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The Writing Life: Witty and Wise Quotes About Writing

Updated on February 2, 2017

Whether you’ve started writing yesterday or have been at this practice for the past four decades, you likely know what it’s like to stare at that blank page (or screen) and wonder: will I be able to do this again? Also, the question of how well you’ll be able to form words into neat little sentence remains regardless how many times you’ve successfully done this before. At least this has been my experience. The following quotes, which come from famous authors such as Stephen King and Mark Twain, as well from newer voices, have been collected to encourage you in your attempts to continue to live the writing life. Good luck and enjoy!

Author Stephen King


Stephen King: “I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”

Ernest Hemingway: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

Mark Twain: “Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.”

Francine du Plessix Gray: “The whole thing about writing is how to be able to withstand solitude.”

Anne Landsman: “Writing makes me feel sufficiently vulnerable and it helps to be with other people.”

Mary Gannon: “While the writer’s journey can seem Sissyphean (as Selgin described it), there’s nothing for writer’s to do but continue, to have faith that theirs is a worthy endeavor—connecting with one another through just the right arrangements of words on the page.”


If you need a good book, consider reading "Shadow of the Wind"

Quang Bao: “But the world doesn’t need more books—it just needs good books.”

Robert Creeley: “The necessary environment is that which secures the artist in the way that lets him be in the world in a most fruitful manner.”

Alexandra Enders: “Writers need to find a way to access creativity and that can begin with the physical spaces they occupy when they work. (Paradoxically, when the writer is writing well, is truly immersed in the project, the space dissolves and becomes irrelevant.)”

Daniel Torday: “To make a story, to make characters we believe, we need to know them, through and through.”

Carry them however you wish, but remember that reading books is essential for any writer.
Carry them however you wish, but remember that reading books is essential for any writer. | Source

Daniel Torday: “As writers we’re at our best when we understand the myriad iterations of a given story—and then we select the version of the story that best tells the truth we’re looking for.”

“For me, the process of writing fiction is not all that different from trying to construct a ship in a bottle. Once the material of an idea—nebulous, indelible—has wormed its way into my mind and grown so expansive that mind alone can no longer contain it, I find it necessary to give the story its own space, to establish for it a body and form quite separate from my own, where even I stand stranger to its hallowed world.

Sure, as craftsman, I may know the skip inside and out before I feed it into the bottle’s mouth—I may recognize the carvings in the hull shapes by my perceptions; may have chiseled at its masts with my words—but once it is set inside that bottle, it occupies a sacred space all its own, a world to which all of us, craftsman included, can be but spectators glimpsing in.” Lauren Green, “On Building Ships In Bottles”

Author Courtney E. Martin


“Even as an author, I don’t always feel like the author. I often feel like there is some other force pulsing under the surface of my life, of my work, of my words. I sit down at the blank screen and hope that this thing that has consistently happened will happen again, that all the strange fragments that make their way into my brain and heart, will coalesce into something worth saying. It’s a sort of magic, a mystery for sure, and it propels me onto different places and into different relationships than I ever could have chosen.” Courtney E. Martin, “An Elegant Life Taking Shape I Can Call My Own”

“The age-old adage that a writer only writes from experiences, that she writes expressly what she knows, is what time and again has caused the whole hesitation, the slight tremor of hand, when someone asks to read a story I’ve penned. I have a fear that they will instead mistake the pages I am handing them for a roadmap to my mind, and that they will rifle through the sentences trying to find touchstones of me, parts they recognize.” Lauren Green, “On Building Ships In Bottles”


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

Isaac Asimov: “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Paulo Coelho: “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things—thoughts, ideas, opinions.”

Joshua Mohr: “…it’s really important to let yourself make mistakes on the page. Don’t worry about being clean in your early drafts. Don’t think too much. Just write.”

Joshua Mohr: “We writers need to focus our energy and attention on the only thing we can actually control: the quality of the prose.”

Robert Penn Warren: “Real writers are those who want to write, need to write, have to write.”

Zeynep Ozakat: “Imitation is part of being a writer. Just like babies who learn to smile by imitating adults, we must have the humility to learn from the greats through mimicry.”

Mary Gannon: “All writers cut their own paths through the thorny circumstances of life. The directions they choose determine their subject matter and qualities that distinguish their art.”


Which of these mighty themes would you prefer to write about?

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Somerset Maugham: “If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”

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

C.J. Cherryh: “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”

David Brin: “If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.”

Virginia Woolf: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”

Peter Handke: “If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”

William Zinsser: “To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”

Catherine Drinker Bowen: “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”


Samuel Johnson: “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

Larry L. King: “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”

Joyce Carol Oats: “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”

William S. Burroughs: “Cheat your landlord is you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”


George Orwell: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Hunter S. Thompson: “Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”

Roald Dahl: “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”

Ernest Hemingway: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”


Allen Ginsberg: “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

Francine Prose: “I’ve heard fellow writers say that they cannot read while working on a book of their own, for fear that Tolstoy or Shakespeare might influence them. I’d always hoped they would influence me.”

Valerie Laken: “What a story requires is characters who are in conflict but can’t walk away from each other.”

Sean Bernard: “Life is pocked with deviations bizarre and unexpected, deviations that can’t be explained. Not convincingly, anyway. So by adding such deviations to our fictions, we make our work both more memorable and more realistic, a sincere representation of the nonlinear ways our lives unfold.”


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I sincerely thank you and hope that you score with a series of novels that are more successful than Harry Potter. I mean it.


      And write to me anytime you want.

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      2 years ago

      Kenneth Avery: Thank you for the repeated vote of confidence. Good luck with your future writing efforts.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Julie K. Henderson: You are welcome. I just call it like I see it. And I cordially invite you to keep on turning out great hubs like this one. I just have "that" feeling that big things are on the way for you.



      Your Friend for Life

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      2 years ago

      Kenneth Avery: Thank you for commenting, and, also, for your kind words. I certainly hope you are correct.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Wonderfully-written and presented. Clean, crisp, and easy to follow. I loved it. And someday, YOU, Julie, will be used on one of these writer's tips hubs by another Hubber. I believe that.

    • Julie K Henderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie K Henderson 

      2 years ago

      Kathleen: Thank you for commenting. The Paul Gallico quote you mention is compelling. I may have to add it to my quote collection.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      These are all great. My favorite is by sports writer (the last great poets in journalism, in my opinion) Paul Gallico. In 1946 he said, "It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader." In 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning sports writer Red Smith re-quoted Gallico in response to an interviewer's question. "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed."


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