Quotes About Writing

Time is all we have. One lifetime under this name to produce a body of work that says, This is how I saw the world. Your work is worthy of whatever time it takes.

—Jan Phillips

Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.

—Leo Tolstoy

If the reader doesn’t understand what you’re saying, you’re talking to yourself.

—Nigel Hamilton

What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.

—Eugène Delacroix

There’s one thing your writing must have to be any good at all. It must have you. Your soul, your self, your heart, your guts, your voice — you must be on that page. In the end, you can’t make the magic happen for your reader. You can only allow the miracle of ‘being one with’ to take place. So dare to be yourself. Dare to reveal yourself. Be honest, be open, be true…If you are, everything else will fall into place.

—Elizabeth Ayres

One hasn’t become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating.

—Niyi Osundare

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.

—Harlan Ellison

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.

—Anne Lamott

Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in. You’re working, your mind is working, on this problem in the back of your head … What’s an artist? He’s a man who has antennae, who knows how to hook up to the cosmos; . . . why do ideas, why do great scientific discoveries often occur in different parts of the world at the same time? The same is true of the elements that go to make up a poem or a great novel or any work of art. They are already in the air, they have not been given voice, that’s all. They need the man, the interpreter, to bring them forth.

—Henry Miller

I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend- to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit.

—E.B. White

Readers, after all, are making the world with you. You give them the materials, but it’s the readers who build that world in their own minds.

—Ursula Le Guin

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.

—Louis L’Amour

Writing energy is like anything else: The more you put in, the more you get out.

—Richard Reeves

Get up from your desk and wander outside occasionally. To be a good writer one needs to be a good observer, and there isn’t a lot to be observed at desk level.

—Jane Yolen

Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones out of our minds, come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.

—Natalie Goldberg

I started out with nothing in the world but a kind of passion, a driving desire. I don’t know where it came from, and I do not know why-or why I have been so stubborn about it that nothing could deflect me. But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had-stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work I’ve ever done.

—Katherine Anne Porter

Undoubtedly, we become what we envisage.

—Claude M. Bristol

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

—Roald Dahl

Nobody cares much whether you write or not. You just have to do it.

—Natalie Goldberg

To live a creative life, we must lost our fear of being wrong.

—Joseph Chilton Pearce

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

—Rudyard Kipling

There are only three colors, ten digits, and seven notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.

—Ruth Ross

It’s a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do.

—Stephen King

Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.

—Natalie Goldberg

Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties.

—Bonnie Friedman

One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it.

—Katherine Anne Porter

One extends one’s limits only by exceeding them.

—M. Scott Peck

It always comes back to the same necessity: go deep enough and there is a bedrock of truth, however hard.

—May Sarton

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?

—E.M. Forster

Opportunity exists in the air for just a few minutes. If you don’t obey your gut feeling right away, you’ve lost your chance.

—Ken Lakuta

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

—Kurt Vonnegut

Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.

—Shakti Gawain

We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion, we conquer by continuing.

—George Matheson

The successful person is the individual who forms the habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.

—Donald Riggs

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

—Jim Ryun

If you wish to be a writer, write.


Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place where it leads.

—Erica Jong

I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.

—Duke Ellington

A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.

—Joseph Campbell

God sells us all things at the price of the labor.

—Leonardo da Vinci

You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.

—Madeleine L’Engle

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

—George Elliot

Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.

—Valerie Sherwood

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

—Barbara Kingsolver

Art is a moral passion married to entertainment. Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda, and entertainment without moral passion is television.

—Rita Mae Brown

Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.

—Albert Camus

Write hard and clear about what hurts.

—Ernest Hemingway

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

—Stephen King

The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later day. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.

—Margaret Atwood

We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away—our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books—they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.

—Libba Bray

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.

—Jane Yolen

A story untold could be the one that kills you.

—Pat Conroy

I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And, if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work. Nobody ever said it was easy. What they said is: Life is short, art is long.

—Ursula K. Le Guin

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

—Stephen King

I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.

—Joss Whedon

Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.

—Ray Bradbury

We write by the light of every story we have ever read.

—Richard Peck

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

—Stephen King

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.

—Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

When I write, I don’t know what is going to emerge. I begin in a condition of complete unknowing, an utter nakedness of concept or goal. A word appears, another word appears, an image. It is a moving into mystery.

—Jane Hirshfield

Fiction writing is a strange business when you think about it. You sit down and weave a network of lies to explore deeper truths.

—Wally Lamb

If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.

—Ernest Hemingway

Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.

—Natalie Goldberg

You can tell a book is real when your heart beats faster. Real books make you sweat. Cry, if no one is looking. Real books help you make sense of your crazy life. Real books tell it true, don’t hold back and make you stronger. But most of all, real books give you hope. Because it’s not always going to be like this and books-the good ones, the ones-show you how to make it better. Now.

—Laurie Halse Anderson

What you cut out becomes part of the story you tell.

—Joss Whedon

I have spent a good many years since–too many, I think–being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.

—Stephen King

If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.

— Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Do you think that Hemingway knew he was a writer at twenty years old? No, he did not. Or Fitzgerald, or Wolfe. This is a difficult concept to grasp. Hemingway didn’t know he was Ernest Hemingway when he was a young man. Faulkner didn’t know he was William Faulkner. But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it’s necessary

—Pat Conroy