Hello and happy Wednesday!
For those of you who like to write (or perhaps you don’t, but you do it anyway), do you ever have rough days of it? Days where you don’t feel inspired…you don’t feel capable…you don’t feel up to writing at all? Those moments when you forget why you ever started that novel or short story or article, and can’t even remember what you thought was so great about it in the first place?
Do I ever.
I think writing is one of the most misunderstood professions/hobbies there is. After all, it seems like it wouldn’t be that hard, right? You just tell a story on paper. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard someone wonder why writers take so long to write their books, or rush to offer unsolicited suggestions to a writer stuck on their story – all the while communicating that they believe writing is a very simple thing, and anyone who struggles with it must not have the talent.
Those kinds of tones and insinuations – or even outright remarks – can be very hurtful, and I usually find it impossible to explain what writing really is.
How draining and strenuous and stressful it can be. How the struggle to find that one word that conveys what you’re trying to say in the entire paragraph is real – and repeats often. How you can’t ‘just make your character do’ whatever is convenient for the plot. Characters are real people within the story. They have to act like it.
And also, it’s impossible to adequately describe just how rewarding writing is. How gratifying and inspiring and fun it can be. How finding that one word sparks a glow of satisfaction that stays for hours. How watching your characters grow, develop, and model beautiful ideals and moving themes as the story progresses makes all the struggle of honestly following them around worth it.
The power of the written word is absolutely incredible.
With just one story, one book, or one article, you can be entertained, informed, inspired, and moved. You can laugh, cry, grow irritated, and be motivated to change some aspect of your life. Sometimes all it takes to be overcome with emotion, and deeply moved, is one word. Just one.
That’s the blessing and the responsibility of a writer. To craft those experiences – those powerful moments – for others. And while doing so, for themselves. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
I’ve been writing whole-heartedly for about ten years now, and while there have been countless times I’ve wanted to give up, and actually have stopped writing for a while, I’ve never been able to stay away. Even if I could make it a couple of weeks without writing anything, I still couldn’t keep my thoughts from my stories, from crafting more characters and worlds and adventures…It’s what I love to do. It’s both work and a hobby, painful and a joy.
And I wouldn’t change any bit of it.
When I’m having a rough writing day – maybe I don’t feel inspired or motivated or like I have anything to add to the world of writing – I often find it helpful to read through what some other authors have said about their experiences. Over the years, I’ve compiled hundreds of quotes that either inspire me, make me laugh, or simply get me back into that headspace of being able to write and feel good about the writing process. I’m not alone in having a hard time. You’re not either.
So today, I thought I’d share with you fifty-two (a year’s worth if you read one a week, haha!) of my favorite quotes about writing, and the impact stories have on our lives. I hope find them as helpful and amusing as I do – and that you’re motivated to get back to your own writing!
1. “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
2. “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’ clock every morning.”
(Peter De Vries)
3. “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”
4. “I am convinced that anyone can be a great writer…if he can only…tell the naked truth about himself and other people.”
5. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
6. “I write to discover what I think.”
(Daniel J. Boorstin)
7. “Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, send your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tagline.”
(Paul O’ Neil)
8. “Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”
9. “Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators.”
10. “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.”
11. “I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.”
(Flannery O’ Connor)
12. “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
13. “If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework – you can still be writing, because you have that space.”
(Joyce Carol Oates)
14. “Writing only leads to more writing.”
15. “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”
16. “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
(William Somerset Maugham)
17. “Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t… If you write from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”
18. “Writing is one art where people fool themselves into thinking it’s easier than it is.”
19. “Adapt your style, if you wish, to admit the color of slang or freshness of neologism, but hang touch on clarity, precision, structure, grace.”
20. “When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five-hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s works is all I can permit myself to contemplate.”
21. “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
22. “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, be original without ever having noticed it.”
(C. S. Lewis)
23. “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
(William Strunk, Jr.)
24. “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
25. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”
26. “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance.”
27. “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”
(Robert Louis Stevenson)
28. “…there’s no point in waiting for so-called blissful moments, for inspiration; if it comes, so much the better – but you keep working anyway.”
29. “Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”
30. “A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard – by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.”
31. “There isn’t, unfortunately, any way of discovering whether you can write a publishable novel except by writing it.”
32. “Those who die or quit early and easy and with every good reason are preferred because they are understandable and human. Failure and well-disguised cowardice are more human and more beloved.”
33. “Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.”
34. “Writers who have nothing to say always strain for metaphors to say it in.”
35. “The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.”
36. “The free-lance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
37. “A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.”
38. “I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”
39. “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
(E. L. Doctorow)
40. “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
41. “If the writing is honest, it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”
42. “To write simply is as difficult as to be good.”
(William Somerset Maugham)
43. “The waste basket is the writer’s best friend.”
(Isaac Bashevis Singer)
44. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
45. “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
46. “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”
(Edgar Rice Burroughs)
47. “One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing — writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
48. “If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
49.“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
50. “It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.”
(P. D. James)
51. “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.”
52. “Write what should not be forgotten.”
In my experience, there’s nothing like quite like writing…to frustrate and excite, confound and teach, touch and influence… As hard as it often is, the chance to tell stories brimming with truth and emotion is a huge blessing to me. The books I’ve read have changed me for the better in many ways, and I pray that my books would do the same for others. Reading and writing are two very special gifts – ones I look forward to using the rest of my life!
Did you relate to any of these quotes today? Were any of them especially helpful or inspiring – or just plain amusing? Go ahead and let me know YOUR favorites in the comments, as well as if there is a certain topic you’d like to see more quotes about. While you’re there, I’d love to hear any writing quotes you have to share!
‘Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.’
(Psalm 102:18 NIV)
1. I shared more of my quote collection in many previous posts, which you can find here.
2. To receive your own printable pages of the above quotes (and the ones used in my other ‘Quotes’ posts), sign up for my email list! Simply fill in the form here, and I’ll send you PDF copies of the quote collections – as well as an inspirational short story. I look forward to hearing from you!