15 Favorite Winston Groom Quotes

With the passing of author Winston Groom, the world bids farewell to a literary legend, an icon of the Bay area and the creator of the internationally beloved character Forrest Gump. In honor of “The Bard of Point Clear,” MB presents 15 times Winston Groom made us think, smile or laugh out loud.

Groom pictured in his study for the 2017 MB article, “A View to a Room.” Photo by Matthew Coughlin

On writing

“I don’t have writer’s block. I got over that about the first day at the [Washington Star-News in D.C.]. You didn’t tell the city editor you’ve got writer’s block when you’ve got a deadline and a triple axe murder — you just do it. You write through it, and you fix it later.”

“If you insist on [being a writer], you obviously need to read. Read the very best and steal shamelessly from their ideas … the technique, the devices they use. Learn from the best, and then go do it.”

On writing “Forrest Gump”

“When I came back from Vietnam, the plane landed in San Francisco. I wanted to meet some girls, and I learned very quickly that in 1967 in San Francisco, if you wanted to meet girls, you didn’t do it in the uniform of a lieutenant of the U.S. Army. So I went downtown to look for some civilian clothes. I wound up at a department store called Gump’s. That name must have stuck with me.”

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing because I liked the character. I liked his voice.”

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“I think the thoughts flowed from what I call the lizard brain, which is down in the back of my neck, and straight onto my ten fingers at the keys.”

“Gump was such as improbable character. He was the perfect idiot. I didn’t know where I was going with him. Come on, playing for Bear Bryant at Alabama with an IQ of 60? If readers would believe that, I found I could do almost anything with him.”

“As I see it, it’s a story about human dignity, and the fact that you don’t have to be smart or rich to maintain your dignity, even when some pretty undignified things are happening all around you.”

“It all took me by complete surprise. I thought ‘Gump’ might be a little cult book. That’s what it was in the beginning. Kids were reading it on college campuses. And then it became something else. Stuff like that happens sometimes. I still get letters about ‘Gump,’ often from people in foreign countries in languages I don’t know.”

On the success of the film version of “Forrest Gump”

“I upgraded to a better brand of toilet paper.”

“The night before [the Oscars], there was a big party. I was talking to Hanks and he said, ‘I’m not sure you did me any favors here. They’re going to want me to play this character forever.’ I told him I was in the same boat. The next book I wrote could be the Bible and all people would want to talk about is ‘Gump.’”

To the New York Times in a 1994 profile of Groom following the movie’s release: “Where were you eight years ago? It’s the same damn book.”

On writing histories

“After ‘Forrest Gump,’ I started thinking that with novelists, if you’re lucky, you’ve got one good novel. If you’re extremely lucky, you may have two good novels, and if you’re most fortunate, you may have three … I look at Thomas Wolfe and Fitzgerald — they drank themselves to death. Hemingway blew his brains out. And I thought, ‘That’s not a path I particularly want to go down.’”

“I enjoy writing about things I don’t know about. I think that part of the problem sometimes with some history books … is that the writer has been teaching the subject for some 40 years, and he doesn’t come at it with a fresh eye.”

“When you sit down for a novel, you have a blank page of paper staring back at you. For a history book, the start, middle, and end are already there. Being a novelist helps, but writing a history is like cooking a big stew. It’s a real challenge when you start. You have to have all the right ingredients — that’s crucial. Then you have to stir it up just right.”

“So whatever else has happened, I am figgerin this: I can always look back an say, at least I ain’t led no hum-drum life.”

“Forrest Gump,” p. 241, Simon and Schuster

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