45+ Quotes About Writing from Famous Writers
Whether seasoned and published or just starting out, any writer will appreciate these quotes about writing from celebrated authors who know their craft and its challenges.
February 22, 2021
No matter how passionate you are about it, writing can be difficult. Whenever you’re struggling with writer’s block, rejection, competition, insecurity, or any of the countless obstacles that wordsmiths encounter daily, it can help to get encouragement from those who have successfully overcome the very same challenges.
So, whether you’re up against a creative wall or just looking for some inspiration to start your next project, these quotes about writing from writers themselves are sure to be welcome reading!
Inspirational Quotes from Writers
Trying to get psyched up to sit down and write? It can be reassuring to hear the words of literary greats celebrating a few of the very best parts of being a writer.
1. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
2. “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
3. “Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” — Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
4. “What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing
5. “Stories aren't made of language: they're made of something else... perhaps they're made of life.” — Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling
6. “There is no greater power on this earth than story.” — Libba Bray, The Diviners
7. “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” — Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
8. “We turn to stories and pictures and music because they show us who and what and why we are, and what our relationship is to life and death, what is essential, and what, despite the arbitrariness of falling beams, will not burn.” — Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
9. “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” — Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
10. “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” — Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
11. “First, you write for yourself... always, to make sense of experience and the world around you. It’s one of the ways I stay sane. Our stories, our books, our films are how we cope with the random trauma-inducing chaos of life as it plays.” — Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Encouraging Quotes for Writers
Some of the most famous quotes from writers are about how ridiculously hard writing can be—and why you should rise to the challenge and do it anyway.
12. “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” — Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
13. “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” — Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
14. “If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
15. “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
16. “The mind has plenty of ways of preventing you from writing, and paralysing self-consciousness is a good one. The only thing to do is ignore it, and remember what Vincent van Gogh said in one of his letters about the painter's fear of the blank canvas—the canvas, he said, is far more afraid of the painter.” — Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling
17. “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” — Sol Stein, Stein on Writing: A Master Editor Shares His Craft, Techniques, and Strategies
18. “Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing
19. “Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.” — Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
Quotes About the Writing Process
From writers who know the drill, these quotes offer valuable insights and practical advice on the craft of writing, and the discipline and rigor it requires.
20. “Examine every word you put on paper. You'll find a surprising number that don't serve any purpose.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Audio Collection
21. “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.” — William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style
22. “The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle.” — Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
23. “People who think that grammar is just a collection of rules and restrictions are wrong. If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organising the world how you'd like it to be.” — Delphine de Vigan, No and Me
24. “Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.” — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
25. “Whenever I'm asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you're being told.” — John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
26. “A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write.” — Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
27. “I read and feel that same compulsion; the desire to possess what he has written, which can only be subdued by writing something myself.” — Patti Smith, M Train
28. “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” — Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
29. “If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
30. “The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Audio Collection
31. “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” — Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon
32. “One writes out of one thing only—one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.” — James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
33. “We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us.” — Chris Cleave, Little Bee
34. “A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.” — John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
Funny Quotes About Writing
Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of a third, fourth, or fifth edit and ready to throw in the towel, what you need most is a good laugh, courtesy of someone who understands your plight.
35. “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
36. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons… All they do is show you've been to college.” — Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
37. “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn't work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right just before they go on to the next one. When they're done, they're done." — Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
38. “I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.” — Patti Smith, M Train
39. “You want to tell a story? Grow a heart. Grow two. Now, with the second heart, smash the first one into bits. Gross, right? A bloody pulpy liquid mess. Look at it, try to make sense of it. Realize you can't. Because there is no sense.” — Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
40. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” — Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Quotes About Writers
Many artists draw much of their inspiration from introspection, and writers are no different. These quotes feature sayings about writers from the ultimate authority: writers themselves.
41. “If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.” — Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm
42. “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, The Love of the Last Tycoon
43. “A storyteller makes up things to help other people; a liar makes up things to help himself.” — Daniel Wallace, The Kings and Queens of Roam
44. “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” — Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
45. “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” — E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
46. “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” — Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations
47. “We never sit anything out. We are cups, quietly and constantly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” — Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
Becoming a writer is especially difficult if you don’t know where to start. To help, we’ve rounded up advice from several authors on starting out as a writer. Take a look at our infographic below to learn what these wordsmiths think you should do to kick off your writing career.
Click to view a full sized writing quotes graphic.