The Best William Burroughs quotes

William Burroughs quotes thumbnail

In his book The Autoquotes compilation of Malcolm X, Alex Haley wrote: I was born in 1915 in Ithaca, New York. My father was a professor at Cornell University and my mother was a domestic. This is just one small snippet of Haley’s extraordinary life story – a life that can serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. After overcoming many obstacles, Haley became one of the most famous authors in America, and his work continues to inspire millions of people around the world. If you’re looking for some inspiration, read on to discover about the incredible journey of Alex Haley.

Discover the deepest Control, Time, Writing, Machine, Life, World, Junk, Mind quotes from William Burroughs, and much more.


Test your habit in 4-mins


stop digital addiction course
This Course Breaks Your Digital Habits

About William Burroughs

birth of the author

February 5, 1914

death of the author

August 2, 1997

occupation of the author


college of the author

Alma Mater:
Harvard University

genre of the author

Beat Literature, Paranoid Fiction

movement of the author

Literary Movement:
Beat Generation, Postmodernism

award of the author

Notable Works:


I think anybody incapable of changing his mind is crazy. — William S. Burroughs

Thanks, for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business. Thanks, for a nation of finks. — William S. Burroughs

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. — William S. Burroughs

Open your mind and let the pictures out — William S. Burroughs

He who has learned to do nothing with his whole mind and body will have everything done for him. — William S. Burroughs

Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can’t mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has. — William S. Burroughs

Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through. Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind their own business. — William S. Burroughs

We must find out what words are and how they function. They become images when written down, but images of words repeated in the mind and not of the image of the thing itself. — William S. Burroughs

I know this one pusher walks around humming a tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey and spectral and anonymous they don’t see him and think it is their own mind humming the tune. — William S. Burroughs

Artists to my mind are the real architects of change. — William S. Burroughs

Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. — William S. Burroughs

There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business. — William S. Burroughs

Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative. — William S. Burroughs

For God’s sake, keep your eyes open. Notice what’s going on around you. — William S. Burroughs


Life is a vacation from two eternities. — William S. Burroughs

If you weren’t surprised by your life you wouldn’t be alive. Life is surprise. — William S. Burroughs

I am trying like Klee, to create something that will have a life of its own, that can put me in real danger, a danger which I willingly take on myself. — William S. Burroughs

No one owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death. — William S. Burroughs

Life is a vacation from two eternities, who wants to waste those precious years worrying about what happens when you get back to forever? — William S. Burroughs

The nonconformist here may be ‘beat down’ by life but still has a beauty in his or her longing for freedom and for an awakening of the mind. — William S. Burroughs

Life is a cutup. And to pretend that you write or paint in a timeless vacuum is just simply . . . not . . . true, not in accord with the facts of human perception. — William S. Burroughs

Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life. — William S. Burroughs

Kerouac and I are not real at all. The only thing about a writer is that he has written, and not his so–called life. ‘And we (will) all die and the stars will go out, one after another. — William S. Burroughs

If all pleasure is relief from tension, junk affords relief from the whole life process, in disconnecting the hypothalamus, which is the center of psychic energy and libido. — William S. Burroughs

A functioning police state needs no police. — William S. Burroughs


O death where is thy sting? The man is never on time. — William S. Burroughs

Time is what death needs to grow people in. — William S. Burroughs

Who was I? The stranger was footsteps in the snow a long time ago. — William S. Burroughs

Fear of death is form of stasis horrors. The dead weight of time. — William S. Burroughs

Death is] a gimmick. It’s the time–birth–death gimmick. Can’t go on much longer, too many people are wising up. — William S. Burroughs

This is a war universe. War all the time. There may be other universes, but ours seems to be based on war and games. — William S. Burroughs

Death needs time for what it kills to grow in. — William S. Burroughs

If, after spending time with a person, you feel as though you’ve lost a quart of plasma, avoid that person in the future. — William S. Burroughs

Time: a landing field! Death needs time like a junkie needs junk. — William S. Burroughs

The dark Gods of pain are surfacing from the immemorial filth of time. — William S. Burroughs

The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility. — William S. Burroughs

Danger is a biologic necessity, like dreams. if you face death, for that time, for the period of direct confrontation, you are immortal. — William S. Burroughs

There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks. — William S. Burroughs


Is Control controlled by its need to control? Answer: yes. — William S. Burroughs

You see, control can never be a means to any practical end…It can never be a means to anything but more control…like junk. — William S. Burroughs

Now all politicians assume a necessity of control, the more efficient the control the better. — William S. Burroughs

Redundant Thematics

In William Burroughs Statements


Smash the control images. Smash the control machine. — William S. Burroughs

The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set–up by the non–dreamers — William S. Burroughs

Scientology is a model control system, a state in fact with its own courts, police, rewards and penalties. — William S. Burroughs

Americans have a special horror of giving up control, of letting things happen in their own way without interference. — William S. Burroughs

I think there are innumerable gods. What we on earth call God is a little tribal God who has made an awful mess. Certainly forces operating through human consciousness control events. — William S. Burroughs

Cut word lines–Cut music lines–Smash the control images–Smash the control machine–Burn the books–Kill the priests–Kill! Kill! Kill! — William S. Burroughs


As an old junk pusher told me, ‘Watch whose money you pick up.’ — William S. Burroughs

Junk takes everything and gives nothing but insurance against junk sickness. — William S. Burroughs

Junk is the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. — William S. Burroughs

The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. — William S. Burroughs


I think all writers write for an audience. There is no such thing as writing for yourself. — William S. Burroughs

So many people in the Western World are just automatically made ill by any sort of frank writing about sexual matters. — William S. Burroughs

Jack] Kerouac was writing fiction. What he did when he wrote about me…he made me out with Russian Countesses and Swiss accounts and other things I didn’t have or didn’t happen and so on. — William S. Burroughs

The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. — William S. Burroughs

I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, accute pain. I don’t mean sexually. I mean in connection with my writing. — William S. Burroughs

It is to be remembered that the origin of all the arts–music, painting and writing–is magical and evocative; and that magic is always used to obtain some definite result. — William S. Burroughs

You do an awful lot of bad writing in order to do any good writing. Incredibly bad. I think it would be very interesting to make a collection of some of the worst writing by good writers. — William S. Burroughs

In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed. — William S. Burroughs

Yes, for all of us in the Shakespeare Squadron, writing is just that: not an escape from reality, but an attempt to change reality. — William S. Burroughs


What does the money machine eat? It eats youth, spontaneity, life, beauty, and, above all, it eats creativity. It eats quality and sh*ts quantity. — William S. Burroughs

The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets. — William S. Burroughs

All political organizations tend to function like a machine, to eliminate the unpredictable factor of affect–emotion. — William S. Burroughs

If the soft machine works, don’t fix it. If it works, don’t fix it. — William S. Burroughs

The whole point is, I feel the machine should be eliminated. Now that it has served its purpose of alerting us to the dangers of machine control. — William S. Burroughs

We have a great elaborate machine which I feel has to be completely dismantled–in order to do that we need people who understand how the machine works–the mass media–unparalleled opportunity. — William S. Burroughs


I’m creating an imaginary–it’s always imaginary–world in which I would like to live. — William S. Burroughs

In this world, [of Flash and Filigree] nothing is true, and censure or outrage is simply irrelevant. — William S. Burroughs

The world wasn’t a more tolerant place when I was a young man. Rather, they simply sidestepped all the issues. — William S. Burroughs

Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside. — William S. Burroughs

Tangier is one of the few places left in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behavior, you can do exactly what you want. — William S. Burroughs

We are setting out to create new worlds, new beings, new modes of consciousness. — William S. Burroughs

I see no reason why the artistic world can’t absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. Pop art is a move in that direction. Why can’t we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images? — William S. Burroughs

Human, Allen, is an adjective, and its use as a noun is in itself regrettable. — William S. Burroughs


William Burroughs was a fascinating and complex man. His writing is full of wisdom and insight, which is evident in the quotes we’ve shared. We hope you found them as inspiring as we did. If you are looking for more ways to be inspired, check out our courses page where you can find a range of online classes that will help you grow as a writer and thinker.

Wasting Life?


Test your habit in 4-mins