Literature

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.

141 Comments

  1. I love these quotes!!!

  2. Wonderful, thank you for sharing these!

    Heather xxx

  3. This quote — ‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’ — is the hardest one to live up to.

    • I agree. The Scylla and Charybdis of popularity/recognition and personal integrity is brilliantly explored by writers, e.g. George Gissing in New Grub Street.

      PS Thanks for reblogging!

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.”

  6. ‘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) :)

  7. That was fun:)

  8. Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    Some inspirational quotations to keep you going whilst writing.

  9. Thanks for sharing these great quotes.

  10. I love Borge’s quote because it’s so true. Even pain and suffering counts.

  11. Great list of a quotes. Several I haven’t heard before. :)

  12. Reblogged this on thetrustyelizablog and commented:
    There are some things you either know or don’t know about yourself. Unless, of course, you’re a writer. Then you’re never sure of anything.

  13. Loving these! :-)

  14. Some great quotes here, especially the one by Cyril Connolly. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Great post! Thanks for sharing :)

  16. Thanks for sharing these! They are great.

  17. 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.”

  18. Thanks for the words of inspiration!

  19. Reblogged this on Taylor Grace and commented:
    What a fantastic post. Loved these quotes! There are some awesome blogs out there. Interestingliterature.com is one of them!

  20. Reblogged this on emmasrandomthoughts and commented:
    An excellent post with quotes about writing. :)

  21. Reblogged this on Sstyleandart.

  22. That last quote by Henry made me laugh. All those quotes are an emotional roller coaster and I love it!!

  23. Pingback: 10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing | The Broken Mirror

  24. Great post! Neil Gaiman always seems to be my favorite. :)

  25. Reblogged this on The Broken Mirror and commented:
    I love Quotes. Make them about writing and I love them more!

  26. I love these! Thanks for sharing.

  27. Love this one from 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.” ― Mark Twain

  28. Great quotes. Thanks for sharing them.

  29. Nice to know that there are other writers out there who feel the same as I do.

  30. Reblogged this on Read It & Weep.

  31. Today the blank sheet won. But tomorrow is another day. :)

  32. 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 …

  33. 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.

  34. beautiful quotes…

  35. Reblogged this on aimanss… and commented:
    awsome quotes……

  36. The Thomas Mann one is brilliant.

  37. I can relate so much to Borges’s, Plath’s, and Thoreau’s quotes here!

  38. Neil Gaiman = Genius!

  39. 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 :)

  40. Reblogged this on Jyoti Arora and commented:
    Thoughts about writing by great writers themselves…

  41. Reblogged this on daydreaming in words and commented:
    Really like this post.

  42. 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

  43. 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…

  44. I love these quotes…thanks for sharing! I’m actually partial to the last one from Thoreau. Living and experiencing can give you stories that most imaginations could never create.

    http://www.honeylemontea.com

  45. Reblogged this on the shadows illuminated and commented:
    Every writer needs to read these 10 quotations. Extremely true and inspiring.

  46. 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 :-)

    • Well said, Jackie – it’s amazing how little things have changed, despite the fact that the publishing market has altered in all sorts of ways. Gissing had it all there 120 years ago :)

  47. Almost all of these are experiences that are every writer goes through. Writing is indefinable as it will be unique for everyone.

    As a young, eager writer, I write short stories and poems. Please feel free to check out my blog: http://www.writingequalspassion.wordpress.com.

    I hope you enjoy the visit.

    writingequalspassion

  48. 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!

  49. 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.

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

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

  52. 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.”

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

  54. Reblogged this on Faatimah.

  55. 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!

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

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

  58. 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’!

  59. 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”.

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

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

  62. 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

  63. Great post, thanks. Just reblogged…

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

  65. 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.’

  66. Pingback: On Writing, Part 1 – getting started | Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

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

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

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

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

  71. Reblogged this on Virtual Book Tour.

  72. 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”,

  73. Pingback: Of Note (Feb 18th 2014) | Chris Weston

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

  75. Pingback: 10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing | canterburysociology

  76. Pingback: What books inspired those at Canterbury Christ Church University to study the social sciences? | canterburysociology

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

  78. Pingback: LIVING….or trying/going to | FIVE STORIES

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  80. When someone writes an article he/she retains the idea of a usr in his/her brain that hhow a user
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  81. 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!

  82. 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

  83. Pingback: How to Write a Good English Essay | Interesting Literature