Quotes for writers – getting past writer’s block

Quotes for writers on perseverance, inspiration and overcoming writer’s block

So, here I am, mind utterly blank, staring forlornly at a completely blank sheet of paper or as is the case here, screen, and hoping some ethereal entity will sprinkle pixie dust in my hair and get me writing. And damn it all, I just spoilt my pristine text pad with a row of pixellated characters.

*Ponders a moment*

Pixie / Pixellated? Maybe the Muse has struck? Yesss, I’m up and off, writing. And clearly you are reading this so I’m streets ahead.


Oh, I’m just waffling on? Well, yes, I guess I am. So, umm, no Muse?

Well, ain’t that the darnest thing. The muse never appeared after all and my screen is still filling with characters, forming words, sentences and ultimately pages. That’s how it goes. The Great Wall of China can be seen from space with the naked eye, yet began with some peasant digging a hole and laying the first foundation stone. I started with an empty head and pressed ‘S’

To be honest, as a writer I’m atrocious, I don’t need a muse as much as a really good kick up the backside – every day. I can sit and write three books in as many months* or I can go years in a fugue of depression, writing nothing. Starting to realise – at nearly 50 – that the longer I go without writing the worse my depression gets until I shake it off and type a few hundred more pages. That’s not all of it, obviously, but a factor. I ruminate too much and like many writers have too much stuff in my head. Mostly writing takes my mind off things, though some of the stuff that escapes is generally to dark to be published, even on a blog. The whole point is if you aren’t writing, even meandering chat like this, you’ll never be an author.
*(All unpublished it must be said, but still, I wrote them, I’m writing this, I’m working on a new book. How about you?)

Right, you are probably sick of me now, let’s hear quotes from better writers than I.

Blank sheets and writer’s block

“I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, “You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I’m not your agent and I’m not your mommy. I’m a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?” And I really, really don’t.”
~ Aaron Sorkin

“You can’t say, I won’t write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.”
~ Dorothy C. Fontana

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”
~ Philip Pullman

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”
~ Anne Tyler

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

“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing.”
~ David McCullough

Persistence, dedication and being proactive

“Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”
~ Norman Mailer

“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.”
~ E. L. Konigsburg

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
~ Richard Bach

“I rewrote the ending of ‘Farewell to Arms’ 39 times before I was satisfied.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
~ Katherine Mansfield

“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day… You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning…”
~ Walter Mosley

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.”
~ James Thurber

“Keep writing, because not only does practice improve skill, it gives you more chances to score on the market. I did that for eight years before making my first sale.”
~ Piers Anthony

“The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the word instead of being pulled by them.”
~ Raymond Chandler

“I’m much faster now. When you only have a certain amount of time to write, after a while you learn to use your time well or you stop writing.”
~ Alice Hoffman

“I like writing a lot more than I used to. I used to find it scary but now I’ve got used to it once it gets going. I used to find it hard to start. Fear of the blank page. The first thing you write down won’t bear any relation to what’s in your head and that’s always disappointing.”
~ Victoria Wood

“The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.”
~ Anne Tyler

“Someone who wants to write should make an effort to write a little something every day. Writing in this sense is the same as athletes who practice a sport every day to keep their skills honed.”
~ Anita Desai

“To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone – just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over…”
~ John Hersey

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
~ Mark Twain.

“Don’t get it right, Get it written, then get it right.”
~ Goren George Moberg

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
~ William Faulkner

“If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.”
~ Katerina Stoykova Klemer

“Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.”
~ Baltasar Gracian

“I get a lot of letters from people. They say “I want to be a writer. What should I do?” I tell them to stop writing to me and to get on with it.”
~ Ruth Rendell

“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

“There’ll come a writing phase where you have to defend the time, unplug the phone and put in the hours to get it done.”
~ James Taylor

“Eventually the bad stuff I’m writing turns into better stuff. Other times, I’ve just walked away from what I was working on, and figured I’d have a better perspective when I came back to it.”
~ Margaret Haddix

“If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages.”
~ William Campbell Gault

Muses and Inspiration

“Writing is total grunt work. A lot of people think it’s all about sitting and waiting for the muse. I don’t buy that. It’s a job. There are days when I really want to write, days when I don’t. Every day I sit down and write.”
~ Jodi Picoult

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
~ Jack London

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”
~ Lili St. Crow

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ … And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”
~ Maya Angelou

“The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”
~ Walter Mosley

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”
~ Norbet Platt

“The muscles of writing are not so visible, but they are just as powerful: determination, attention, curiosity, a passionate heart.”
~ Natalie Goldberg

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

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

“Moving around is good for creativity: the next line of dialogue that you desperately need may well be waiting in the back of the refrigerator or half a mile along your favorite walk.”
~ Will Shetterly

“Every piece of writing… starts from what I call a grit… a sight or sound, a sentence or happening that does not pass away… but quite inexplicably lodges in the mind.”
~ Rumer Godden

“If you’re actually allowing your creative part to control your writing rather than a more commercial instinct or motive, then you’ll find that all sorts of interesting things will bubble up to the surface.”
~ Emma Thompson

“Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk.”
~ unknown

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