motivational quotes for writers

Very short blog today… when you read this, I’ll probably be flying home from the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee, which is just a fantastic book festival–extremely well-attended. (The volunteers estimate an attendance over the weekend of 25K-30K.) If you ever contemplate attending a book festival and want to try to find a good one? Get thee to this festival, because it rocks.

Our panel was a lot of fun (hosted by the wonderful JB Thompson, moderated by the very talented Tasha Alexander, with terrific and amazing writers J.T. Ellison, Marcus Sakey, and Derek Nikatas), and our subject essentially boiled down to writing advice for various stages of publication, from writing the book to getting through the publishing process. It was a kick for me to hear the other writers’ advice on different subjects–I think no matter where we are in this game, there are always insights and encouragement to be gained from listening to another writer’s journey. Sometimes it’s just nice to know others have gone through the craziness that we go through.

I don’t know if we’ve done this here in a while at Murderati, but I’d love to open the floor to hear what your favorite writing or publishing advice / motivational quote is. I’ll start off with three favorites:

"Write the book you want to read but can’t find." (?)

"One of the perks of being a writer: you can actually kill all the assholes." (Jenny Crusie)

"You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death." (William Goldman)

I could use a little inspiration as I’m on the home stretch of a polish… so… what are your favorite quotes / advice?

15 thoughts on “motivational quotes for writers

  1. billie

    I don’t know if this is helpful but it makes me laugh:

    I have a bulletin board in front of my desk (that I never work at, but still..) that has tons of inspirational cards/photos/quotes etc.

    On one side is a card that says:Relax or perish.

    On the other:Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.

    In brief, the paradox of my life. πŸ™‚

  2. JT Ellison

    I second the recommendation of Southern Festival. It’s a fun, low-key, well run event.

    My favorite quote was apiece of advice from Stuart Woods, which boils down to “You create the rules, page by page.” A helpful reminder that we are in control.

    Great to see you, Toni! Hope you got home safe and are getting some rest!

  3. pari

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

    All sorts of wonderful things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

    William Hutchinson MurrayScottish Himalayan Expedition

  4. Josephine Damian

    Well, I have an entire blog devote to writing quotes:

    A new favorite is the one I just posted by Flannery O’Connor: “I want to write like a child draws.”

    Here’s some other faves that are not on the blog:

    “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” Ernest Hemingway

    “One hasn’t become a writer until one has distilled writing into a habit, and that habit has been forced into an obsession. Writing has to be an obsession. It has to be something as organic, physiological and psychological as speaking or sleeping or eating.” Niyi Osundare

    “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.” Kingsley Amis

    “The purpose of writing is to make your mother and father drop dead with shame.”J P Donleavy

    “The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”Carl Gustav Jung

    “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.” Orson Scott Card

    “One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work.” Gloria Naylor

    Ok. I’ll stop now….

  5. Louise Ure

    “In order to write a story, you have to trust yourself, you have to trust the story, and you have to trust the reader.”

    -Urusla LeGuin

  6. toni mcgee causey

    Billie, that’s very funny, that dichotomy. And so perfect.

    Jacky–I love that Elmore Leonard quote–so glad you put it up here. (I’d forgotten about it and now will have it posted where I’m reminded.)

    Josephine–wow, what a terrific site! I love how you paired various works of art with the quotes. I’m definitely bookmarking that one for constant revisit.

    J.T. that’s a great quote. And it’s so true — we have to make the rules that work for us individually. It was great to see you and I had a blast. (Happy to be home again, though.)

    Pari & Louise — I’d never seen either one of those. I love that they’re both essentially about trusting oneself, because ultimately, that’s what a writer has to do.

  7. d.a.davenport

    Here are a few of my favorites:

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

    Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

    The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it. ~Ernest Hemingway, interview in Paris Review, Spring 1958

    The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book. ~Walt Whitman

  8. J.D. Rhoades

    “I have had it with writers who talk about how painful and harrowing and exhausting and almost impossible it is for them to put words on paper and how they pace a hole in the carpet, anguish writ large on their marshmallow faces, and feel lucky to have written an entire sentence or two by the end of the day.

    It’s the purest form of arrogance: Lest you don’t notice what a brilliant artist I am, let me tell you how I agonize over my work. To which I say: Get a job. Try teaching eighth-grade English, five classes a day, 35 kids in a class, from September to June, and then tell us about suffering.

    The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.”

    Garrison Keillor

  9. Mark Terry

    I suppose I have two:

    “Success is a journey, not a destination.”–Anonymous

    And one for all aspiring novelists:

    “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”–Every writer who’s ever been published.

  10. Sean Lindsay

    My current favourite:

    “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.” — Mark Twain

  11. toni mcgee causey

    These were all great — Dusty, that one by GK is especially brilliant. I enjoy those Twain quotes aPW and Sean (now there is a man I’d have enjoyed observing in a room) and Mark, we’d all do well to remember the one about journey/success. DA, that Chekov quote should be handed out to every aspiring writer–it’s the most succinct writing lesson.

  12. Amy Andrews

    Love the Checkov quote – I have that on a mug somewhere.

    This one helped a lot in my early writing years. Not sure who said it – think it may just have been from an article on writing 101.”Give your hero a flaw and your bad guy a soft spot.”

    Simple but goes to the very essence of character.


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