9 David Mamet Quotes on Writing, Drama, and Society

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 18, 2019 • 2 min read

MasterClass Video Lessons

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

David Mamet is one of the most celebrated playwrights and screenwriters of all time. A prolific writer and an incredibly outspoken public speaker, he’s written classic plays and movies like Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo and Speed-the-Plow as well as books like True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor and On Directing Film. David Mamet has a wealth of advice to offer aspiring writers, and luckily has taken the time in writing and interviews to share a bit of his expertise. Whether it be on the state of Hollywood and mass entertainment, or politics and the balance of power in our branches of government, there are few topics that he hasn’t offered his take on.



David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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9 David Mamet Quotes on Writing

Below are some quotes that offer some of David Mamet’s signature takes on drama, society and the creative process.

  1. On finding truth in drama: “So the question is, ‘How do we examine our soul? How do we get closer to God? How do we get closer to the truth?’ And one way is through drama.”
  2. On writing organic characters: “The characters are what they do. Nobody sat down and said, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be the this. I’m gonna be the that.’”
  3. On writing a plot: “Writing a plot is one of the hardest things I ever learned how to do. It’s just hard, because it’s like playing with some unclean substance. And it is, because the unclean substance is your own consciousness.”
  4. On tragedy: “American Buffalo is about a bunch of guys in a junk shop, and it’s a tragedy. That means people have more or less good intentions and they end up ruining each other in a way that they could not foresee but that at the end of the play is revealed as inevitable and at the same time surprising.”
  5. On the purpose of dialogue: “Why do people speak in real life like we do now? They speak to get something from each other. It might seem like they speak to express themselves, but, as I understand it, that’s not true. They only express themselves to get something from one another.”
  6. On narration: “If you have to narrate it, the audience might understand, but they’ll no longer care.”
  7. On bad writing: “You’ve gotta stand being bad if you want to be a writer, because if you don’t, you’re never going to write anything good.”
  8. On embracing failure: “You cannot learn how to write drama without writing plays, putting [them] out in front of an audience, and getting humiliated.”
  9. On setting goals: “‘I wish’ is a proclamation of something you’re not go-ing to do. So rather than ‘I wish,’ if there’s something you want, say, ‘I will’ or ‘I intend to’ or ‘I’m going to’ and do it. What’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen to you? You’re going to fail? So what?”

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Whether you’re just starting to put pen to paper or dream of being published, writing demands time, effort, and meticulous attention to detail. In award-winning playwright David Mamet’s MasterClass, learn the techniques of structuring dramatic narratives, crafting realistic dialogue, and translating the written word for stage.

Want to become a better writer? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons on plot, character development, creating suspense, and more, all taught by literary masters, including David Mamet, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Judy Blume, David Baldacci, and more.

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