Okay, admit it, you love to read quotes about writing or writers. Especially if they’re from other writers. So do I. In fact, I keep a growing list of quotations that inspire me, or make me laugh, or make me think. And on those days when I’m struggling, or when I feel the right words are eluding me, I fix myself a cup of coffee, open up the list, and spend time just reading.
So here, to get you started, are some of my favorites to inspire (or amuse) you.
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” E.L. Doctorow
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Elmore Leonard
“I want to see Christian fiction speak to the hard and real issues that tear people’s lives apart.” Francine Rivers
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams (Note from KB: I even have a poster of this one!)
“Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Mark Twain
“Readers need to see themselves between the lines of the story.” Karen Kingsbury
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” Winston Churchill
“Don’t get it right, just get it written” James Thurber
“Never despise meager beginnings!” Janette Oke
“When you give up a bit of work don’t (unless it is hopelessly bad) throw it away. Put it in a drawer. It may come in useful later. Much of my best work, or what I think my best, is the re-writing of things begun and abandoned years earlier.” C.S. Lewis
“I never expected any sort of success with To Kill a Mockingbird… I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement.” Harper Lee
Okay, your turn! What are some of your favorite quotes about writing?
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining but the feeling of being rained upon.” E. L. Doctorow
This is one of my favorites because it’s an area I need to work on. In the movie Sweet Home Alabama, I can feel the rain at the end of the movie. I want to write like that.
Thanks for sharing some great quotes, Karen.
Jackie, the Doctorow quote you wrote was used by Sol Stein in his self editing book on Writing. Have you read it? There are parts that left me scratching my head, but he’s got some helpful gems in there. He begins with a chapter called The Writer’s Job. In it he discusses how important it is to evoke emotion into the reader. Like your example of how you can feel the rain at the end of Sweet Home Alabama.
Jenelle, I’ll look for that book. Thanks.
The very heart of show don’t tell, right? I love it.
My favorite quote of all time is something you wrote, Karen. You said, “Go whispers to the heart. Our hearts whisper back in stories.” I put it on a meme and have it up in my office. It’s my reminder to listen and pray before I write.
That is so cool, Ane. Thank you. You have to send me the meme!
That has a typo. Grrr. Your quote is “God whispers to the heart. Our hearts whisper back in stories.” ~ Karen Ball
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.
“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
― Martin Luther
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
― Pablo Picasso
“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. ”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“I never exactly made a book. It’s rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say. ”
― C.S. Lewis
“If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.”
― Mik Everett
“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”
“The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”
― Ray Bradbury
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
“Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.”
— William Shakespeare
“Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent.”
“You talkin to me?”
And so it goes…………
“You talkin’ to me?” (LOL, love this!)
Theresa, I love YOUR quote which I took a little artistic license with:
“Write like a drunken sailor, though ye be neither drunk nor a sailor.”
Reminds me of “dance as if no one is watching”. Both take fearlessness.
“Writing. It takes a big mind.”
Perfect last quite there. Made me laugh.
Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story–just like the typewriter was mine. Flanner O’Conner
I love your quotes here, Karen. Here are a few I love:
“As a writer, you ask yourself to dream while you’re awake.” Aimee Bender
“It’s up to the author to intertwine the craft with the creative and find the balance that touches the soul of the reader.” Edie Melson
“Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.”
I’m looking forward to reading some other quotes today. 🙂
Great quotes, Jeanne. Thanks for sharing.
Let me first say I am not a fan of Steven King. I know, I know, I’m the only one. But I did like his book, “Steven King, On Writing,” And this quote stuck with me:
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page”
Chris, I’m not a huge King fan either (because I’m easily scared by my wild imagination), but I am a fan of On Writing. Such nuggets in there! There is no denying that he is a brilliant story teller.
Say what you will about his stories, King understands what it is to be a writer.
Chris, what a powerful quote. Loved this!
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler
Not a sentiment I actually agree with, but my linguistics adviser in college had this quote on his wall and I always thought it was funny.
It’s similar to another of my favs: “Writing is easy, you just open a vein and bleed.”
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E. L. Doctorow
“There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about…but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.” Anne Lamott, bird by bird.
“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days–listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off….learn about people from people, not from what you read….the better you know your characters, the more you’ll see things from their point of view.”– Lamott
“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising and its magic and wonderful and strange.
You don’t live there always when you write. Mostly it’s a long hard walk. Sometimes it’s a trudge through fog and you’re scared you’ve lost your way and can’t remember whey you set out in the first place. BUT sometimes you fly, and that pays for everything. No, it’s not quite finished now, but I don’t mind right now. It’s alive and a real book, even if it’s a short one and I cannot wait to get back to it.” –Neil Gaiman
Fist bump! That Gaiman quote is taped beside my desk. I have certain key words in bold or red or italic for emphasis.
I’ve been inspired by reading the quotes here today! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I love this: “Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”
Thanks for sharing.
I wrote my own quote to remind myself why I write and to encourage myself to continually brave the deep places:
If you’re going to write, reserve nothing.
Take your stand on the battlefield,
and let your prose expose your soul.
Otherwise, you may as well be watching T.V. ~T Santy
I also created a Pinterest board filled with powerfully encouraging quotes like this one:
The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink. ~T.S. Eliot
Gotta love T. S.!
Robin Gilbert Luftig
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Stephen King
A classic! Love it.
My favorite of all times comes from Maya Angelou. She’s quoted many different ways for saying it, but the way I’ve liked it best is:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Applies to everything we do. What a wise woman.
“If something isn’t working, if you have a story that you’ve built and it’s blocked and you can’t figure it out, take your favorite scene or your very best idea or set-piece, and cut it. It’s brutal, but sometimes inevitable.” – Joss Whedon.
“Whatever makes you weird is probably your best asset.” – Joss Whedon
I so enjoy Whedon’s projects. And now I can embrace the oh-so-many things that make me weird.
It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway
Ha! But anyone on the writer’s side of the desk knows how hard you have to work to be born that way.
Sandy Faye Mauck
Great response, Karen!
I LOOOOOVE Francine’s quote! That’s why I write too.
My favorite is, “Rewriting–recognizing the opportunities that almost slipped away.” I have no idea who wrote that–came across it in a writing book–and haven’t been able to find it since.
“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” -Michael Crichton.
I have a love/hate response to this quote. I love it enough that it hangs next to my computer, and I equally hate it because it’s so true. 🙂
Ha! I love rewriting. Seriously. It’s like editing, and that’s just fun in my book.
Sandy Faye Mauck
“We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.” John Gardner
“Structure is translation software for your imagination.” James Scott Bell
“I want to be rich like I want to be 10 ft. tall. It’s good for some things bad for others.” from I Remember Mama
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
See images. I really like that.
Judy Gordon Morrow
I loved this post, Karen, and all the comments and quotes that followed. I also collect quotes and limited myself to three:
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
Life comes before literature, as the material always comes before the work. The hills are full of marble before the world blooms with statues.
A story must have love, hope, and redemption.
~ Liz Curtis Higgs, Mount Hermon, 2012
Lancia E. Smith
Lovely post, Karen. Thank you so much!
Here are a few of my favourite quotes on writing.
“Not to write, for many of us, is to die. We must take ares each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory.” – Ray Bradbury
“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” – Anais Nin
““What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.” – C.S. Lewis
“In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.” – C.S. Lewis
“…in a certain sense, I have never exactly ‘made’ a story. With me the process is much more like bird-watching than like either talking or building. I see pictures. Some of these pictures have a common flavour, almost a common smell, which groups them together. Keep quiet and watch and they will begin joining themselves up…. I have no idea whether this is the usual way of writing stories, still less whether it is the best. It is the only way I know: images always come first.” – C.S. Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children
I highly commend Lewis’ entire essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” for a deep drink of clarity for what it is write at all. It is found in a beautiful collection of his essays on writing aptly titled “On Stories.”
You’re welcome. And thank you for these wonderful doses of Clive!
Lisa Wingate shared this quote on Twitter today.
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” – Jimmy Stewart, born on this day in 1908.
At the heart of his statement is the need to overflow. It applies to all arts and many other aspects of living. I like it.