Writing Quotes by Famous Authors

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Writing Quotes from Famous AuthorsWriters on writing: 21 tips to inspire your prose and poetry

Are you in need of some big inspiration from masters of verse and fiction? Well sit down and read one of their books! ; )

If you’re just looking for a little boost, though — here are some short quotes* about the writing process that might help you out of a creative jam:

1. “First thought is best in Art, second in other matters.” — William Blake

2. “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” — Kurt Vonnegut

3. “Only bad writers think that their work is really good.” — Anne Enright

4. “…What quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature? …Negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” — John Keats

5. “I don’t want you to write about what you know, because you don’t know anything. I don’t want to hear about your boyfriend or your grandma… I’m getting a little tired of ‘my life story as fiction’. Please don’t tell me about your little life — is there nothing larger? More important?” — Toni Morrison

6. “Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created — nothing.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

7. “Form is never more than an extension of content.” — Robert Creeley

8.The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.”  Ernest Hemingway

9. “Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb. You know the ones: Was, did, had, made, went, looked… One-size-fits-all looks like crap on anyone. Sew yourself a custom made suit. Pick a better verb. Challenge all those verbs to really lift some weight for you.” — Janet Fitch

10. “The natural object is always the adequate symbol.” — Ezra Pound

11. “Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.” — Henry Miller

12. “Details are the Life of Prose.” — Jack Kerouac

13. “The solution to a problem — a story that you are unable to finish — is the problem. It isn’t as if the problem is one thing and the solution something else. The problem, properly understood = the solution. Instead of trying to hide or efface what limits the story, capitalize on that very limitation. State it, rail against it.” — Susan Sontag

14. “If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.” — John Steinbeck

15. “Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.” — Helen Dunmore

16. “I suspect that all the agony that goes into writing is borne precisely because the writer longs for acceptance—but it must be acceptance on his own terms.” — Ralph Ellison

17. “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” — Zadie Smith

18. “Compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.” — Ezra Pound

19. “(The) muse appears at the point in my writing when I sense a subtle shift, a nudge to move over, and everything cracks open, the writing is freed, the lanuage is full, resources are plentiful, ideas pour forth, and to be frank, some of these ideas surprise me. It seems as thought the universe is my friend and is helping me write, its hand over mine.” — Amy Tan

20. “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.” — Ernest Hemingway 

21. “You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.” — Margaret Atwood

How about you? What are your best bits of advice about writing? I’d love to hear ’em in the comments section below.

[* I pulled most of these quotes from various places online, so I can’t confirm they’re all verbatim, or even accurately attributed.]

Need more inspiration? Check out our previous post “Cool Quotes for Writers on Books, Reading & Writing.”

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[Typewriter image from Shutterstock.]

Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

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