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


‘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.

141 thoughts on “10 Great Quotes from Writers about Writing”

  1. Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    Some interesting quotes from writers about writing. My favorite (and one that I may have to paint on my walls): “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

  2. I’ll add the classic Gene Fowler line: “Writing is easy. You just stare at the blank sheet of paper (or screen) until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

  3. ‘The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.’ I have read works by these writers and aspire to be one. Don’t know if that will ever happen, but I am going to keep trying.

    • Well, as another writer said (I forget who), ‘Those who write are writers. Those who wait are waiters.’ You won’t know unless you persist and keep writing (I know this myself, as I’ve had several goes at a novel) :)

  4. Reblogged this on filledwithphotos and commented:
    This is probably one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever found. It’s so hard to remember these at times. “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

  5. Reblogged this on 3bones and commented:
    Being an avid collector of quotes, I was delighted when this post from one of the blogs I follow, Interesting Literature, arrived in my WordPress Reader inbox this evening. These were definitely worth sharing and re-blogging …

  6. I write about things I do not know first hand and I am right about, as proved later, in some of of these things which I know first hand. Therefore I write to learn to know more of myself.

  7. Wow, lovely quotes. Thanks for sharing.
    Here’s one more: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway
    Reblogging it :)

  8. Reblogged this on curvyroads and commented:
    As a new writer, I can learn from all of these great quotes from writers, but especially like this one: ‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’ – Cyril Connolly

  9. Soooo many quotes from writers are about how the actual, physical writing is hard. The thoughts may be there, but it just doesn’t come out. How many other professions can say this?

    • I agree. I know many writers themselves pooh-pooh the idea of writer’s block, but I think even they would acknowledge that the act of writing itself can be difficult. Makes you wonder why people write! The pleasure it can bring outweighs the hardship…

  10. I glimpsed your mention of New Grub Street in a previous response and I wondered if you would agree that despite the passing of one hundred and twenty some years, very little has changed in the world of writing, publishing and writers’ popularity versus writers’ integrity. I really loved that book which is why the comment caught my eye :-)

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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’!

  15. 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”.

  16. 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.’

  17. 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”,

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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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