One Writes Out of One Thing Only—One’s Own Experience

James Baldwin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to the prominent author and social critic James Baldwin the craft of writing depends fundamentally on channeling experience. He employed the metaphorical phrase “the last drop, sweet or bitter”. Would you please help me to find a citation for his statement?

Quote Investigator: In 1955 James Baldwin published “Notes of a Native Son” which began with a section titled “Autobiographical Notes” containing the following passage. Emphasis added: 1

One writes out of one thing only—one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading One Writes Out of One Thing Only—One’s Own Experience


  1. 1964 (1955 Copyright), Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin, Chapter: Autobiographical Notes, Quote Page 4 and 5, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)