is the impossible made probable.”

12. “I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply. In almost everything I’ve written there is a thread of this; a man’s seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself.”

13. “It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.”

14. “Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings.”

15. “Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete.”

16. “I’m afraid that if I started to ponder who I am and what I am, I might not like what I find.”

17. “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead―your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

18. “Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn’t embrace it. I succumbed to it.”

19. “I’ve written all that I’ve wanted to write to date.”

20. “Someplace between apathy and anarchy is the stance of the thinking human being. He does embrace a cause, he does take a position, and can’t allow it to become business as usual. Humanity is our business.”

21. “I think the destiny of all men is not to sit in the rubble of their own making but to reach out for an ultimate perfection which is to be had. At the moment, it is a dream. But as of the moment, we clasp hands with our neighbor, we build the first span to bridge the gap between the young and the old. At this hour, it’s a wish. But we have it within our power to make it a reality.”

22. “Coming up with ideas is the easiest thing on earth. Putting them down is the hardest.”

23. “You can be a hunchback and a dwarf and what-all. If you write beautifully, you can write beautifully.”

24. “Every man is put on earth condemned to die. Time and method of execution unknown.”

25. “The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus on the issues of his time.”

26. “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

27. “Television is very much like the weather. Much can be said of it, but very damn little can be done about it.”

28. “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man―a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.”

29. “It has forever been thus; so long as men write what they think, then all of the other freedoms―all of them―may remain intact. And it is then that writing becomes a weapon of truth, an article of faith, an act of courage.”

30. “You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning.”

31. “I’m sufficiently independent to know that I can live well and comfortably all the rest of my life whether I’m rejected or not.”

32. “When I dig back through memory cells, I get one particularly distinctive feeling―and that’s one of warmth, comfort, and well-being. For whatever else I may have had, or lost, or will find―I’ve still got a hometown. This, nobody’s gonna take away from me.”

33. “I was a Christmas present that was delivered unwrapped.”

34. “You gotta believe, Bolie!”

35. “Seeing does not always believe.”

36. “Trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risks, in or out of the Twilight Zone.”

37. “I’m a Western-cultured man who subscribes to the ancient saw that men do not cry, I don’t cry either. I’ll go to a movie, for example, and not infrequently something triggers the urge to weep, but I don’t allow myself.”

38. “Do I want to start my own production company? No, I doubt it. I’m too old for that. I don’t want to start anything.”

39. “I choose to think of the TV audience as nameless, formless, faceless people who are all like me. And anything that I write, if I like it, they’ll like it.”

40. “I don’t have any system. I dictate a lot, through a machine, and I also have a secretary. But I used to type just like everybody else.”

41. “I grew up in a single-family household and when you decide to go to the wall on your first project you really want to go with material that you’re passionate about and I think that is one of the reasons I felt so compelled to make this film.”

42. “Personally, my daughter’s wedding gave me a tremendous pleasure.”

43. “I don’t have close relationships with agents. They’re friends, but they’re not confidants.”

44. “You must always assume that the relationship between writer and producer is that of adversaries―however you slice it. They may be your dearest friends, and they’ll invite you to dinner, but when all the smoke clears and the ozone lifts, your enemy is the producer, that’s the guy you’re competing with, and you have to battle him, just as if you were an adversary.”

45. “Formerly, a fixture of the summer, formerly a rather minor component to a hot July, but throughout his life, a man beloved by the children, and therefore a most important man.”

46. “You see, we can feed the stomach with concentrates, we can supply microfilm for reading, recreation, even movies of a sort, we can pump oxygen in, and waste material out, but there’s one thing we can’t simulate. That’s a very basic need. Man’s hunger for companionship. The barrier of loneliness, that’s one thing we haven’t licked yet.”

47. “I only wanted to tell you that this was the wonderful time for you. Don’t let any of it go by without enjoying it. There won’t be any more merry-go-rounds. No more cotton candy. No more band concerts. I only wanted to tell you, Martin, that this is the wonderful time. Now! Here! That’s all. That’s all I wanted to tell you.”

48. “A basic must for every writer. A simple solitude―physical, and mental.”

49. “Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized.”

50. “A sickness known as hate; not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ―but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone―look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.”

51. “And something inside the young man cracked. The small compartment in the back of his mind, where man closes his fears, ties them up, controls and commands them, broke open and they surged across brain and nerves and muscles―a nightmare flood in open rebellion.”

52. “There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy; and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”

53. “I don’t think it’s man’s function to write. I don’t think it’s a normal thing like teeth-brushing and going to the bathroom. It’s a supered position on the animal.”

54. “Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are.”

55. “If you need drugs to be a good writer, you are not a good writer.”

56. “It’s part of the business of really not caring about topping myself because I really don’t care what’s going to happen. I think just surviving is a major thing. I’d like to write something that my peers, my colleagues, my fellow writers would find a source of respect.”

57. “There are a lot I’m proud of, and a lot I wish the hell I’d never written.”

58. “There are millions of ways to not be writing. You say you’re not in the mood, you’ll pick it up tomorrow.”

59. “I’m an affluent screenwriter and all that―I’m a known screenwriter, but I’m not in the fraternity of the very, very major people. I would say a guy like Ernie Lehman, William Goldman, and a few others are quite a cut above.”

60. “I just want people to remember me a hundred years from now. I don’t care that they’re not able to quote any single line that I’ve written. But just that they can say, ‘Oh, he was a writer.’ That’s sufficiently an honored position for me.”

61. “Why do I write? I guess that’s been asked of every writer. I don’t know. It isn’t any massive compulsion.”

62. “I don’t enjoy any of the process of writing. I enjoy it when it goes on if it zings and it has great warmth and import and it’s successful.”

63. “I write much better in the non-confines of the early morning than I do the clutter of the day.”

64. “Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”

65. “I don’t know what my friends do. Generally, they become producers. That way they can stop writing!”

66. “The writer’s no different. When he’s rejected, that paper is rejected, in a sense, a sizable fragment of the writer is rejected as well. It’s a piece of himself that’s being turned down.”

67. “If the producer doesn’t like you, consequently he reads the script with a very negative view. But I wouldn’t preoccupy myself with that, I don’t give a damn.”

68. “I find it very difficult to live through the censorship of profanity on television.”

69. “I think the essence of the argument has always been, first of all, the guild doesn’t want writing on spec. And that’s been a major problem over the years. But obviously, to the young writer, that’s unfair and it’s discriminatory, and it can be very hurtful to one’s career.”

70. “If you have the temerity to try to dramatize a theme that involves any particular social controversy currently extant―then you’re in deep trouble.”

71. “If you write, fix pipes, grade papers, lay bricks, or drive a taxi―do it with a sense of pride. And do it the best you know-how. Be cognizant and sympathetic to the guy alongside, because he wants a place in the sun, too. And always―always look past his color, his creed, his religion, and the shape of his ears. Look for the whole person. Judge him as the whole person.”

72. “I’m frequently surprised, sometimes bugged off, and sometimes happy, depending on the actor. It’s a fact of life that just as often as not an actor can breathe life into a line as he can destroy it by misinterpretation, and I’ve been blessed frequently by having good actors.”

73. “I don’t think playing it safe constitutes a retreat, necessarily. In other words, I don’t think if, by playing safe he means we are not going to delve into controversy, then if that’s what he means he’s quite right. I’m not going to delve into controversy. Somebody asked me the other day if this means that I’m going to be a meek conformist, and my answer is no. I’m just acting the role of a tired non-conformist.”

74. “The major difference frequently is in time. The motion picture, for example, gives you considerably more freedom of expression than does the confined thirty-minute television show. But in essence, they’re not that dissimilar.”

75. “Over the long haul I’d say that most directors I’ve worked with have been pretty sensitive to the quality of the interpreted scenes.”

76. “Most screenplays, most motion pictures, owe much more to the screenplay. Ingmar Bergman has such an economy of language, so little language in his piece, it is so visual, his moods are introduced and buttressed by camera rather than by word or character. But again, that’s unique.”

77. “It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”

78. “Infinitely more taboos, on television.”

79. “I ask for your indulgence when I march out quotations. This is the double syndrome of men who write for a living and men who are over forty. The young smoke pot―we inhale from our Bartlett’s.”

80. “I miss the camaraderie of live television―the fact that you were on the set, you worked closely with the director and the cast, that I miss. But, no, I’m happy, I’m happy doing film.”

81. “I find dictating in the mass media particularly good because you’re writing for voice anyway; you’re writing for people to say a line and, consequently, saying a line through a machine is quite a valid test for the validity of what you’re saying.”

82. “I don’t feel, God dictated that I should write.”

83. “If it sounds good as you say it, likely as not it’ll sound good when an actor’s saying it.”

84. “The tendency when you dictate is to overwrite because you’re not counting pages, you don’t really know what the hell the page count is.”

85. “No dramatic art form should be dictated and controlled by men whose training and instincts are cut of an entirely different cloth. The fact remains that these gentlemen sell consumer goods, not an art form.”

 86. “You can become much more independent, much more courageous with a bank account. And also, much more independent and self-reliant when you know you have money behind you.”

87. “I remember the first sale I made was a hundred and fifty dollars for a radio script, and, as poor as I was, I didn’t cash the check for three months. I kept showing it to people.”

88. “I would guess that the price of the script really is secondary. The credit is much more the essence.”

89. “The good agent probably is not the reader, he’s just the guy who can put together a deal.”

90. “Most shows, buying shows, have a standard fee for the first shot of the writer and if you have a very militant agent, I suppose he might jack it up four percent or something. But in essence, you sell for what is the going rate.”

91. “I couldn’t direct because I’m too impatient and I couldn’t put together a package because I don’t understand money. I’d rather just do what I’m doing.”

92. “In terms of screenwriting adaptations it’s trying to cut out stuff that’s extraneous, without doing damage to the original piece, because you owe a debt of some respect to the original author. That’s why it was bought.”

93. “I think I’d rather win, for example, a writer’s guild award than almost anything on earth. And the few nominations I’ve had with the guild, and the few awards I’ve had represented to me a far more legitimate concrete achievement than anything.”

94. “I’ve never really topped myself because awards in themselves really don’t reflect major accomplishments. It’s kind of a strange, backslapping ritual that we go through in this town where you get awards for almost everything. For surviving the day you’re going to get awards.”

95. “Somehow, some way, incredibly enough, good writing ultimately gets recognized. If you’re a really good writer and deserve that honored position, then by God, you’ll write, and you’ll be read.”

96. “Justice can span years. Retribution is not subject to a calendar.”

97. “Not since the British raided Cologne had so many bombs landed in such a small space in such a short time.”

98. “Bias and prejudice make me angry―more than anything.”

99. “I guess we all have a little vaunting itch for immortality, I guess that must be it.”

100. “You unlock the door with the key of imagination.”

101. “Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting in The Twilight Zone.”

102. “If in any quest for magic, in any search for sorcery, witchery, legerdemain, first check the human spirit.”

103. “As he looked at his reflection in the dresser mirror, he felt that recurring surprise that the tall, attractive man staring back was he, and beyond that was the wonder that the image bore no real relationship to the man himself.”

104. “According to the Bible, God created the heavens and the Earth. It is man’s prerogative―and woman’s―to create their own particular and private hell.”

105. “I don’t believe in reincarnation. That’s a cop-out, I know. I don’t really want to be reincarnated.”

106. “If survival calls for the bearing of arms, bear them you must. But the most important part of the challenge is for you to find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow man.”

107. “As long as they talk about you, you’re not really dead, as long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn’t die, just because the man dies.”

108. “Now death is with us in such abundance and hovers over us in so massive a form that we don’t have time to invent a mythology, nor is our creativity directed toward same. Now it’s to prevent death.”

109. “And what I further don’t understand is how little you appreciate the nature of your departure. Think of all the poor souls who go in violent accidents. These are the non-precognition victim. We are not permitted to forewarn them. You, Mr. Bookman, fall into the category of natural causes.”

110. “In his grave, we praise him for his decency―but when he walked among us, we responded with no decency of our own.”

111. “I kept waiting for Rod Steiger to come out of the closet because I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone―The Twilight Zone.”

112. “I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

113. “An Ingmar Bergman film would probably owe a sizeable bulk of its import and its direction and its quality to the directorial end and to the director because it’s uniquely a Bergman film. But that again is not the general―no, that’s much more the exception than the rule.”

114. “Star Trek, I thought, was a very inconsistent show, which at times sparkled with true ingenuity and pure science fiction approaches, and other times was more carnival-like, and very much more the creature of television than the creature of a legitimate literary form.”

115. “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.”

116. “I’d rather go along with this sense of illusion that I’m a neutral beast going along through life doing everything that’s preordained.”

117. “It’s hardly a revelation to me that the young people in this country take a dim view of our current up-tightness when it comes to street rioting. They believe, and I think quite properly, that on the scale of misbehavior the black man who takes a torch to a building or breaks a window to loot, and does so out of passion, is less the criminal than the white man who puts his torch to human beings and does so with a cold, calculated, predatory pre-planned blueprint of destruction.”

118. “But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask―particularly in The Twilight Zone.”

119. “This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a thorough route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable―go as far as you like on this road.”

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