Some Quotes about Writing

June 6, 2010 at 11:20 am 4 comments

What does a writer need in order to write?

“A writer needs three things: experience, observation and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” William Faulkner

“All you need is a room without any particular interruptions.” John Dos Passos

“A nice peaceful place with some good light.” Mary McCarthy

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” Ernest Hemingway

“Talent is not the main thing you need. How hard do you want to work on this? How much time are you willing to devote to it? How important is it for you to express the things that you believe are important to convey, to share your thoughts with others? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.” Janet Hulstrand

“Keep at it! The one talent that’s indispensable to a writer is persistence. You must write the book, else there is no book. It will not finish itself. Do not try to commit art. Just tell the damned story.” Tom Clancy

“This writing business. Pencils and whatnot. Overrated, if you ask me.” Winnie the Pooh  (A. A. Milne)

“Writing, for me, means humility. It’s a process that involves fear and doubt, especially if you’re writing honestly.” Kiran Desai  

“…writing isn’t a straight line, but a process where you have to get in trouble to get anywhere…” Alice Kaplan

“Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” E. B. White

“You must find your own quiet center of life, and write from that.” Sarah Orne Jewett

Thoughts about when/how to write

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” Henry David Thoreau

“…write as much as you can without thinking about the book’s organization. Arrange your writing later, after you have accumulated a large amount of material.” Robert Wolf

“Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” Henry James, in The Art of Fiction

“For God’s sake, keep your eyes open. Notice what’s going on around you.” William Burroughs

“It became a habit of mine never to leave the house without a pencil in my pocket.” Paul Auster

“The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him.” Rachel Carson

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London

“Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.”  Henry Miller

“I write any sort of rubbish which will cover the main outlines of the story, then I can begin to see it.” Flannery O’Connor

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” E. L. Doctorow

“Writing is that oddest of anomalies…an intimate letter to a stranger.” Pico Iyer

“When the words are there, the writer writes.”  Janet Hulstrand

“Get black on white.” Guy de Maupassant

“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.” Maxwell Perkins

“One should never write down or up to people, but out of yourself.” Christopher Isherwood

“Writing is like driving at night. You can see only as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

“Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.” Julia Cameron

“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music–the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.” Henry Miller

“As we describe our environments, we begin to savor them. Even the most rushed and pell-mell of life begins to take on the patina of being cherished.” Julia Cameron

“Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and they will jump overboard to get away.” William Zinsser

“To be a writer, open your heart. Keep it open. You can’t be a writer with a closed heart.” Amity Gaige

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”  Andy Warhol

“Find what causes a commotion in your heart. Find a way to write about that.” Richard Ford

“Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.” Susan Sontag

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” Jack Kerouac

“Your Motto: Be Bold, Be Free, Be Truthful…” Brenda Ueland

The purpose and goals of writing

“…exact expression is the goal of writing.Robert Wolf

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“When you start any book you don’t know what, ultimately, your issues are. You try to write to find them. You’re fiddling with the stuff, hoping to make sense, whatever kind of sense you can make.” Robert Penn Warren

“A writer’s job is to tell the truth.” Ernest Hemingway

“Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.” David McCullough

“I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?” Alice Walker

writing isn’t a straight line, but a process where you have to get in trouble to get anywhere

Why write?

“Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Brenda Ueland

“There is a door we all want to walk through and writing can help you find it and open it.” Anne Lamott

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.” W M Thackeray
“The writer’s job is not to judge, but to seek to understand.” Ernest Hemingway
“One’s text, one’s poem, the page one writes–that is born from a mystery, a mystery that later becomes a habit….the need to write is born of a mystery that cannot be defined or explained.” Nancy Morejon
“I honestly think that in order to be a writer you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?” Anne Lamott
“In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” Denise Levertov
“Writing is a hard business…but nothing makes you feel better.” Ernest Hemingway

“Writing answers your questions–the ones you are afraid to ask and the ones you have been asking all your life. You’ve always known the answers; writing helps you know you know them.” Nancy Slonim Aronie

“Writing is hard work. But if you want to become a writer you will become one. Nothing will stop you.” Dorothy Day

Whose story is worth telling?

“All lives are interesting; no one life is more interesting than another. Its fascination depends on how much is revealed, and in what manner.” Mavis Gallant

“If you don’t write your books, nobody else will do it for you. No one else has lived your life.” José Saramago

And one–I believe invaluable–suggestion for editors (and reviewers):

“Be gentle with one another’s efforts. Always remember that it’s just as hard to write a bad book as it is to write a good book.” Malcolm Cowley 

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature who divides her time between France and the U.S.  She teaches literature courses in Paris, Hawaii and Cuba for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and offers Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.

Entry filed under: About Writers and their Work, About Writing from the Heart. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Literary Quotes about Paris Some of my favorite quotes about literature

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nilda  |  July 17, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Thank you for putting together such a nice collection of quotes. I can identify a few that will become my favorite to use in my work and studies.

    As a doctoral student, I must conduct research and write many papers. Finding one’s scholarly voice is perhaps the most difficult aspect for me precisely because I want to make sure that I come across as real and unique as I possibly can. You include a quote that says what I try to achieve: “One should never write down or up to people, but out of yourself.” Christopher Isherwood.

    As I continue on my journey on the academic road, I will also take with me the quote from Brenda Ueland “Your Motto: Be Bold, Be Free, Be Truthful…”. Especially in writing academic pieces, truthfulness is the quality we should pursue.

    Thank you for sharing your favorite quotes and for awakening me to the world of writing.


    • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  August 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm

      Nilda, Thank you so much for your kind remarks about my blog. I am so glad you are enjoying it! Sorry for the delay in responding. Have just been busy! Great to have you on board…

  • 3. Rachel Federman  |  December 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Enjoyed this. Have you ever heard “Write while you have the light?” I can’t remember where I heard it, and it’s driving me crazy. I’ve found it to be one of the most motivating. Really enjoy the last one you have up there. Nancy Slonim Aronie. Don’t know her but will check her out.

  • 4. Ada Lynch  |  December 5, 2020 at 9:49 pm

    The powerful writing is the most essential thing in beautiful quotes. This article is great that provide information about impactful writing.


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