Thursday, December 1

8 Awesome Quotes for Writers

I love quotes - those bite-sized, perfectly worded, honest and wise little things. They're like the cupcakes on the dessert menu of literature. 

Mmmm. Wisdom.

With NaNoWriMo over, I've clocked in my first win after 2 failed attempts in previous years, and these eight cupcakes (erm, I mean quotes) have given me the mental sugar-rush I needed to get through the toughest and most productive month of my writing life. Enjoy!

#8. It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give up because by that time I was too famous. - Peter Benchley (author of Jaws)

This sort of stuff always cheers me up because it reminds me that perseverance, not talent, is generally what makes people successful. I read somewhere that it takes the average actor ten years of work to become known, and most actors give up within one year of embarking on their careers. I'm sure it's the same, if not worse, for writers. It sounds depressing at first but it's actually very grounding – I may not be able to control how much inspiration visits me, but I can control my attitude and make sure I don't give up.

#7. Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe in you. - Oscar Wilde

This ties up to the point above, and although it may sound a touch trite and 'inspirational', my boy Ozzy knew what he was talking about. Although all artists crave external validation like sugar-coated crack, it's no substitute for believing in yourself – or, at the very least, believing in what you create.

#6. The best kind of writing, and the biggest thrill in writing, is to suddenly read a line from a typewriter that you didn't know was in you. - Larry L. King

I bet anyone who takes writing seriously has had at least one moment like that, and it's just swell. This quote is great to get you through the slow, painful days when it feels like you're wrenching words out of your stingy muse's mouth with blunt-nosed pliers. Gosh, that was a violent image. Sorry, my muse and I have a really dysfunctional relationship. Moving on...

#5. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. - Walt Disney

This one's not strictly about writing, but it applies perfectly to the craft. Courage isn't a word I use often, but in this context it's not about slaying dragons so much as slaying the paper tigers of your own anxiety. There's nothing quite like saying “I want to be a writer” to inspire looks of pity at your na├»vety from everybody who's doing more sensible things with their lives. But in a world where you're constantly bombarded with other people's opinions, isn't it a small act of bravery to believe that your own insensible dreams can come true?

#4. How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live. - Henry David Thoreau

This little line means so much to me. And what's a quote collection without Thoreau? To me, this quote isn't so much about life experience (I've met 50-something 'writers' whose wooden prose made me weep) but about awareness. Presence of mind, presence of spirit, experiencing the immediacy of life instead of dismissing it with tired labels. There are too many writers, both amateur and professional, who depend on the linguistic and structural conventions of their genre to give their work validity, at the cost of letting their writing live on its own terms. Life isn't on the page, it's all around you. Stand up to live.

#3. Just write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before water starts to flow. - Louis L'amour

I've loved this quote for a long time, and my NaNo experience really proved its truth to me. It's amazing how you can meander pointlessly for a thousand words and then suddenly, out of the ether, the best stuff shows up. Mine is almost always fashionably late, but it's the life of the party and makes all the other words seem fun and interesting.

#2. The first draft of anything is shit. - Ernest Hemingway

This quote got me through NaNo because I have a really bitchy inner editor. I could easily spend an hour staring at the same line and rewriting it, until I eventually backspace it and wonder if it's too late to apply for a Master's degree in Not Writing. Letting the imperfect stuff stay on the page, at least for a while, is the best new habit I've learnt in November.

#1. Stories are found things... fossils in the ground. - Stephen King

This is the most important quote for me, because it points towards that fact that (for me at least) writing is an act of faith. You have to trust that the story will reveal itself to you if you just keep digging. It also implies that every story has a perfect, true form that you can strive towards, and that's comforting in this bullshit artistic realm where people keep telling me 'there are no right answers' – I don't believe that. Maybe there are no simple solutions, but there is truth. Why not strive towards it?

So those are my eight favourite cupquotes. What are your favourite quotes - about writing, cupcakes or anything in between? Share in the comments!


  1. "Hell is other people" ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

    I think this quite accurately sums up my outlook on life in general.

  2. As much as I hate to agree with The Bald Ego :P I know it's far too torturous to expect perfection from a first draft.

    Thanks for reading Karl, glad you liked it. x

  3. I really liked number 2. It makes me feel like Gaylard's comment on my first draft of my dissertation ("This is rubbish, Karl") , while it may not have been desired, was, at least, somewhat appropriate.

  4. Glad you liked it Monique, thanks for stopping by :)

  5. Awesome Das, Quotes 6 and 7 really stand out for me. Just goes to show that these quotes can be applied to life in general :-) Monique

  6. I love you Stas, my little ray of sunshine :3


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