Quotes to Inspire Your Writing
I’ve been collecting quotes for some time now, but only recently did I start to think they might be useful for other people. They tend to range from inspirational quotes to ‘just hang in there’ type stuff, so I decided to break them up based on theme. The quotes for this hub are all about inspiring you to write. Maybe you’ve got writer’s block or you are doubting your abilities and you need a few words of wisdom. If so, then you’ve come to the right place. What you’ll find below is each quote, cited to the best of my ability, along with my own words about what it means to me. Hopefully they will stick with you the way they have stuck with me.
“If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got – the same old, same old ideas.”
-Michael Michalko “Cracking Creativity”
It might seem silly to read a book about ‘Cracking Creativity’ but Michael Michalko actually makes a lot of good points. Creativity isn’t an either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t way of thinking. In fact there are a number of techniques he describes that can be really helpful for being more creative. I’ve taken a number of quotes from him, but this is one particularly important for writers. Think outside the box and outside of your comfort zone, otherwise you’re never going to come up with the new ideas you’re looking for.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
The history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.
I’m not the biggest fan of Mark Twain’s books, but the man was great for quotes. The one about the lightning bug is always in my mind when I’m editing my writing. The second one stresses the importance of reading and not just wanting to read, and the last one illustrates, at least to me, how powerful fictional stories really are.
“The passages that writers most admire in their own work are the ones in which they are most likely to have slipped into preaching or not-so-veiled self-congratulation.”
-Jeffrey Sweet “The Dramatist’s Toolkit
Jeffrey Sweet is a good source if you’re looking to get into screen/play writing. But the advice he gives is useful to all writers. The one above is something I notice a lot in work by established writers. As they get more popular and either run out of ideas or get too comfortable, they start writing thinly veiled lectures about what they believe. And I think it is important for us all to watch for that in our own writing so it doesn’t drown out the voice of the story.
“A good story told well can heal the soul.”
This isn’t a direct quote and the name of the movie was “Deeply” not the name of the character who said it. But it is a good quote despite my inability to remember the details. There have been many times where I was feeling depressed or stressed out and a good book made me forget about all of it.
“Think of something you said. Now write what you wish you had said.”
Ain’t that the truth. This is an important quote for when you want to write dialogue. Real dialogue is choppy, awkward and completely uninteresting to listen to. Going back and thinking about it, you can uncover what should have been said in order to make a good story.
“To get what you want, STOP doing what isn’t working.”
I got this quote off of a calendar at work and it was not attributed. But it’s something I try to tell myself when I’m writing. If I took the story in a direction that isn’t working, then I just need to stop and figure out where I went wrong. Once I figure that out, I can backtrack to where the story was still going well and start again.
“Reading makes immigrants of us all – it takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”
Good stories don’t discriminate; anyone can read them and anyone can identify with them. The same book can be a refuge for two completely different people.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
I don’t like Woody Allen, but he’s right. You’ll never finish a story or get it published if you don’t make the effort to get it out there. A thousand good stories have gone unpublished because the author didn’t think it was worth the effort of trying.
“You may delay, but time will not.”
As a writer I will make all kinds of excuses about why I’m not getting something done, but I don’t know who I’m trying to fool. Time will slip away regardless of me telling it I’m not ready yet.
“Books should go where they will be most appreciated, and not sit unread, gathering dust on a forgotten shelf,”
I love being able to get good quotes from modern books, especially genre fiction books. This one is from Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. The third book in the Inheritance Cycle wasn’t actually that good, but I still got some useful quotes out of it anyway.
“…books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.”
“The world was a terrible place, cruel, pitiless, dark as a bad dream. Not a good place to live in. Only in books could you find pity, comfort, happiness – and love. Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. Love, truth, beauty, wisdom, and consolation against death. … Words are immortal”
“Words don’t come to life until you can taste them on your tongue.”
“Badly told stories never come to life.”
-Cornelia Funke “Inkheart”
“Writing stories is a kind of magic, too.”
Inkheart has a lot of good quotes about books and their importance. I think it’s always important, as a writer, to be reminded of how magical storytelling can be and why we need it as a society.
“I might fail. But if I do, at least I will know I’m failing at the right thing.”
-Melissa D’arabian “The Next Food Network Star”
When I watched The Next Food Network Star, the last thing I expected to find was a quote about writing. Okay well Melissa D’arabian wasn’t talking about writing when she said this, but it applies all the same. Life is filled with failures, but it’s important not to think of those failures as the end of the road. If this is truly your passion, then it doesn’t matter how many times you fail; at least you’re failing at the right thing and not the wrong one.
"If you stop chasing your dream, you're already dead."
The comedian who said this was dying of cancer while continuing to pursue his dream of performing on the tonight show. For me, even though the progress on my book is slow, I’m still clinging as hard as I can to the dream of it getting published. A lot of times it is the only thing that can distract me from my crappy job and my financial problems.
“In books I meet the dead as if they were alive,
in books I see what is yet to come…
All things decay and pass with time…
all fame would fall victim to oblivion
If God had not given mortal men the book to aid them.
-Richard de bury, “The Philobiblon”
Another great quote about the immortality of books and their ability to preserve our own culture forever.
“Quitters never win, unless they’re in a quitting contest.”
-Stephen Colbert “The Colbert Report”
I love Stephen Colbert and I had to write down this quote when he said it. We all know the quote about quitters never winning, but I love his take on it.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Writing a book is hard work, and had I known how much work it was going to be I might have bailed on it a long time ago. I’m thankful that I didn’t, but this quote rings true. It is easy to pass over an opportunity because it looks like it will be too much work or too difficult to accomplish.
“Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: ‘let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!’ And they’ll say: ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories.’”
-J. R. R. Tolkien, “The TwoTowers”
I had to throw this one in there. A legendary story questioning if it will ever become legendary. I’m not sure how this quote helps you as a writer, but it’s kind of a neat moment in the series; almost breaking that fourth wall to address the audience. I guess it speaks to the humble nature of a story; it will always be oblivious to its own fame.
“We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
-J. K. Rowling
I put this quote last because J. K. Rowling is my favorite writer, but aside from that it also sums up my philosophy on a lot of things. Writing can change the world, and that power to change it is something we all possess.