10 Great Quotes from Writers about Writing

Here are ten of our favourite quotes about writing, from those who should probably know the most about it – writers themselves. Some of them are witty quotes, others profound, some a mixture. We hope you enjoy them.

‘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.

About interestingliterature

A blog dedicated to rooting out interesting trivia about classic books and authors. Discover what we've managed to unearth so far at www.interestingliterature.com, where the librarian is busy at work on the next piece of interestingness...

Posted on January 13, 2014, in Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 141 Comments.

  1. 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.

    • Indeed – it’s the getting started that’s the tough bit! I think the main thing is just to start writing. Then you warm up, and it becomes easier.

      • 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.

  2. Great. I particularly like the Mann and the Borges, not to mention the Connolly,

  3. The last by Thoreau is particularly relevant in the digital age.

  4. thisportraitingray

    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.”

  5. “…blank piece of paper wins” my heart just skipped a beat

  6. 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!

  7. That last quote really got me. I think why I find it hard to write sometimes is because I haven’t lived enough.

  8. Reblogged this on Thriller Writing Help for Authors and commented:
    Some fabulous Quotations on Writing.

  9. 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’!

  10. 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”.

  11. I like another Neil Gaiman one: where is the fun in doing something you know will work?

  12. Reblogged this on How Do You Pronounce Eynon? and commented:
    I loved this post, so I just had to reblog. I particularly like the quote by Thomas Mann. Thanks interesting Literature for the original.

    Enjoy

  13. Great post, thanks. Just reblogged…

  14. Neil Gaiman had such great advice on writing. Also, so does Stephen King.

  15. 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.’

  16. One of my personal favorites is: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”-Stephen King

  17. Thanks for liking my quote! Hmm, the Thoreau quote is very profound – how can you write if you have not lived indeed?

  18. Wow, amazing quotes!! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Reblogged this on Seven Steeds on a Mountain and commented:
    I like this.

  20. 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”,

  21. Thank you for sharing – one of the above quotes is now on my physical wall…:)

  22. As a new writer, all of these quotes were relevant .. however, the Thomas Mann quote definitely made me chuckle! Cathy

  23. When someone writes an article he/she retains the idea of a usr in his/her brain that hhow a user
    can understand it. Therefore that’s why this article is outstdanding.
    Thanks!

  24. I’m always moved by this quote: “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
    ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

    It doesn’t directly apply to writing, but I find it relevant. I wrote a post about it on my blog if anyone is interested!

  25. Many days and nights I muttered something like this to myself when I see phony smiley ladies pitching their useless shallow chic lit. ‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’

    – Cyril Connolly

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