You Tell Us–What Are Your Favorite Writing Quotes?

Hi all, it’s Julie! Today I want to share some of my favorite quotes about writing, and invite YOU to share your favorites, too. I love a great quote–especially if it’s a real truism about writing–and I love to learn what quotes other people admire. So please read on, and share your own in the comments. (And please don’t feel too restricted by the “about writing” part of this. Arguably, some of these–especially the one by JK Rowling–are about “life” as much as they are about anything else.)

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” ~J.K. Rowling



“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ~Virginia Woolf

“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” ~Virginia Woolf


“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L’Engle



“With my writing, what I want to do is humanize the young people I write about.” ~Walter Dean Myers

“I keep threatening to keep a formal journal, but whenever I start one it instantly becomes an exercise in self-consciousness. Instead of a journal I manage to have dozens of notebooks with bits and pieces of stories, poems, and notes. Almost every thing I do has its beginning in a notebook of some sort, usually written on a bus or train.” ~Walter Dean Myers

So those are (some of) my favorite quotes on writing.  I hope you’ll share yours in the comments!

23 Responses to You Tell Us–What Are Your Favorite Writing Quotes?

  1. Hannah Feb 15 2017 at 9:19 am #

    “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
    –Good ol’ Joss Whedon

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 9:45 am #

      Ahhhh!!! This is a great one, Hannah, and one I truly believe in!
      Thanks for sharing! <3

      • Hannah Feb 15 2017 at 10:02 am #

        This is such a good idea – I flippin’ love writing quotes!

        • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 10:07 am #

          I love them too! I could have added more to the post, and I love reading others’ favorites!

          • Stacey Feb 15 2017 at 7:11 pm #

            I love this, Hannah!

  2. Julie Dao Feb 15 2017 at 9:58 am #

    “Writing requires more than anything else, tremendous discipline. At the end of the day, whilst there are times when it is wonderfully creative and fun, a lot of the time it is just a job. And that means showing up whether you feel like it or not. It also means you write, whether you are inspired or not, and the only way to unlock your creativity is to start writing.” – Jane Green

    I saw this one on Pinterest!

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 10:04 am #

      I love this quote, Julie! I especially love “the only way to unlock your creativity is to start writing.” I think that’s so true. Waiting around for inspiration never worked for me haha. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Janice Hampton Feb 15 2017 at 10:30 am #

    “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” George Elliot

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 10:40 am #

      Oh my gosh I LOVE this one! (Especially since I didn’t start writing with the hope of publication until my 40s.) Thanks for sharing this–I think it will be a new favorite of mine. <3

  4. Linda W. Feb 15 2017 at 10:44 am #

    “The Brontes are a marvelous example of fictional knowledge, because they show so clearly the relative importance of imagination and experience. Patrick O’Brian is another. I don’t think he ever sailed in a three-master.” Ursula Le Guin (from this essay–

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks for sharing this gem, Linda! I love Ursula K Le Guin, and I love the Brontes, so this one is a real home run with me. 🙂 I also completely agree with her point on imagination vs experience. Thanks for sharing this and the link to the essay. I will definitely read it!

  5. E.C. Myers Feb 15 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    Here’s a long one I like, from Diana Wynne Jones on writing for kids vs. adults:

    “…I found myself thinking as I wrote, ‘These poor adults are never going to understand this; I must explain it to them twice more and then remind them again later in different terms.’ Now this is something I never have to think when I write for younger readers. Children are used to making an effort to understand. They are asked for this effort every hour of every school day and, though they may not make the effort willingly, they at least expect it. In addition, nearly everyone between the ages of nine and fifteen is amazingly good at solving puzzles and following complicated plots – this being the happy result of many hours spent at computer games and watching television. I can rely on this. I can make my plots for them as complex as I please, and yet I know I never have to explain them more than once (or twice at the very most). And here I was, writing for people of fifteen and over, assuming that the people who read, say, Fire and Hemlock last year have now given up using their brains.”

    Full essay:

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 4:17 pm #

      Wow, EC, this is great! I’m completely unfamiliar with this essay, so thanks for including the link. This also made me sit and think about the 9-15 year olds I know, and I agree that they are generally good at following a complex plot and solving puzzles. Certainly they are more willing to engage their brains than many adults I know haha. Thanks for sharing, and for the reminder of why it’s so rewarding to write for young people. 🙂

  6. Stacey Feb 15 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
    —Roald Dahl

    • Julie Feb 15 2017 at 7:20 pm #

      Stacey, this is one I will commit to memory! It’s a great reminder of the difference between writing to be loved and writing to be read. Thanks so much for sharing this! <3

  7. Deb Atwood Feb 19 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    This one from David Mitchell (Black Swan) makes me laugh: “If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin and say, ‘When you’re ready'”

    That about sums it up for me!

    • Julie Feb 19 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      I laughed out loud at this! It’s perfect, and it about sums it up for me, too. Thanks for sharing this gem! <3

  8. Robyn Feb 25 2017 at 11:49 am #

    One of my all time favourites is:

    “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~Ernest Hemingway

    Although we now have computers (which does, arguably, make typing easier), the act of getting words onto a page does sometimes feel like the act of actively bleeding as we give parts of ourselves that are often deep and personal.

    I use this when I’m talking about writing with my undergraduates, and it usually goes down quite well.

    • Julie Feb 26 2017 at 12:38 am #

      Thanks for sharing this great quote Robyn! I’m not surprised it goes over well with your students, and if they’re going to write, they should know what’s involved. 🙂

  9. Kristen Steele Mar 9 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” — Sylvia Plath

    • Julie Mar 9 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      This is such a great quote! I’ve never heard it before, but I definitely feel like it’s a truism all writers should keep in mind. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing it!

  10. Maria Mar 13 2017 at 10:07 pm #

    “So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come through from the air: the situations that seemed block in a hopeless impasse move forward…”
    Graham Greene, as the writer Maurice Bendrix, in The End of the Affair

    • Julie Mar 13 2017 at 10:52 pm #

      Hi Maria! Thanks so much for sharing this quote! I am ashamed to admit I’ve never read The End of the Affair, but it’s been on my TBR a long time. (And I think it just moved up a few notches on the list! :D)

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