8 of the Best Writing Quotes of All Time

Typewriter

I love quotes. I’m the person who writes quotes down on little scraps of paper and tapes them to the wall. And while I hate going through and sorting the endless paper stacks in my office, I love finding quotes tucked between bills and book outlines, meeting notes and client contracts.

Quotes are just…magical, somehow. I don’t know why. They’re just words, and yet they’re so much more than words. Maybe I love quotes for the very same reason I love reading and writing: Because they just speak to me…or something.

Anyway, since I’m a quote person, I figured I’d dig out some of those scraps of paper and put the quotes here, within my little sliver of cyberspace, to share with whoever finds them inspiring. Maybe that’s you. Or maybe you know a writer who could use some “writespiration” today.

So, here are my picks for eight of the best writing quotes of all time:

On the hard work that goes into being a writer:

“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.” – Harlan Ellison

And thoughts on writing as survival:

 “Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.” ― Don DeLillo

About the why of writing:

“I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Some kick-butt wisdom from the man himself:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

And another:

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

OK, one more (only because everyone knows On Writing is just about the best book—ahem—on writing there is):

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

On the power of writing in our lives, from one of my favorite books of all time:

“I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free. One day I will pack my bags of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away.” –Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Some thoughts on stories that must be told:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

What quote speaks to you? Please share—I’d love to gather more for my ever-growing list of all-time faves.

(Image courtesy Nana B Agyei | flikr)

6 Comments

  • Donna Cook Reply

    I don’t know about favorite quotes (favorites lists always give me brain freeze) but here’s a good one I found recently:

    “The real worst case scenario isn’t that you might write something bad–you have a recycling bin (real and virtual) that can and should overflow with bad writing. The worst case scenario is that you might write nothing at all.”
    –Mathew Henderson

  • Stacy Ennis Reply

    Wow, I love that one, Donna! Thanks for sharing. (And I feel you on the “favorites” thing. I know I forgot at least 40 “favorite” quotes in my list of eight.)

  • Nancy Buffington Reply

    I basically worship Anne Lamott, so one of my favorites is naturally from her:

    “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her.”

    from Bird by Bird

  • Robin Bethel Reply

    Oh my. I love quotes, too. 🙂 Here are some of my favorite on reading, writing, and story in general:

    “If you want to write fiction, write lavish, spiraling, strange prose: write prose that shows people the world in a way they’ve never seen it before.” -Anthony Doerr

    “Writing has to do with darkness, and a desire, perhaps a compulsion, to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and bring something back out into the light.” -Margaret Atwood

    “Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words.” –Virginia Woolf

    “Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? …We still and always want waking.” -Annie Dillard

    “In the midst of overwhelming noise and distraction, the voice of story is calling us to remember our true selves.” –Christina Baldwin

    “A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” -Kafka

    “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” -G.K. Chesterton

    “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” –William Wordsworth

    “Hovering over all the ruminations about literature and life that follow is the cosmic question of why so many of us feel compelled to go through life with our noses stuck in a book. I’d like to propose a resolutely earnest answer—all the years I devoted to reading the Victorian sages in graduate school have left their mark on my beliefs about literature. I think, consciously or not, what we readers do each time we open a book is to set off on a search for authenticity. We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting physical sensations, or, sometimes, profound epiphanies.” –Maureen Corrigan

  • Stacy Ennis Reply

    I love these quotes! Now, to choose which to put on my office wall…:-)

    Thanks for sharing these lovely inspirations.

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