Writer at Work

Writing Quotes

Insightful Quotes on Writing.

On Creativity & Being a Writer.

Fiction. . . . It’s like goading a mongoose and a cobra into battle and staying with them to see who wins.
Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of What the Body Remembers and The Tiger Claw

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
– Charles Mingus

The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass,
it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.
– Henry Miller, novelist

Write what’s in front of your nose.
– William Carlos Williams

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach; one can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Tips for Writers from Jack Kerouac
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Be in love with yr life
4. Something that you feel will find its own form
5. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
6. Blow as deep as you want to blow
[from a longer list, but you get the point.]

A good photograph is knowing where to stand.
– Ansel Adams

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
– Yogi Berra

When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures.  So I did ten times more work.
– George Bernard Shaw

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
– Japanese Proverb

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.
—James Yorke, mathematician

If you know how to work at one thing, you’ll be tremendously helped in working at something else. Knowing how to work as a farmer has helped me a lot as a writer. You don’t, for instance, have such a thing as “farmer’s block.” If you’ve got animals to take care of, you take care of them.
– Wendell Berry

The best sentence? The shortest.
– Anatole France, French poet and novelist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Brevity is the sister of talent.
– Anton Chekhov, Russian short-story author & playwright (1860–1904)

I love words but I don’t like strange ones. You don’t understand them and they don’t understand you. Old words is like old friends, you know ’em the minute you see ’em.
– Will Rogers

A writer lives in awe of words. . . .
They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator.
– John Steinbeck

Instructions for living a life:
Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell about it.

– Mary Oliver, from her poem “Sometimes,” in Red Bird

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.
– Brenda Ueland, American writer (1891–1985)

I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
– Ray Bradbury, American speculative-fiction author (1920–2012)

The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.
– Robert Frost, American poet (1874–1963)

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
– Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), British author & mathematician (1832–1898), in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.
– Madeleine L’Engle

No matter how hard you work on your writing, there will always be other writers who are better, faster, deeper, more popular, richer. And that’s fine.
– Jane Yolen, in an interview in the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog

I can’t decide for you whether or not you have got to write, but if anything in the world, war, or pestilence, or famine, or private hunger, or anything, can stop you from writing, then don’t write . . . because if anything can even begin to keep you from writing you aren’t a writer and you’ll be in a hell of a mess until you find out. If you are a writer, you’ll still be in a hell of a mess, but you’ll have better reasons.
– William Saroyan (1908–1981), author of The Time of Your Life, for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, which he declined to accept.

I believe there are writers who enjoy writing. For my part, I loathe and abhor it. I enjoy immensely sitting in an easy chair before the fire, closing my eyes and rapturously envisaging the sweep, the drive, the sounds, and the fury of the masterpiece – they are all masterpieces at that stage – which I am going to produce. But writing – ah! That is a different pair of shoes! . . . No sooner am I seated at my desk than I want to get up again, to wander about the room, look at the view, eat apples, suck toffee . . . .
– A.J. Cronin (1896–1981), author of The Stars Look Down

I confess, right at the start, to the doubts  – and sometimes outright dreads  – that go with me as I climb the stairs to my study in the morning, coffee mug in hand: I have to admit to the habitual apprehension mixed with a sort of reverence, as I light the incense . . . and wonder: what is going to happen today? Will anything happen? Will the angel come today?
– Gail Godwin (1937–), American novelist (from “Rituals and Readiness: Getting Ready To Write,” a wonderful article in The Writing Life (1995), a collection of essays by National Book Award winners)

I have no idea whether what I write will be of the remotest interest to anyone else. Some mornings when I read what I wrote the previous day I think it’s fairly entertaining; other times I think it’s pure rubbish. The main thing is not to take any notice, not to be elated or upset, just keep going.
– Maeve Binchy (1940–2012), Irish novelist

There is only one plot — things are not what they seem.
— Jim Thompson

I don’t impose any word count or number-of-hours quota on myself, or have any rules, except one: persistence. Nothing glamorous. No epiphanies. Just revisiting and rewriting. For me, momentum is far more important than inspiration.
– Pam Muñoz Ryan

Keep going; never stop; sit tight;
Read something luminous at night.
– Edmund Wilson

Write in any way that works for you. Write in a tuxedo or in the shower with a raincoat or in a cave deep in the woods.
– John Gardner

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.
– Ernest Hemingway

There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.
– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
– Pablo Picasso

Details make stories human, and the more human a story can be, the better.
–V. S. Pritchett, writer of short stories

First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it, you should be able to see
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road,
As if in a flash of summer lightning.
– Csezlaw Milosz, poet

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
– Anton Chekhov

The world has enough dogma. It’s stories we need more of, stories that reverence the still, small voice that sings our life.
– Sue Monk Kidd

I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.
– Roald Dahl

Those big-shot writers . . . could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.
–Mickey Spillane

I do not over-intellectualise the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
– Tom Clancy

The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside us while we live.
– Norman Cousins

What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

A goal is a dream with a finish line.
– Duke Ellington

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trust your story.
– Neil Gaiman

Every book, every volume . . . has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.
– Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds. You are writing a book.
You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest.
Your feet feel the steep ladder’s balance; long muscles in your thighs check its sway.
You climb steadily, doing your job in the dark.
When you reach the end, there is nothing more to climb. The sun hits you.
The bright wideness surprises you; you had forgotten there was an end.
You look back at the ladder’s two feet on the distant grass astonished.
Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life

We have been given the sacred task of
making hearts large through story.
— Kate DiCamillo

All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say,
is that I love the world.
– E.B. White

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