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50 quotes about writing from famous authors

Need a little pen-spiration? Or how about, working out your writing all day got you pen-spiring? Whether or not you enjoyed my puns (obviously you did), check out these 50 quotes about writing from the masters. Quotes likes these are great if you’re looking for a little inspiration, direction, or even enjoy clever word play. I know that reading these authors has always inspired my writing, so I hope these writer’s quotes will at least break your next writer’s block. Enjoy!


1. Zadie Smith
"Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." 


2. David Ogilvy
"Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass." 

3. William Faulkner
"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him." 

4.Neil Gaiman
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”

5. Dorothy Parker
"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy." 


6. Michael Moorcock
"Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution."


7. Earnest Hemingway
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." 


8. Stephen King
“I am always chilled and astonished by the would-be writers who ask me for advice and admit, quite blithely, that they 'don’t have time to read.' This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn’t have time to buy any rope or pitons.”

9. Paul Theroux
"Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? 'She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,' etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home."

10. Jack London
"You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."


11. Jonathan Franzen
"It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."

12. E.B. White
“Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.”

13. Tina Fey
“It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.” 


14. Kurt Vonnegut
“First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

15. P.D. James
"Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style." 


16. Esther Freud
"Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess." 


17. Geoff Dyer
"Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something." 

18. Margaret Atwood
"You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a romantic relationship, unless you want to break up." 


19. Anne Enright
"The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page."


20. Erica Jong
“The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook stage. It is like believing in dreams in the morning.” 


21. Doris Lessing
“Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust our own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.” 


22. Maya Angelou
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” 


23. George Orwell
"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with 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." 


24. William Zinsser
"If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do." 


25. Mark Twain
"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." 


26. Oscar Wilde
"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative." 


27. Lev Grossman
"Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously." 


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


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


30. F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Begin with an individual, and before you know it you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find you have created—nothing.” 


31. John Steinbeck
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.” 


32. Harper Lee
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”


33. Henry David Thoreau
“Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”


34. Rose Tremain
“In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” 


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


36. Elmore Leonard
“Don’t go into great detail describing places and things… You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.” 


37. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” 


38. William Wordsworth
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." 


39. Anton Chekhov
"Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." 


40. Ray Bradbury
"You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance." 


41. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul."

42. E. L. Doctorow
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 


43. Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 


44. Samuel Johnson
"The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new." 


45. Anais Nin
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." 


46. Truman Capote
"I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil." 


47. Flannery O'Connor
"I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I'm afraid it will not be controversial." 


48. Lillian Hellman
"If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves." 


49. Philip Roth
“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” 


50. John Updike
"We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.” 
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