20 Inspirational Writing Quotes
All writers suffer through periods of writer's block and lack of motivation; it comes with the territory. Luckily, there’s a fool proof way to overcome these boundaries; inspirational writing quotes! Below I’ve listed 20 of my favourite writing quotes that always get me inspired and excited to write!
1. "If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter." Dan Poynter.
For those who have to wait for their 'muse' to speak to them or have to be in the middle of a forest or hanging upside down from a cliff before they can start writing, this is a great wake up call. Sure, it’s nice to be hit with a sudden bolt of inspiration and know exactly what you want to write and exactly how you want to write it, but it’s also extremely rare. Personally, I find that the moment when inspiration is most likely to strike me is when I’m already writing. Be a writer, not a waiter (I don’t mean someone who serves tables. Absolutely be that kind of waiter if you want to).
2. "Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips." M J Bush.
This is a great quote from M J Bush about the importance of immersing yourself in what you’re writing. If you’ve only got one eye on your story and the other is fixated on some problem you have at school or work or the latest drama circling amongst your group of friends, the words aren’t going to come easily and your scene isn’t going to feel realistic. If you want the reader to be fixated on your book, you have to be fixated too.
3. "Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little." Holley Gerth.
When writing, it can be easy to try and steer clear of controversial subjects for fear that readers will be offended and set your book aside. But if you think about it, have you ever read a really good book that didn’t challenge your personal outlook in someway? I’d be surprised if you had. The best writers don’t get hung up on how their audiences will react to a certain theme or character; they write what feels right, even if it’s a little scary.
4. "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic." J. K. Rowling.
J.K. Rowling’s success is an inspiration in itself to writers across the globe, but this quote from her is something special on its own. If you think about it, writers are real-life magicians; they create worlds from nothing. They can make you feel like you’re flying, falling, fighting, hurting and winning right along with their characters, all with a few words. If that’s not enough to get you writing your heart out, then I don’t know what is.
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5. "A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist." Vladimir Nabokov
Being both an avid writer and a student of science, this one really speaks to me. Many people’s instinct would be to switch around the adjectives in this quote— the imagination of the poet and the precision of the scientist, but in reality science is all about imagination and poetry relies on precise, careful use of language. People seem to like defining themselves as being either 'arty' people or 'sciencey' people, and fail to realise that art and science have more similarities than differences. If you’re a maths person, don’t get discouraged when self proclaimed 'artists' tell you that you can’t be a writer!
6. "You fail only if you stop writing." Ray Bradbury.
This quote, from Ray Bradbury himself, is a great one for those times where every sentence you write just seems to sound wrong, your prose is all over the place and you cant quite figure out where your story is going to go next. It can feel like you’ve failed if you’re struggling to get words down, but remember that the only way to fail is to stop trying!
7. "A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit." Richard Bach.
This is a simple and perhaps obvious quote, but it’s also incredibly heartening. All of your favourite writers were once amateurs just like you. The only thing separating you from them is a few years of experience and a whole lot of persistence.
8. "A book is a dream you hold in your hand." Neil Gaiman.
When you’re alone writing at your desk (or in bed, or on a couch, or in a dark and ominous basement) it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture. This quote is great for giving you a sense of perspective; you’re writing in an attempt to produce a dream in solid form— a little piece of magic that you can share with the world.
9. "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov.
Show versus tell is a contested idea amongst some writers, but regardless of your stance the quote should speak to you. "The glint of light on broken glass?" Yes. Write like that!
10. "Don’t forget— no one else sees the word the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories you have to tell." Charles de Lint.
In popular genres like YA and crime fiction it can feel like everything that could possibly be said already has been, and that any idea you come up with will have been done before. While it’s true that finding a truly unique concept is difficult, this quote is a great reminder that even if zombie apocalypses have been written about a million times, no one’s written your zombie apocalypse yet.
11. "This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard." Neil Gaiman.
Between people shouting advice left write and centre, confusing grammar conventions and the hellish quagmire that we call the publishing industry, it’s easy to forget what writing actually is. Twenty six letters arranged in different ways, with a smattering of punctuation marks and spaces here and there. That’s it— impossibly simple, and at the same time infinitely complicated.
12. "Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way." Ray Bradbury.
This is one of my personal favourites from Ray Bradbury. It can be easy to get hung up on little details when writing, and when that happens you can find your natural creative flow gets blocked up by that little voice in your head telling you that what you’re writing is terrible, or reminding you of that scene three chapters ago that you need to rewrite. If you push that voice away you’ll find that intuition takes over and the words will flow much more easily.
13. "The first draft of anything is sh**." Ernest Hemingway.
In his typical style, foul-mouthed genius Ernest Hemingway makes a good point in this short, succinct quote. Despairing over the quality of your first draft is a waste of time; you’d be better to spend the energy picking it apart to figure out where improvements can be made. And hey, if you’re sitting with the first draft of your manuscript in your lap, try focusing less on the grammatical mistakes and more on the fact that you just wrote a book?! Maybe not a fully complete one, but still.
14. "The writer is by nature a dreamer— a conscious dreamer." Carson McCullers.
The fact that writers are dreamers isn’t particularly new or inspiring, but I like the addition of 'conscious' to the title. A 'conscious dreamer' is very different from a plain old dreamer— they utilise their dreaming for something positive and productive. I think this is a very apt description of what a writer does.
15. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow.
This quote can be applied to both 'plotters’ and 'pantsers' alike, because no matter your writing method we all start from nothing and build a story as we go. Whether we do that in an outline first or jump straight into writing is inconsequential.
16. "A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." Franz Kafka.
Sometimes I don’t understand how self-proclaimed writers can go years or more without writing a single word. I start to go a little crazy within a few weeks of not working on one of my various projects. It’s why a writer never really retires, and why some consider writing to be more of a lifestyle than a job. Writers are always writing, whether it’s in their heads or on paper. A non-writing writer is an oxymoron to end all oxymorons, and someone that I’d certainly be concerned about the sanity of.
17. "Write hard and clear about what hurts." Ernest Hemingway.
Another short, snappy quote from Hemingway. This one made it on my top 20 list because it’s incredibly straightforward but still manages to be both poetic and inspirational. Writing about something that hurts is difficult at the best of times, but if you want your writing to come across as being honest and powerful it’s the only way forwards.
18. "If a story is in you, it has got to come out." William Faulkner.
This quote aways makes me chuckle a little, though I’m not entirely sure why. Something about the phrasing makes the 'story in you' seem like some kind of cancerous tumour that has 'got to come out' before it kills you. In a strange way, this interpretation sort of makes sense. An untold story rattling around in your brain will kill you slowly; it’ll sap your concentration and creativity and eventually you’ll find that you can’t think about anything else but it. Do yourself a favour and get the story out, even if it’s just on a sticky note or a document on your phone.
19. "It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s the fear of not writing well; something quite different." Scott Berkun.
This is a great quote for those who suffer from writer’s block. It may be that your inability to put words on the page doesn’t actually come from a lack of creativity or inspiration, but rather a subconscious unwillingness to write anything that isn’t absolutely perfect. This happens to me every now and then, and it really helps to remember that I can always go back and change something that I don’t like later. Unless you’re using some kind of ancient non-erasable typewriter, nothing that you write is ever really set in stone. Besides, if every sentence that you write is absolutely perfect, there isn’t going to be anything for your editing self to do later!
20. "The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday." David Schlosser.
Writers are somewhat sensitive, self-conscious creatures by nature. As such, we like to compare ourselves to others, which can be incredibly disheartening. Yes, you might never get your prose up to Shakespearean standards and you might never achieve Rowling’s success. The important thing is to realise that your prose is a little bit better today than it was yesterday, and that your second book is a little bit better than your first. All that really matters is that your skills are on an upward trajectory.
And there we have it; 20 of the best inspirational writing quotes that'll get you off social media and back at your writing desk again. If you have a favourite quote that I've neglected to include share it in the comments below and we can extend the list together!
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© 2018 K S Lane