10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing

‘Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.’

– Neil Gaiman

‘God may reduce you on Judgment Day to tears of shame, reciting by heart the poems you would have written, had your life been good.’

– W. H. Auden

‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’

– Thomas Mann

Gaiman1

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’

– Cyril Connolly

‘The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is that he’s given the freedom to starve wherever he likes.’

– S. J. Perelman

‘The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.’

– François-René de Chateaubriand

‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’

– Nora Ephron

‘A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource.’

– Jorge Luis Borges

‘And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it.’

– Sylvia Plath

‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’

– Henry David Thoreau

Image: Neil Gaiman, signing books after a reading from ‘Anansi Boys’ in Berkeley, 2005 © 2005 Jutta, share-alike licence.

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135 thoughts on “10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing

  1. Great Gaiman quote, but it was, “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” that got me through NaNoWriMo last year. Also, no Vonnegut?
    BTW, thanks for the like!

  2. It’s amazing how when seeing a blank piece of paper can reinforce your belief that if you have something to say, you buckle down and get on with it, and the words flow. I keep getting surprised by what I can do.

      • Thank-you for commenting.
        If you wait for something to come into your mind, you could wait a long time. Sometimes you have to will yourself to write and somehow words tend to follow, even if it’s one sentence at a time. And gradually the words start to flow and you’re back with the story.

  3. You forgot Chekhov’s advice about writers. It goes as thus:

    “Don’t tell me the Moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

  4. I love hearing the truth about writing from the certified profis, for the feeling of identification will probably be the only comparison one of us mere-mortals can honestly claim as a connection with them. Certainly Thomas Mann’s pronouncement is wondrous. Considering the length of his books, he suffered greatly!

  5. Excellent quotes! Thank you.

    My godmother, Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92), was an ‘impish, irreverent writer of genius’ according to The Guardian newspaper in the UK in their obituary. In the second half of the 20th century she was a major figure in children;s lierature and historical fiction. She was fascinating about the process of writing her books. I recently collated a few quotes of hers from an early 1980s article inThe Times newspaper. They are at http://rosemarysutcliff.com/2014/01/21/modern-times-are-a-hindrance, a post on the blog http://www.rosemarysutcliff.com . Other quotes from Rosemary Sutcliff can be found here at http://rosemarysutcliff.com/tag/quotes. I shall resist here trying ’10 Great Quotations from Rosemary Sutcliff’ about writing’!

  6. But I should perhaps have left this quote, on re-reading yours from Nora Ephron (‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing”) . Rosemary Sutcliff once said: “Writing is perhaps just one degree less frightful than not writing”.

  7. Pingback: Some of 10 Quotations from Writers about Writing at Interesting Literature blog | ROSEMARY SUTCLIFF

  8. I love the SJ Perelman quote, brilliant. I also like this one from Hemmingway in his typically blunt tone:
    ‘The good parts of a book may be only something a writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life and one is as good as the other.’

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  10. Lovely collection. I think the Cyril Connolly is my favourite – hadn’t heard that. And there’s the Kingsley Amis one that’s in the same vein as some of these: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s pants to the seat of one’s chair”,

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