Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Writing: My Favorite Quotes about the Craft

    I've compiled a list of my favorite quotes about writing, and I tape one quote to each of the computers in my writing lab at school. I generally have the students change seats daily -- in part because there aren't enough computers for everyone to have one every day, but also so they get some advice from a different author every time they sit down. Feel free to add your favorites in the comment section. 

Joseph Heller
“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”

P.L. Travers
“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader
and from the reader the writer learns.”

Richard Bach
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.”

Pearl S. Buck
“I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.

Isaac Asimov
If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.

Mark Twain
“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.

Truman Capote
Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.

William Wordsworth
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart...

Robert B. Parker
Sure, I have advice for people starting to write. Don't. I don't need the competition.

Robert A. Heinlein
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

J.K. Rowling
I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It's totally for myself.

Nora Roberts
You don't find time to write. You make time. It's my job.

Harlan Ellison
People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.

Stephen King
Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel [expletive] from a sitting position.

Terry Pratchett
There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write.

Jane Yolen
Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.

William Zinsser
If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.

Catherine Bowen
Will the reader turn the page?


  1. That Asimov quote makes me wonder if anyone has handed a laptop or notebook to a death row inmate in the moments before their long walk.

    1. Maybe not in the last seconds but ...