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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.

50 Inspiring Quotes About Writing from the World’s Greatest Authors

It’s never been a better time to be a writer –or aspire to become one.

Platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, and WordPress have placed millions of dollars of technology, and the power that once only belonged to major publishing and media firms, into the hands of millions of writers — entirely for free.

But technology can only take a writer so far. Writing is an art and a craft that needs to be developed through deliberate practice and study over a long period of time. Fortunately, some of the world’s greatest writers, the ones who mastered the craft and whose names have been passed down to us through time, gifted us not only with their stories. Many of them took time in-between the creation of their novels and short stories and poems to codify their writing philosophies, their writing strategies, and their writing habits.

Some of these authors recorded their thoughts on writing in books, some as essays, and some as letters to their friends, lovers, and editors.

If you’re ever in need of inspiration or just want a few quick tips to help keep your words flowing onto the screen, just dip into the wisdom of these great authors. Here are 50 nuggets of writing wisdom from some of the greatest authors of all time:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
–Madeleine L’Engle

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
–Stephen King

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
–Anaïs Nin

“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

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
–Toni Morrison

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
–Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
–Benjamin Franklin

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
–Saul Bellow

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
–Robert Frost

“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

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
–Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“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

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
–Henry David Thoreau

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
–Anne Frank

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
–Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.”
–Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
–Kurt Vonnegut Jr., A Man Without a Country

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
–Franz Kafka

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”
–Robert Louis Stevenson

“You can make anything by writing.”
–C.S. Lewis

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
–Margaret Atwood

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
–Paulo Coelho

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”
–Annie Proulx

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”
–Virginia Woolf

“To survive, you must tell stories.”
–Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
–Charles Baudelaire

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

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

“I write to discover what I know.”
–Flannery O’Connor

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
John Steinbeck

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time–proof that humans can work magic.”
Carl Sagan

“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.”
Hermann Hesse

“Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.”
Norman Mailer

“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

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”
Ernest Hemingway

“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
–Thomas Jefferson

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
Elmore Leonard

“Writers live twice.”
Natalie Goldberg

“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.”
Herman Melville

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.”
Ayn Rand

“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.”
Gustave Flaubert

“Writing is its own reward.”
Henry Miller

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.”
Sidney Sheldon

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.”
Erica Jong

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams

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

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
William Faulkner

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
A. A. Milne

“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time. “
–Lady Gaga

Creative Writing QuoteS

I have included some of my favourite creative writing quotes on this page, numbered for easy reference. I’ll add more as I come across them.

Reading through writing quotations has often inspired me to write, even on those days when I think we’ve reached a literary saturation point, with enough books in stores and libraries to keep all of us reading until the day we die. When I read writing quotations like these I become creative.

Creative writing quotes remind me that writing is about thinking and about sifting through the thoughts of others in search of that elusive something that will trigger our own ability to articulate the truth as we see and imagine it. Writing forces me to clarify my thoughts, and that alone provides reason enough to sit at the computer.

So. if you are here as a reader, welcome! But if you are a writer, particularly one who needs a reason to get excited about writing again, I hope these creative writing quotes will inspire you as they inspire me!

Creative Writing Quotes 1 – 10

  1. Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~ Ben Franklin