I’m a slow writer. I could give George R.R. Martin a run (or, you know, crawl) for his money, I swear. I’m talking pouring molasses on a cold winter’s day slow. I’m talking hailing a cab on a rainy night in Times Square slow. I’m talking waiting for that Gilmore Girls revival series to drop on Netflix slow. I’m talking… well, you get the point. So when I tell you that one surefire way to get the creative juices flowing a little bit faster is to read some inspiring book quotes for writers, you can believe me.
I’m not kidding when I tell you I’m a sucker for a good book quote. I’ve got notebook after notebook of quotes I’ve jotted down from my favorite books, magazines, blogs, and TED Talks. I’ve got inspirational quotes for writers thumb-tacked up all over my office, and stuck to my fridge, and in a little box next to my bed, and scattered between the dollar bills in my wallet (ever tried paying for shoes with a book quote before?) I’m telling you, nothing beats the power of a good quote — especially for us writers, who are really just trying to compose some really good quotes ourselves, amirite?
Be sure you’ve got your trusty Moleskine and a freshly-sharpened writing utensil by your side, because here are 13 inspiring book quotes that every writer should read.
1. The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long, meandering walks. The days reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough
2. If you want a room to write in, just get a room. Don’t make a big production out of it. If it doesn’t leak, has a window, heat in the winter, then put in your desk, bookshelves, a soft chair, and start writing.
— Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
3. If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
4. You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
5. Here’s another thing: You are not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important. … I mean, it’s very kind of you to want to help people, but please don’t make it your sole creative motive, because we will feel the weight of your heavy intention, and it will put a strain upon our souls.
— Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
6. Don’t write so subtly or timidly — from fear of sentimentality or obviousness — that no one, not even the angels aflutter in the rafters, can hear the resonance.
— John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
7. There are no bad words, only bad ways to use good words.
— Alexandra Fuller, Leaving Before the Rains Come
8. I tell what some would call lies. "That’s simply not true," the members of my family frequently tell me when they come up against my memory of a shared event. Very likely they are right, for not only have I always had trouble distinguishing between what happened and what merely might have happened, but I remain unconvinced that the distinction, for my purposes, matters.
— Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
9. None of us can ever know the value of our lives, or how our separate and silent scribbling may add to the amenity of the world, if only by how radically it changes us, one and by one.
― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
10. The things that shape us as writers are the same as the things that shape us as people. All of it. All the experiences you have — or don’t have — are part of who you are and how you see the world. So live. Travel. Work. Love. Get angry. Figure out what makes you happy. Do all the stuff everyone else does.
— David Anthony Durham, Walk Through Darkness
11. Tragedies … are the main reason I decided to renounce conventional crime as a way of life so many, many years ago, and turn to the writing life.
— Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear
12. People who accept things as they are tend not to write books.
13. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and pencil.
— Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
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