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15 Writers on Writing

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Image via NYPL Digital Collections, ID 1685591

Only writers know the exquisite struggle that is writing. It can be grueling, tedious, and frustrating, but when those sweet moments of triumph and inspiration happen—the perfect word, or a character blossoming into existence—you know it’s all worth the struggle. Whether you’re writing the next War and Peace or just trying to think up the Next Great Tweet, here are a few writers’ quotes on writing to get you through it:

1. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.”—Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin

2. "You know that fiction, prose rather, is possibly the roughest trade of all in writing. You do not have the reference, the old important reference. You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true. You have to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and also have it seem normal and so that it can become a part of experience of the person who reads it." —Ernest Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917–1961

3. "A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art." —Jorge Luis Borges, Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems : Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983

4. "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair — the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." —Stephen King , On Writing

5. “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.” —Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer

6. "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." —George Orwell, Why I Write

7. “People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.” —R.L. Stine, Writer's Digest Nov/Dec 2011

8. “Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me’.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, The New Yorker

9. “Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.” —Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

10. You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it." —Neil Gaiman. Where do you get your ideas? Essay. (1997)

11. “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” —E. L. Doctorow,  The New York Times (20 October 1985)

12. "Perhaps it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself 'Why?' afterward than before. Anyway, the force of somewhere in space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded." —Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

13. "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." —Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades

14. "Writers take words seriously — perhaps the last professional class that does — and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader." —John UpdikeThe New York Times (17 August 1986)

15. "The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps." —Robert Benchley, quoted by James Thurber in The Bermudian (November 1950)

Comment with your favorite writer's quote on writing below!

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Superbb !!!

Superbb !!! Fabulus collection of quotes. Thanks a lot for this...

writers on writing

Adoration for the words of these writers and inspiration for the potential in all readers.

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