In my almost dozen years of editing, I’ve had occasion to acts as both coach and cheerleader for my authors. During that time, I’ve discovered this secret about writing: At some point or another, every writer gets stuck. Maybe it’s on the first page, when you’re staring at that dreaded blank screen; maybe it’s somewhere in the middle, when the freshness has worn off and there’s nothing left to do but slog on; maybe it’s at the end when you’re ready to be done but it’s not quite coming together. And as a writer myself, I’ve felt the pain of writer’s block firsthand.
So I’ve been collecting these quotes for years, some more profound than others, with this central message: You are not alone. You may feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. You may feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean you should quit. I hope these words from people a lot smarter and a lot more talented than I am will inspire you on those days when you’re having trouble putting one word in front of the other.
There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges. —Ernest Hemingway
Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. —Ray Bradbury
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. —Madeleine L’Engle
We are people of the word. Words matter because they carry ideas and ideas rule the world. —Richard Foster
If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. —Stephen King
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. —Jack London
A book is a soulish thing. It is physical—dots of ink and paper from old trees—and yet it feeds our minds and moves our wills. . . . Books connect us with ourselves and with others—and perhaps with God. —John Ortberg
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. . . . We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. —Anne Lamott
Writing makes a person very vulnerable. It opens you to public criticism, to ridicule, to rejection. But it also opens conversation and thought. It stirs minds, and touches hearts. It brings us into contact with our souls. —Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. —William Faulkner
What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?
Write your comment, and I’ll send a free copy of Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott to one randomly selected commenter.
Erin Keeley Marshall says
I can’t remember who said this, but it continues to scatter any excuses for writer’s block in me: “When I’m asked where my inspiration comes from to continue to write, I always answer, ‘I rely on inspiration, and I make sure I’m inspired at 9:00 every morning.'” Many days the slogan “Just do it” applies!
Enjoyed these quotes this morning as I prepare to complete two writing projects–hopefully in record time!
Some of my favorite writing advice also comes from Anne Lamott. She posted this on Twitter once: “How to write: sit at desk Keep butt in chair. Stare off into space. Scribble or type things–phrases, sentences ideas. then make better.”
Another of my favorite quotes, about the power of a word, comes from my mentor, Ana Steele. She says, “A word is a container of great meaning.”
Camille Adams says
The best writing advice I ever received is that even though your writing should ask a question, you should always know the answer. I used to think I didn’t need to know the aim or direction of my writing, because inspiration and the process would simply “take me there.” In college I learned that while part of the fun of the process is discovering tangents along the journey, you should always know where you’re going to end up.
nate are says
“If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep anyone else up either. ”
James M Cain.
Long ago I read this: “Writing is easy. You just take paper and pen and write as it occurs to you. The writing is easy – it’s the occurring that’s hard.” Solution? Don’t write only when you feel like it; write every day as a discipline and leave space for the Spirit to come in.
I love writing quotes! So inspirational and help us remember why we do it even though it’s so hard.
Michelle Cheney says
First visit to your website. Love all the quotes. I am a high school English teacher and I tell my students “Write every day. Push the pen. ” Then we they look at back at everything they have written they are amazed at the jewels tucked in their writing. Looking forward to reading more on your site!
It’s adapted from Lorne Michael’s advice, as quoted in Bossypants: We don’t do the show because we’re “ready,” we do it because it’s 11:30.
So the advice I get from that is sometimes you just have to be done! Done is better than perfect!
What great quotes. Rick Bragg once gave a speech on writing that I thoroughly enjoyed. He said “I don’t believe in the concept of ‘the muse.’ Ya know what I call my muse? I call it a deadline. I call it a contract.” I thought that statement goes along well with your opening that as writers, you don’t always feel like writing.
I love these quotes! I have wanted to write more consistently but have been scared to start. Thank you for great words from great writers.
Rachel Quigley says
I love this! I’m printing these and posting them up right in my writing space! Thank you!
Cinthia Milner says
From my best editor ever, Peter Gregutt. “Don’t worry about me. Stop thinking you know what I want to hear. Just tell me your story. Just tell me the truth. We’ll go from there.”
“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
Alicia Hall says
My best writing advice came from a snippet of a sermon: “Droplets become streams, streams become rivers and rivers become oceans.” I consider every word a droplet and my chance to fill an ocean comes when I sit and write one word at a time.
“Just write. It doesn’t always have to be just right.” <– That encourages me to simply put words to paper (or blank screen). It doesn't all have to be posted or the most beautiful, as long as it's real and true and me.
Laura Austin says
Thank you for these quotes! The best advice I’ve been given is to just start writing, instead of waiting for the perfect idea or inspiration.
My two favorite quotes on writing… The first is from a psychologist who was counseling a friend going through the grief process. The doctor got out her prescription pad and wrote, “Write every day.” I love that it’s part of our growing and part of our healing.
My other favorite is Psalm 45:1 ~ “My heart is overflowing with a good theme… My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” He is the writer; I am only the pen.
Daphne Petrey says
The best advice I have been given is to just get it down. Write down your ideas. Come back to them later. Then you can decide what to do with them. But if you don’t get them down, you can never do anything with them!
Thanks for sharing these quotes!
I was an English major, and in college a professor handed a paper I’d written back to me. She had struck the word “things,” and in the margin she wrote, “Don’t use ‘things.’ There is always a better word.” While literary license might bend this rule, especially for dialog, this rule has benefitted me many times in my professional writing.