Colin Dunbar

111 Quotes About Writing and Books

quotes about writing

quotes about writing

If you are anything like me, you enjoy reading quotes by the masters. Here are 111 quotes about writing and books, to inspire, encourage, or just give you a chuckle.


“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher (106–43 B.C.)

“Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.” – Horace Mann, American educational reformer (1796–1859)

“Do not write so that you can be understood; write so that you can- not be misunderstood.” – Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher (55–135)

“Words are the small change of thought.” – John Keats, English Romantic poet (1795–1821)

“Authorship is not a trade, it is an inspiration; authorship does not keep an office, its habitation is all out under the sky, and every- where the winds are blowing and the sun is shining and the creatures of God are free.” – Mark Twain, American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer (1835–1910)

“I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet, and philosopher (1817–1862)

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” – William Shakespeare, English poet, playwright, and actor (1564–1616)

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson, American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and architect (1743–1826)

“The end of a novel, like the end of a children’s dinner-party, must be made up of sweetmeats and sugar-plums.” – Anthony Trollope, English novelist of the Victorian era (1815–1882)

“It is not study alone that produces a writer; it is intensity.” – Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, English writer and politician (1803–1873)

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King, American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels (b. 1947) Click To Tweet

“Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors.” – Joseph Addison, English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician (1672–1719)

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” – Theodore Roosevelt, American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer (1858–1919)

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King, American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels (b. 1947)

“Writing for me is a kind of compulsion, so I don’t think anyone could have made me do it, or prevented me from doing it.” – JK Rowling, British novelist, screenwriter, producer, and philanthropist (B. 1965)

“If something in your writing gives support to people in their lives, that’s more than just entertainment-which is what we writers all struggle to do, to touch people.” – Dean Koontz American author (b. 1945)

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.” – Dean Koontz, American author (b. 1945)

“It takes time, focus, and dedication to achieve great things.” – Chris Fox, American science fiction and fantasy author (b. 1965)

“I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.” – JK Rowling, British novelist, screenwriter, producer, and philanthropist (b. 1965)

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King, American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels (b. 1947)

“But once an idea for a novel seizes a writer…well, it’s like an inner fire that at first warms you and makes you feel good but then begins to eat you alive, burn you up from within. You can’t just walk away from the fire; it keeps burning. The only way to put it out is to write the book.” – Dean Koontz, American author (b. 1945)

"All a writer needs is talent and ink." – JK Rowling Click To Tweet

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” – Stephen King

“It’s our job – as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles – to find books our kids are going to like. – James Patterson, American author and philanthropist (b. 1947)

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright and short-story writer (1860 – 1904)

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou, American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist (1928 – 2014)

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia E. Butler, African-American science fiction author (1947 – 2006)

“Ultimately, a great thriller is a roller coaster ride. I like to think that’s a promise I have never failed to keep, and one that I’d say has served my books well.” –  James Patterson, American author and philanthropist (b. 1947)

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour, American novelist and short-story writer (1908 – 1988)

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach, American writer (b. 1936)

“From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” – Winston Churchill, British politician, army officer, and writer (1874 – 1965)

“I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.” – Steven Wright, American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and film producer (b. 1955)

"If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers." – Irvin S. Cobb, American author, humorist, editor and columnist (1876 – 1944) Click To Tweet

“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 get on with it.” – Ruth Rendell, English author of thrillers and psychological murder mysteries (1930 – 2015)

“Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write.” – Norman Mailer, American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, actor, and liberal political activist (1923 – 2007)

“Learn to write. Never mind the damn statistics. If you like statistics, become a CPA.” – Jim Murray, English writer journalist, and a well-known whisky critic (b. 1957)

“The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.” – S.J. Perelman, American humorist and screenwriter (1904 – 1979)

“10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.” – Brian Clark, British playwright and television writer (b. 1932)

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult, American writer (b. 1966)

“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.” – Kurt Vonnegut, American writer (1922 – 2007)

“The deepest quality of a work of art will always be the quality of the mind of the producer. . . No good novel will ever proceed from a superficial mind.” – Henry James, American-British author (1843–1916)

“He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet (1803–1882)

“Nothing gives an author so much pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by other learned authors.” – Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." – Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist (b. 1939) Click To Tweet

“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” – Burton Rascoe, American journalist, editor and literary critic (1892 – 1957)

“Every asshole in the world wants to write.” – Judith Rossner, American novelist (1935 – 2005)

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

“I write books to find out about things.” – Rebecca West, British author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer (1892 – 1983)

“I am often asked why I write, and I don’t know really – I just want to.” – John Ashbery, American poet (1927 – 2017)

“Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write.” – Norman Mailer, American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, actor, and liberal political activist (1923 – 2007)

“I am convinced that all writers are optimists whether they concede the point or not … How otherwise could any human being sit down to a pile of blank sheets and decide to write, say two hundred thousand words on a given theme?” – Thomas Costain, Canadian-American journalist (1885 – 1965)

“Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting.” – Pete Hamill, American journalist, novelist, essayist, editor and educator (b. 1935)

“Writing doesn’t get easier with experience. The more you know, the harder it is to write.” – Tim O’Brien, American novelist (b. 1946)

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” – James Michener, American author (1907 – 1997)

"I hate writing. I will do anything to avoid it. The only way I could write less was if I was dead." – Fran Lebowitz, American author, public speaker, and occasional actor (b. 1950) Click To Tweet

“When I stepped from hard manual work to writing, I just stepped from one kind of hard work to another.” – Sean O’Casey, Irish dramatist and memoirist (1880 – 1964)

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” – Robert Benchley, American humorist (1889 – 1945)

“In science there is a dictum: don’t add an experiment to an experiment. Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated. In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don’t ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story.” – Ben Bova, American writer (b. 1932)

“Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.” – Ray Bradbury, American author and screenwriter (1920 – 2012)

“If you have other things in your life — family, friends, good productive day work — these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin, American scientist and author (b. 1950)

“I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs, American fiction writer (1875 – 1950)

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card, American novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist, and columnist (b. 1951)

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.” – C. J. Cherryh, American writer of speculative fiction (b. 1942)

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it…” – Michael Crichton, American author, screenwriter, and film director (1942 – 2008)

“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” – Peter de Vries, American editor and novelist (1920 – 1993)

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." – Gene Fowler, American journalist, author, and dramatist (1890 – 1960) Click To Tweet

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E. L. Doctorow, American novelist, editor, and professor (1931 – 2015)

“Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you — as if you haven’t been told a million times already — that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.” – Harlan Ellison, American writer (1934 – 2018)

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.” – Christopher Hampton, British playwright, screenwriter, translator and film director (b. 1946)

“Easy writing makes hard reading.” – Ernest Hemingway

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

“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, American writer and journalist (1914 – 1993)

“Only a person with a Best Seller mind can write Best Sellers.” – Aldous Huxley, English writer and philosopher (1894 – 1963)

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” – Eugene Ionesco, Romanian-French playwright (1909 – 1994)

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.” – Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer (b. 1954)

“You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer…” – Stephen Leigh, American science fiction and fantasy writer, artist, and musician (b. 1951)

"Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending." – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet and educator (1807 – 1882) Click To Tweet

“Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.” – Anne McCaffrey, American-born writer who emigrated to Ireland (1926 – 2011)

“All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary — it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.” – Somerset Maugham, English playwright, novelist, and short story writer (1874 – 1965)

“A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down… If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and playwright (1892 – 1950)

“When you take stuff from one writer, it’s plagiarism; but when you take it from many writers, it’s research.” – William Mizner, American playwright, raconteur, and entrepreneur (1876 – 1933)

“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.” – Larry Niven, American science fiction writer (b. 1938)

“Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.” – Jules Renard, French author (1864 – 1910)

“The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.” – Socrates, Greek philosopher (470 – 399 BCE)

“By writing much, one learns to write well.” – Robert Southey, English poet (1774 – 1843)

“The only way to learn to write is to write.” – Peggy Teeters

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” – Jane Yolen, American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books (b. 1939)

"There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." – Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965) Click To Tweet

“Another excellent way of not writing is to update your website. There are so many parts of it that need attention now – the last three novels are lacking summaries, the audio-visual is out of date and so on.” – Sebastian Faulks, English novelist, journalist and broadcaster (b. 1953)

“A writer is someone who writes, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.” – Gore Vidal, American writer and public intellectual (1925 – 2012)

“My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.” – George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist (1856 – 1950)

“A writer’s problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes part of the experience of the person who reads it.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Books give not wisdom where was none before, But where some is, there reading makes it more.” – John Harington, English courtier, author and translator (1561 – 1612)

“Easy reading is damned hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist, dark romantic, and short story writer (1804 – 1864)

“When you read a biography, remember that the truth is never fit for publication.” – George Bernard Shaw

“A writer needs three things, experience, observation and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” – William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate (1897 – 1962)

“To make a book is as much a trade as to make a clock; something more than intelligence is required to make an author.” – Jean de la Bruyére, French philosopher and moralist, who was noted for his satire (1645 – 1696)

“Writing doesn’t require drive. It’s like saying a chicken has to have drive to lay an egg. – John Updike, American novelist, poet, short-story writer, art critic, and literary critic (1932 – 2009)

"Talent is a matter of quantity: talent doesn't write one page, it writes three hundred." – Jules Renard, French author (1864 – 1910) Click To Tweet

“I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.” – Ernest Hemingway, American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and sportsman (1899 – 1961)

“It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs.” – Gerald Brenan, British writer and hispanist (1894 – 1987)

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” – William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate who wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play (1897 – 1962)

“The actual process of writing … demands complete, noiseless privacy, without even music; a baby howling two blocks away will drive me nuts.” – William Styron, American novelist and essayist (1925 – 2006)

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit -detector.” – Ernest Hemingway American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and sportsman (1899 – 1961)

“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.” – Irwin Shaw, American playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and short-story author (1913 – 1984)

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler, American journalist, author, and dramatist (1890 – 1960)

“I never desire to converse with a man who has written more books than he has read.” – Samuel Johnson, English writer (1709 – 1784)

“On the whole, I don’t want to think too much about why I write what I write. If I know what I’m doing … I can’t do it.” – Joan Didion, American essayist (b. 1934)

"We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to." – Somerset Maugham, English playwright, novelist, and short story writer (1874 – 1965) Click To Tweet

“One man is as good as another until he has written a book.” – Benjamin Jowett, tutor and administrative reformer in the University of Oxford (1817–1893)

“Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.” – John Witherspoon, American actor and comedian (1723–1794)

“I can imagine no more comfortable frame of mind for the conduct of life than a humorous resignation.” – Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)

“Never be satisfied with a first draft. In fact, never be satisfied with your own stuff at all, until you’re certain it’s as good as your finite powers can enable it to be.” – Rose Tremain, English novelist, short story writer (b. 1943)

“No two persons ever read the same book.” – Edmund Wilson, American writer and critic (1895 – 1972)

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” – Neil Gaiman, English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theater, and films (b. 1960)

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” – Author Unknown

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. – Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)

"The book you don’t read won’t help." – Jim Rohn Click To Tweet

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” – Haruki Murakami, Japanese writer (b. 1949)

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” – John Green, American author and YouTube content creator (b. 1977)

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. – Gilbert K. Chesterton, English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic (1874 – 1936)

“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.” – Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist and essayist (b. 1947)

“Keep reading books, but remember that a book is only a book, and you should learn to think for yourself.” – Maxim Gorky, Russian and Soviet writer (1868 – 1936)

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright (1854 – 1900)

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” – Marcel Proust, French novelist, critic, and essayist (1871 – 1922)

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it.” – Edward P. Morgan, American journalist and writer (1910 – 1993)

“There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over.” – Gail Carson Levine, American author of young adult books (b. 1947)

"One always has a better book in one’s mind than one can manage to get onto paper." – Michael Cunningham, American novelist and screenwriter (b. 1952) Click To Tweet

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