Writing Inspiration

Some Quotes on Writing, to Help You Keep Going

Matt Lemanski
Jan 1, 2020 · 6 min read
a man standing in a field
Photo by Jake Melara

or a long time, my favorite quote came from Samuel Beckett, the Irish writer, who wrote:

“Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on.”

His words seemed to encapsulate the sense of frustration I would often feel as a writer. But I think they also capture the weird experience of writing more generally. Especially when read at greater length:

Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on. Can it be that one day, off it goes on, that one day I simply stayed in, in where, instead of going out, in the old way, out to spend day and night as far away as possible, it wasn’t far. Perhaps that is how it began. You think you are simply resting, the better to act when the time comes, or for no reason, and you soon find yourself powerless ever to do anything again. No matter how it happened. It, say it, not knowing what. Perhaps I simply assented at last to an old thing. But I did nothing. I seem to speak, it is not I, about me, it is not about me. These few general remarks to begin with.

Is there any greater manifesto for pessimistic perseverance? Beckett was writing amid the wreckage of global catastrophe, reflecting (so I imagine) on how strange it is to be a writer. How strange it is to be anything at all.

Soft and sweet…

Anyway, so much for general remarks.

Below are some quotes to help keep you going in the new year.

Quotes to Help Treat Your Writer’s Block

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Don’t write it right, just write it — and then make it right later. ~ Tara Moss
  • Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze. Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. ~ Jacques Barzun
  • You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. ~ Jodi Picoult
  • Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. ~ John Steinbeck
  • I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that I can build castles. ~ Shannon Hale
  • Write about three things: what you love, what you hate, and what you’re deeply conflicted about. ~ Marlon James
  • A word after a word after a word is power. ~ Margaret Atwood

Motivational Quotes for Late Bloomers and Chronic Procrastinators

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” ~ Mary Oliver

  • Start writing. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but START WRITING. There is NO SUCH THING as “too late” in the arts. Trust me. START. ~ Patton Oswalt
  • There’s this sense that there are all these ideas waving their hands at me and I don’t know if I’ll have time to get them out. What if I don’t get them out? ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou
  • You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again. ~ André Gide
  • The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better. ~ Stephen King
  • Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible. ~ Doris Lessing
someone leafing through a journal beside a lake
someone leafing through a journal beside a lake
Photo by Anna Pritchard

Inspirational Quotes for Students and Anyone Who Doesn’t Get What Writing Is All About

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ~ Aldous Huxley

  • We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. ~ Anaïs Nin
  • To learn to write is to learn to have ideas. ~ Robert Frost
  • You write in order to change the world. If you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it. ~ James Baldwin
  • I write to discover what I know. ~ Flannery O’Connor
  • Writers get paid for what other people get scolded for: daydreaming. We’re supposed to wander. ~ Richard Walter
  • The job of the artist is to remind people of what they have chosen to forget. ~ Arthur Miller
  • I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. ~ Anne Frank
  • The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself. ~ Albert Camus
What a beautiful dream / That could flash on the screen / In the blink of an eye and be gone from me.

Witty Quotes About the Writing Life

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” ~ Isaac Asimov

  • Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness — when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you haven’t had time to know how much better it ought to be. ~ J.B. Priestley
  • Writers have a rare power not given to anyone else: we can bore people long after we are dead. ~ Sinclair Lewis
  • A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~ Thomas Mann
  • I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it. ~ William Carlos Williams
  • Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, then you do it for money. ~ Virginia Woolf
  • Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. ~ Lawrence Kasdan
  • Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences. ~ Sylvia Plath

Instructive Quotes About the Writing Process

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” ~ Ray Bradbury

  • Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page. ~ Zadie Smith
  • The process of doing your second draft is a process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along. ~ Neil Gaiman
  • Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little. ~ Holley Gerth
  • The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader. ~ Scott Moyers
  • Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default. ~ J.K. Rowling
  • Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett
  • Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~ Benjamin Franklin
All secrets sleep in winter clothes.

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