[Norman Mailer] did keep certain early experiences secret, but not many. He said he used them as “crystals,” and shined a light through them to illume later experiences. Most of these were from his childhood and adolescence. He called experience “the church of one’s acquired knowledge.” For him, the best experiences were unforeseen, experiences that hit you like a brick tossed over a fence.

The earliest reference I found to Mailer saying “the church of one’s acquired experience” comes from someone quoting him in The New Statesman in 1983.

To write a good love-letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.

I’ve always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener. In my Hollywood years when everything does work on outlines, I had to put on my architect’s clothes and pretend to be an architect. But my natural inclinations, the way I work, is to give my characters the head and to follow them.

But the work, the words on the paper, must stand apart from our living presences; we sit down at the desk and become nothing but the excuse for these husks we cast off.

My life is, in a sense, trash, my life is only that of which the residue is my writing.

When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, and having them speak to him.