21 Author Quotes about Writing

When I struggle with writing, I think of Fyodor Dostoevsky.


I think of him waiting to be executed for his beliefs (he wasn’t).  I imagine him freezing in a Siberian Prison Camp.  He suffered, he endured, he didn’t quit, and he wrote amazing novels. Dostoevsky teaches me that you can write through hardships and tragedies. 

On a personal level, I connect with Fyodor Dostoevsky because he was a writer with epilepsy.  Though I didn’t experience his life circumstances, I do live with something that marks me and shapes my writing.  When I’m drained of energy, I recall his persistence through pain,  imprisonment, and living with a chronic illness. Dostoevsky and many other authors are like distant timeless mentors to me.  I don’t know them, but I study and collect their wordsWhen I pay attention to what they do and the advice they offer (even if they are deceased), I learn.  I learn about writing and the life of a writer.

They share what makes a “good” writer and how they persist. These are the two essential keys I remind myself of when I’ve lost my writing mojo.    

Here are 21 inspirational author quotes that shape my ideas about writing.


21 Insightful and Inspirational Author Quotes



Quotes on the Art and Craft of Writing 



1. There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it. ― Fyodor Dostoevsky

As a teacher, this author quote helps me answer the question, “Why should I write about it if other people have written about that subject?”  You should write about it because your insights and perspectives are unique–to you in this time and place.  

Time, environment, and circumstances alter how we see something–and how we express it.   

Stephen King, Natalie Goldberg, E.B White, and many others have written about how to write well.  Those works aren’t similar. They each tackle writing from different angles with different elements of advice because they aren’t the same writers.   Also, they wrote about writing in different eras: 

  • E.B. White coauthored,  revised, and added to William Strunk Jr.’s book The Elements of Style in 1959.
  • Natalie Goldberg wrote Writing Down the Bones:  Freeing the Writer Within in 1986.
  • Stephen King wroteOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft in 2000. 

Less famous writers (including  bloggers) have written on the topic of “the writing process.”  Everyone offers something individual and newer, so never be afraid to touch on the same topic as another person. 



2. Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear. ―  Ezra Pound

Why use two words if one will accomplish the same thing?  Limiting your adjectives and adverbs forces you to be more purposeful in the words you write.  You need to find specific words that convey the same meaning as a longer phrase.   When your writing is precise and you limit excess words it is forceful, clear, and compelling. 

Look at the phrases I put in bold in the paragraph above.  Can you see how to make them shorter?  A common mistake I and other writers make is being wordy–adding phrases, adjectives, and adverbs that do not enhance a sentence.  



3.  Read. Read. Read. Read many genres. Read good writing. Read bad writing and figure out the difference. Learn the craft of writing. ― Carol Berg

Writing takes study, and we study by reading other authors from different historical periods, genres, multicultural perspectives.  When you read analyze what another writer is doing.  How are they creating characters, plots, organizing ideas, describing, and thinking about something?  What words and sentences stand out to you?    Make notes and try what you learn.  



4. I don’t write for an auditorium full of people. I don’t write for the microphone; I write for the page. ― Billy Collins

Speaking and hearing a word is temporary.  It’s also shaped by how a person interprets and says something aloud.  When you write words in a poem, essay, or narrative–they are permanent-so you want to be deliberate. How Shakespearean sonnets sound differ, but when a reader sees the lines on a page that poem’s words are the same.  They are written for the reader.  



5. The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. ― Gustave Flaubert

If you write, you’ll find your ideas deepen and things that may have been buried are unearthed.  When you consider a topic and describe it, examine it, connect it to other subjects or imagine a story about it you’ll think beyond its surface.  You will unravel thoughts and beliefs you didn’t realize were within you.  

The art of writing--Gustave Flaubert



6. A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day. ― Emily Dickinson

When an author, poet, or songwriter puts words on paper do they die? Or do you hear or remember them?  Some words you will feel, recall or share.  So those ideas and words have a life beyond the text.  This Emily Dickinson quotes reminds me to be purposeful when writing and think about the impact of my thoughts and ideas.  



7. And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ― Sylvia Plath

I admit this is a harder concept to grasp, especially since there are many boring or routine things in life.   However, if I write a list of those things I experience in the morning–they can become stories or poems.  Brushing my teeth sounds dull, but what if I add more detail to it: 

“The battery-operated purple toothbrush with forty-thousand brush strokes per minute was supposed to whiten my teeth.  Instead, it sprayed toothpaste on my mirror making it hard to see the man running down my driveway.”   

Ok, I don’t know what I will do those sentences, but they can lead me to a more exciting place.    Try this yourself: list 5-7 things that happen in your day.  Choose one and write about it.  

If you don’t think you can write about it-what is stopping you?  Sylvia Plath points out it’s not a lack of writing subjects, but our doubt that we can write.  



Quotes About the Writing Life



8. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ― Ernest Hemingway

If writing did not take work, practice, and action it would be easier to do Sure, writing has its joyous moments like when you’re inspired and words come pouring out. But, there are days when words are hard to find, ideas are slow to come, yet you still must write. You cannot write well without sacrifice. Yet, if you don’t write well, you’re sacrificing reaching your academic, personal and professional goals.  




9. Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.― E. L. Doctorow

This advice seems contrary to what most teachers will tell you (especially if you are writing an essay or research paper).   You may have been told you need a detailed outline.  There is nothing wrong with an outline–I teach students how to use one for writing.  But, to write something we don’t always need to know the exact destination.  Sometimes we can plan a little, then a little more until we have written a whole piece.  

How you write and complete something depends on your writing style.  However, if you find yourself planning than going a little further until you have a draft, take extra to revise and edit your work.   




10.  I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it. ― Toni Morrison

Find your motivation to write, and whatever it is use it to inspire you and keep you consistent.   Whether you write fiction or nonfiction find what fascinates you.  If it’s a writing assignment that bores you look for some point, theme, or idea that interests you.   Let revealing that idea be what drives you.  


11. The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies. ― Kate Chopin

When you let someone read your work, your risk criticism, and rejection.   You’ll get bad comments, reviews, or grades.  Take that criticism and see if you can learn from it, but keep writing because that is how you improve.  It’s how you master the craft of writing and grow your writing talent. 




12. We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are. ― Maya Angelou

Writing is a way to connect and express ourselves to others.  As I write this blog post, I think about you–how to reach you and motivate you when you feel like giving up.  When you write–you’re sharing some part of who you are to your readers.  Human beings are social–we want that connection–so we write to one another and beyond. 



13.  I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.― Charlotte Brontë

 The only way I resemble Charlotte Brontë (other than being female) is in this way: I feel the need to write.  It isn’t that I feel the need to write a research paper or a blog post.  No, it’s the desire to write in the morning or on a topic of my choice.  However, that inner feeling of wanting to write didn’t come naturally, it came from writing little by little each day.  

So, if you don’t feel helpless to resist writing now, write about whatever you like each day.  The more you do it the more you will feel like Charlotte Brontë



14. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him. ― Roald Dahl

While you may feel you cannot help but write, it doesn’t mean you cannot resist writing about something hard.  Have you ever known you had to write something and distracted yourself with other things “you need to do first?”  I have.  Here’s where Roald Dahl’s quote helps you–schedule your writing.  Make those writing times set hours–you cannot miss.  Create a mental boss or someone who will check to make sure you show up for work and write! 



15Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works. ― Virginia Woolf

I doubt Virginia Woolf thought about short forms of writing–like blog posts or newspaper articles when she made this comment.  It’s not as if my soul is in this blog post, but you may see parts of my experiences, perspective, beliefs in this piece.  If you read my entire blog you’ll catch more parts of “my soul.”   

Look at your writing; are there parts of you in your stories, essays, research papers, letters, emails, and other works?  Yes. Even a research paper on what frogs eat has traces of you in the words, phrases, facts, and ideas you include–all of which make your writing unique.  



16. I have to write because if I don’t get something down then after a while I feel it’s going to bang the side of my head off. ― Terry Pratchett

Do you ever have too much information or too many ideas jumbling around in your brain and feel like there has to be a way to release them?  Terry Pratchett’s quote encapsulates this concept.  There comes a point where whatever you have inside of you needs to come out or it will drive you insane.  Is it too many ideas for a story or essay or evidence and analysis fact for a research paper?  Get it onto paper, and write.  You’ll compose something instead of stressing over what you think. 

Terry Pratchett quote


 17. Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. ― Stephen King

We think of writing as something for only “gifted people.”  It’s a myth.  Any natural talent for writing is nothing without dedication and practice.  And for those of us who feel they lack “the gift of writing,”  they do not.  Read, study, and write.  Your persistence will pay off more. 


18. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ― T. S. Eliot

This T.S. Eliot quote, speaks to me. I’m a natural “rule follower,” but there’s a flaw in that philosophy.  Even we don’t test barriers and rules they will never know what is on the other side, and what can be made better.  Poets and artists do this better than anyone else, but we can apply it too.  First, learn the rules and norms for genres.  Then stretch them, try new things, and go beyond boundaries–you just may create the next big thing. 


19. The most difficult and complicated part of the writing process is the beginning.

― A. B. Yehoshua

Why is beginning a piece of writing so hard?  Is it not knowing what to write about, not feeling motivated, or doubting ourselves?  I’m not sure, but A.B. Yehoshua is right that getting started is challenging.  There are things you can do to make it easier, like using brainstorming and prewriting to help you generate ideas.   Another strategy that takes some of the stress and angst about writing is to turn it into a daily habit.  If you want to learn about creating and keeping habits, check out my blog post, https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/a-comprehensive-tutorial-on-how-to-create-effective-study-habits/.

Those ideas will help you, but there isn’t a quick fix, The first step in the writing process only gets easier the more you write.  In the meantime know that you’re not alone in your struggle.



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

Yes.  I’m including another E.L. Doctorow quotation because it’s that good.   Like Doctorow, Dostoevsky, Chopin, Woolf, and other famous authors, we all start with zero words, and no direction.  We’re all adventurers into the unknown and we gain more knowledge, skill, and creativity as we go forward.  There are sharp turns, cliffs, and waves hurling at us–teaching us how to write that novel, biography, essay, poem, or article.  

Writing is an exploration-EL Doctorow




21.  Learning to write is not a linear process.  There is no logical A-to-B -to- C way to become a  good writer.  One neat truth about writing cannot answer it all.  There are many truths. To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life. ― Natalie Goldberg

My favorite writing book is  Natalie Goldberg’s,  Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.   In this book, she takes you through the practice of writing( writing daily).  It’s not a step-by-step manual to becoming a better writer; it’s a guide to growing as a writer.  This quote illustrates the way in which learning to write is unique.  The magic key to unlock your writing potential isn’t one thing–you discover several keys and insights as you continue to write.   Our writing grows out of the way we live and express ourselves in words.  



Which author’s words impress you?  Please comment below with your favorite inspirational author’s quote.