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Essential Quotes About Writing

Updated on March 25, 2017
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Whether it’s Stephen King offering his two cents or novelist Lin Enger giving sage advice to all hopeful writers, many writers have commented on the quest to produce writing worth reading. Enjoy the quotes!

Author Cheryl Strayed

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“I know it’s not easy being an artist. I know the gulf between creation and commerce is so tremendously wide that it’s sometimes impossible not to feel annihilated by it. A lot of artists give up because it’s just too damn hard to go on making art in a culture that by and large does not support its artists. But the people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They’ve taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different sorts of artists, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check, that being genuinely happy for someone else who got something you hope to get makes you genuinely happy too.” Cheryl Strayed, tiny beautiful things



“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” Cheryl Strayed, tiny beautiful things



D.L. Doctorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Cynthia Ozick: “If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.”



James A. Michener: “The really great writers are people like Emily Bronte who sit in a room and write out of their limited experience and unlimited imagination.”



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



Lin Enger: “Part of my job as director of a Master of Fine Arts program is to answer questions from students—current, prospective, and former—all of them writers, but many uncomfortable being called by that name. Writer, after all, sounds like an occupational title, such as physician or plumber. It suggests a command of the art that few of us feel we have, since the process of writing is anything but linear, clean, or predictable.”

Lin Enger: “Learning to write well, and to help others write well, requires that we embrace a difficult and often chaotic enterprise. I’m convinced that our failures—our false starts with unfruitful subjects, our flailing, unreadable rough drafts—are productive, necessary stages in a messy progress we had better learn to live with. The important thing is that we commit ourselves to putting words on the page, to work tirelessly at arranging those words, to keep pumping the handle until the water runs clear.”



“What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn’t it that way when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration and cries, ‘That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!’” Ray Bradbury, “The Zen Writer”


Writer Jerry B. Jenkins

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Jerry B. Jenkins: “I write because I can’t do anything else.”



Stephen King: “…what you write about ought to be something you care about. Why else would you spend all that time and expend all that effort?”

Author Bill Bryson

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Jerry B. Jenkins: “Since I write as a process of discovery—even though I know this is all coming from my subconscious—I am often surprised, delighted, scared, disappointed, saddened, etc., by what happens. If it’s serendipitous to me, it certainly should be to the reader, too.”


Steven Berry: “All writers have a little voice in their head that drives them forward. Listen to it.”


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

“The part of my soul that is driven to make stories is a fierce thing, like a ferret: long, sleep, incapable of sleep, it digs and bites through all I know of the world.” Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson


“A writer’s life is about examination.” Natalie Goldberg, Long Quiet Highway

Author Barbara Kingsolver talks about writing

“Having a sense of place is a very affirming and steadying influence on a writer. If you learn to love one place, you are more aware of other places, can imbue your writing with that recognition of the importance of place. I heard someone say that place is the third character in a novel—that’s how much power it has.” Natalie Goldberg, Long Quiet Highway


Anna Deavere Smith: “What is required for making art is insatiable curiosity.”

Author Lin Enger

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Which of these writers has inspired you the most?

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Anna Deavere Smith: “An artist is a collector of life’s moments, a memorizer of its images.”


Ginger Strand: “We write because it is the best substitute we have for a Vulcan mind-meld, for letting someone else join us inside our perceiving selves.”

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