Quotes about writing – by writers, for writers

Nothing encourages a writer quite like words from another writer, a fellow warrior in the trenches of wordsmithery. If you’re not fortunate enough to have access to other writers in the form of a writers group or a writing partner, there are plenty of quotes about writing from fellow writers out there to help you keep your motivation and your sanity on what is often lightly referred to as “the writing journey.”

@AdviceToWriters on Twitter is an excellent resource for such quotes. Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve jotted down over the past year, organized into handy categories for ease of perusal.

Passion and perspective

Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive. – GORDON LISH

Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one’s self on paper—that is what is called good writing. – J.C. HARRIS

Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. – JOYCE CAROL OATES

A good writer always works at the impossible. – JOHN STEINBECK

Just tell the truth, and they’ll accuse you of writing black humor. – CHARLES WILLEFORD

Humor is a terrific tool for explaining things, especially when what you’re explaining is frightening or dull and complicated. – P.J. O’ROURKE

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd. – FLANNERY O’CONNOR

To write you have to have stories you want to tell, you have to keep your mind alive, and you have to work hard. – TRACY KIDDER

To be a writer you need to see things as they are, and to see things as they are you need a certain basic innocence. – TOBIAS WOLFF

The complex realities of the writing life

The best fame is a writer’s fame: Enough to get a table at a restaurant, but not enough that you get interrupted when you eat. – FRAN LEBOWITZ

If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane. – COLM TÓIBÍN

I’m not happy when I’m writing, but I’m more unhappy when I’m not. – FANNIE HURST

No one ever said it would be easy. – ANNIE DILLARD

Matters of style

Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke. – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Bad writers are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones. – GEORGE ORWELL

The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. – AUGUST WILSON

Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason. – WILLIAM STRUNK, JR.

Simple English is no one’s mother tongue. It has to be worked for. – JACQUES BARZUN

I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. – ELMORE LEONARD

The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause. – MARK TWAIN

Only God gets things right the first time. – STEPHEN KING

Writers and social media

Dickens, as you know, never got round to starting his home page. – TERRY PRATCHETT

– Teresa Santoski


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