I owe a great amount to other people’s words. I don’t think I would have given the idea of writing a novel much thought had it not been for Stephen King telling me (through his memoir, of course, and my dreams a little bit) to just start, write 2000 words a day, just sit down and write it all out and worry about dolling it up later.
Seeing how other writers have struggled with the process, overcome self-doubt, battled perfectionism, and formed their own writing rituals is helpful in those time when I’m down on my writing or fretful over the future. If you need a little help kicking self-doubt in the butt, here are 10 inspiring quotes on writing that will make you want to write — now!
1. Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. // E.L. Doctorow
One of my all-time favorite quotes right here because it’s a great reminder not to stack your concerns, but to focus on what’s in front of you. It’s too easy to become overwhelmed with all the problems your manuscript contains, and to want to jump ahead to fix them all at once. But if you take your story a sentence at a time, if you only see three feet in front of you the whole way, you’ll eventually reach the end — in this case, a completed story.
2. When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. // Kurt Vonnegut
Is this not the most relatable thing in the world? Sheesh, if one of the greatest writers of all time has that little confidence in himself when he writes, I don’t feel so bad approaching the process with a smidge of apprehension. It’s scary, pouring yourself onto a page, and it’s nice to know other writers recognize that.
3. You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. // Octavia E. Butler
I absolutely love this because it tells you that things get better if you put in the effort writing deserves. It’s so easy to become discouraged that your writing doesn’t compare to the literary greats or even your favorite YA authors. But if you keep reading and keep putting in the work on the page, you will improve. It’s like what Richard Bach said: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
4. When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. // Stephen King
Stephen King’s version of “murder your darlings,” and he’s right. It does hurt. But you have to remember that every word you put on the page should serve a purpose to the story, right down to the but‘s, at‘s and and‘s. If it a bit of description or a long, pretty word isn’t necessary, cut that sucker out.
5. Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers. // Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury makes writing fiction seem so easy with this quote. But it is that simple, isn’t it? Read to study the craft and write every day to practice it.
6. It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. // C. J. Cherryh
This quote took a load off my shoulders when I first read it. Books have to start somewhere, and that place, as Anne Lamott so delicately puts it, is almost always a “shitty first draft” (for us normal writers anyway). Own it. Then edit it.
7. First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him! // Ray Bradbury
Characters first! They will lead you down some interesting paths, but if you know them well they will never lead you astray. Plot bunnies usually come about when your logical brain starts doubting the guidance of your protagonist.
8. I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. // Erica Jong
One of the most frightening parts of writing is thinking someone will read it someday. Worse still, not like what you have written. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves with this fear and forget that we don’t write for the approval of others but because writing is stuck in us, because writing itself is the reward.
9. Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. // William Faulkner
Don’t sell yourself short. If you have stories inside you, get them onto the page no matter how they look or what they sound like. No one has to read them until you let them (but you should eventually let them).
10. The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. // Thomas Jefferson
A writer who uses more words than he ought is like a person who talks just to hear the sound of his own voice — and no one enjoys being around either.
NOW TELL ME // Did any of these resonate with you? What are some of your favorite quotes on writing? Tell me below!
photo by: Thought Catalog