The Best Advice on Writing: 36 Inspiring Quotes
By Kevan Lee
The psyche of a writer bounces wildly, hourly, from confidence to self-doubt, certainty to fear, love to angst.
Wild times like these call for reassurance.
Here are some of the reminders I keep for myself, 36 quotes to remind myself that writing is completely worthwhile, entirely fulfilling, and all the best kinds of difficult.
The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.
— Walter Benjamin
Annie Dillard has said that day by day you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more. This is a radical proposition that runs so contrary to human nature, or at least to my nature, that I personally keep trying to find loopholes in it. But it is only when I go ahead and decide to shoot my literary, creative wad on a daily basis that I get any sense of full presence, of being Zorba the Greek at the keyboard. Otherwise, I am a wired little rodent squirreling things away, hording and worrying about supply.
– Anne Lamott
The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. — Steven Pressfield
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
— Kurt Vonnegut
The skill it takes to produce a sentence — the skill of lining events, actions, and objects in a strict logic — is also the skill of creating a world. — Stanley Fish
Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.
— John Steinbeck
I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.
— Stephen King
Nothing any good isn’t hard.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.
— Saul Bellow
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
— Elmore Leonard
No sentence can be effective if it contains facts alone. It must also contain emotion, image, logic, and promise. — Eugene Schwartz
Don’t ever write a novel unless it hurts like a hot turd coming out.
— Charles Bukowski
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.
— Kurt Vonnegut
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
When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t sop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
— Anne Lamott
Nothing real is at stake here. So just go make a pretty thing. Or make a clunky thing, or a tiny thing, or a big thing, or an ugly thing, or an experimental and wild thing. Doesn’t matter. Enjoy the making. Let it go. It’s merely art.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. — Joan Didion
Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.
— Colin Nissan
Don’t do it because it’s your job, do it because you can.
— Seth Godin
Only talented people fret about mediocrity. — Hugh McLeod
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
— Mark Twain
Q: Do you write every day? A: Are there people who don’t?
— Lisa Barone
Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?
— John Updike
I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort. — Clarice Lispector
I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.
— James Joyce
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. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat all subjects in outline, but that every word tell.
— William Strunk, Elements of Style
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. — Anaïs Nin
Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can.
— Samuel Beckett
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. — Franz Kafka
All storytelling from the beginning of recorded time is based on somebody wanting something, facing obstacles, not getting it, trying to get it, trying to overcome obstacles, and finally getting or not getting what he wanted. What has interested listeners, readers, and viewers for centuries is available in the conscious use of desire in nonfiction.
— Sol Stein
The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.
— Alain Robbe-Grillet
The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth. — Ezra Pound
The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.
— Vladimir Nabokov
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything.
— Walt Whitman
Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion. Never. I’m a little overexcited now. Since it is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if you were in good or bad form while you were working on it. You won’t even be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had known your time would be up when it was finished — I think only poor Soren K. will get asked that. I’m so sure you’ll only get asked two questions. Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out? If only you knew how easy it would be for you to say yes to both questions.
— J.D. Salinger
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Originally published at medium.com on October 7, 2015.