Great Writing Quotes–With Fabulous Commentary and Pics!

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~E.L. Doctorow

Although it worries my mother when I say I’m talking amongst myselves….

*Image of me writing surrounded by grandbabies.

“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”  ~Franz Kafka

Well that’s cheery, Franz, and why writers surround themselves with cats, keep pouring those heartening cups of coffee or hot tea, dive into chocolate, light candles, play our favorite music… sneak back online.  Again.

I especially like this quote:  “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~W. Somerset Maugham English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965)

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.”  ~Charles Peguy

 I compare capturing just the right word to netting butterflies before they soar away.  Words flee my thoughts just as swiftly if I don’t snag them.

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

Amen to this Sylvia.

Although I must add there’s a difference between courage and writing about the worst life has to offer and calling it art.

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  ~Toni Morrison

I actually do, do this in my writing.

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.”  ~Sharon O’Brien

This is true as long as I am writing what I WANT.  Not what I think may sell.  And considering my sales of late, I must be in the minority about what’s popular.

Publication – is the auction of the Mind of Man.”  ~Emily Dickinson

And it’s going too cheap these days.  Not all books can sell for .99 on kindle or be free.  Assuming the author wants to eat.

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”  ~Mark Twain

I love Mark Twain, who, BTW, is an ancestor on my father’s side.

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”  ~James Michener

I can and do rewrite interminably.

“The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.”  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Now, it’s the delete key on my laptop, but I remember the days of handwriting everything in ink and using whiteout until the pages were stiff with the stuff, then I’d crumple and throw until a pile accumulated around me and my faithful furry writing companions, both feline and canine.  As I write this there’s a small dog snoozing on one side, a large tabby purring under my arm and a playful kitten trying to get a rise out of someone.  To no avail.

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

Trust Wordsworth to come up with something  this lovely and poetic.  And to him I reply, I do!

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”  ~Vladimir Nabakov

What an optimist.  Face it, to most writers blank pages are scary.  Sit there leering at us and must be filled with something, anything, as fast as possible.  One can always edit something, but not nothing.

And similarly a quote by James Thurber: “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

He sure knew what he was talking about.

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air.  All I must do is find it, and copy it.”  ~Jules Renard, “Diary,” February 1895

Heck, I’ve got a number of those floating around.  Not terribly marketable in that form though.

A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.  ~Karl Kraus

Yes, there’s a lot of Yoda in writers.  We’re all striving to be Jedi’s.

“Size matters not.  Look at me.  Judge me by size, do you?” ~Yoda

“Do, or do not.  There is no try.” ~Yoda

And very apt for writing as well as training to be a Jedi.

“Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.” ~Jeb Dickerson,

*Mine too.

“I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”  ~Peter De Vries

Or all the promo he probably didn’t have to deal with.

“A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.” ~Mignon McLaughlinThe Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Ah yes, there are times I wonder if the reviewer read the same book I wrote.   Other times, I delight that they totally got my story.

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University

This could have been said of me who got a D in a college class called The Novel.

“Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.”  ~T.S. Eliot

“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.”  ~John Cheever

And all that other good stuff, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling…the five senses.  I also like to include the sixth.

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”  ~Elmore Leonard

Oh gosh, me too.  Most people are probably skipping this post.

Write down the thoughts of the moment.  Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.  ~Francis Bacon

And this, dear readers, is the essence of my writing.  I am not a PLOTTER.

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

“Writer’s block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite.”  ~Terri Guillemets

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

“A good style should show no signs of effort.  What is written should seem a happy accident.” ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938

With these quotes I am in utter agreement.

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.”
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

I suppose it’s sour grapes to point out that Carroll was an opium addict.  However, opium alone cannot make you brilliant so I still have to give him that.

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”  ~Lord Byron

Many writers are slightly mad.  I have a theory about writers, those who are on medication and those who should be.  I am.

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Emerson.  And to this I say, let’s steal them back.

“What no wife (*spouse) of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.”  ~Burton Rascoe

I spend a great deal of my writing in these sorts of thinking times.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”  ~Agatha Christie

Which also ties into the above quote, those vital pondering moments.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”  ~Saul Bellow

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.”  ~Sinclair Lewis

And to all fellow writers I say, may the muse be with you.  And where would we be without the story tellers?  Now go snag those butterflies!

19 responses to “Great Writing Quotes–With Fabulous Commentary and Pics!

  1. Beth, once again you enchanted me. I love writing and life quotes. Thanks for sharing. You are one of the great writers. I hope you let your former professor know how wonderful your books are. Success is the best revenge.


    • Thanks Caroline. 🙂 The really funny thing about that is my father was also an English prof at the college at that time, so awkward for them. Strangely enough I didn’t care because he introduced me to the wonderful world of classic novels. After that, I read everything my father had on his prolific book shelves. And trust me, as that professor is still living, my proud father has no doubt let him know of my success.


  2. Very enjoyable post. And darling photo of you and the grandkids!


  3. What a great post, Beth! I have to agree with you about the sales. But who can compete with all those 99 cent books out there! And promo is still my least favorite part of writing. But like Lord Byron, I have to write. I may not go mad, but I’ll be a very unhappy person. I think that’s exactly why my husband puts up with all my hours spent writing. lol


    • Exactly, Susan. And it’s cheaper and more satisfying than therapy. I should know. And the best advice I received years ago from a therapist was to find what it was I truly wanted to do and give myself permission to do it. I guess you know what that is.


  4. Oh, very cool post, Beth. And I LOVE that pic at the top. *grins* What a perfect way to write!

    I’d say my very quote here is “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 am indeed my own worst enemy with self-doubt.

    Very neat that you’re related to Twain. My son’s related to Robert Frost. 🙂


  5. Wonderful post, Beth. Inspiring and reflective. The quotes and photos are lovely too. I think as writers we don’t always know why we write. We just do.


  6. A fun post. I love your pictures with the children. For me, the best time to plot a new book is when I walk or drive.


  7. Great quotes and oh so true! Love the pic of you in bed with the grand-kids. Adorable.


  8. A facebook link from GRRWA sent me over here. Great post! I loved the quotes and your take on them.

    Here’s my favorite quote: “A writer is someone who is mean to her imaginary friends.”


  9. Pingback: On writing « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

  10. Love your books, love your site! The quotes here are priceless!


  11. Pingback: Enrique Jardiel Poncela: On writing – Quite a Quote!

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