Advice for Writers, From The Famous of Them

Writing is an isolating activity. Not only do you, as a writer, spend hours by yourself on a computer or with a notebook, you also become immersed in a different world, and obsess over people who don’t exist outside of your own head. It can be pretty disorienting. One moment, you’re scribbling down a tense argument between your two main characters, and the next thing you know there’s a burned grilled cheese in your kitchen. Did you make that? (Yes. You did. ProTip: Never cook and write. Don’t be all, “This grilled cheese won’t need to be flipped for like five minutes, so I can totally write the next paragraph and come back.” You know you won’t be back in five minutes).

As long as you’re surrounded by books and have the internet, you’re never really alone. Many writers have been through the same situations, and know all the hardships and trials and wonderful moments of being a writer. I compiled a list of inspiring writing quotes, and put them into general categories, because apparently I can’t handle just letting these quotations fall all over the page, willy-nilly and out of control.

In this library, you'd be surrounded by books, and probably a ghost. Maybe even hollow men, too.

In this library, you’d be surrounded by books, and probably a ghost. Maybe even hollow men, too.

Keep your sense of humour:


“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

– Douglas Adams

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
– Mark Twain

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
– W. Somerset Maugham

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
– C. J. Cherryh

“Half my life is an act of revision.”
– John Irving


Take it one day at a time:

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
– Neil Gaiman

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E. L. Doctorow

“Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed.”
 P.G. Wodehouse


Be proactive:

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
– William Faulkner

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
– Stephen King


The right words are important:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
– Mark Twain

“All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.”
– W. Somerset Maugham


Writing gets tough, for everyone:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

–  Ernest Hemingway

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

Writing may not be a choice:

“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
– J.K. Rowling

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

Writing is profound:

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.”

– Franz Kafka

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”
– Albert Camus



That last one is especially deep. Next time I’m struggling with my daily word count, wondering why I do this to myself, I’ll remember Albert Camus’ words and a wave of comfort will wash over me, because at least I am helping to keep civilization together. (I’m not being sarcastic, I’m being wry. I can’t help it). Actually, that’s a pretty big responsibility. I’m freaking out now.

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