Influential words from experienced individuals or prominent figures are important in our lives and our work. A simple quote may reaffirm something we already know, or enlighten us regarding something we don’t. Take heed from the professionals of your craft; learn from the people who have lived a life just as you. There is a world of experience recorded in simple phrases, waiting to be read and appreciated.
Below is a list of some of the best quotes on writing. These are from the men and women who have struggled just as we do now with starting, stopping, finishing etc. These are also the artists who live with the knowledge that writing enriches life and cleanses the soul, and through reading their ideas, hopefully we can reaffirm this within ourselves.
#5. Stephen King
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
It’s a common misconception that ‘anyone’ can simply take up writing and produce a piece of literature. However, just as with any art form, writing requires practice and hard work to hone and refine. Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel by luck, dancers aren’t born on stage and symphonies aren’t composed on a whim. A writer’s training is to read and write, each page, each book you complete is valuable.
English philosopher Samuel Johnson famously mused that to produce a novel, one must turn over a library of literature. As artists striving to create works of value and meaning, we must first understand how they are created. Trawl through the depths of terrible pulp, wade through the murky streams of the mediocre, swim through the brilliant, the respected and cherished works of authors past and present. It is only through bad that we can see good; and the same goes for vice-versa. Analyse aspects of the written word that resonate within you. Stephen King is spot on in saying that without reading, one will not inherit the tools to write. Sharpen your tools on the stone that is reading.
#4. Ernest Hemingway
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
At some point or another this list was going to include Hemingway, seemingly the man couldn’t utter a word without it being deemed “quotable”. As writers, we all know the agony behind beginning a story (or working through any point of one for that matter). We labour over words unsaid and create meaning for sometimes vacuous and dull subjects. We have a simple task, yet it is often on a shelf higher than we can reach.
We can all agree that honing a piece to its final stages is torturous, but what’s worse is an idea or story that sits within our heads, and isn’t brought to life. It’s difficult to slave over sentences and phrases, but in the end it is worth it; we must press on. We cannot sit with our backs turned and will our stories into existence, as writers it’s just not possible. You must write; start your work no matter how difficult it is to culminate the courage to begin, light won’t fill a dark room unless the switch is flicked. No matter how difficult, pour your heart, tears and as Hemingway says, blood, into your work.
#3. Anton Chekov
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Chekov’s quote beautifully demonstrates a task we must complete as writers. Our stories become more powerful when we pepper them with the descriptive, the metaphoric, allegoric, rhythmic passages that words allow us to create. Our subjects matter not, it is the way we present our stories that reflects our craftsmanship. We could have a story of life, death and everything in between, but if it’s not well-executed, our readers will most likely go elsewhere. Show me the glint of light on broken glass; describe the way you feel; tell us why your story needs to be heard.
It is our job to captivate, and our medium gives us the ability to do so. It is never easy to write for a large audience as we all have differing views and ideals. We must take this into account when piecing together our work. Our stories are often a reflection of our own lives and experience but we must take our audience into consideration, these people may have not felt the same feelings we had for this subject. Use the power of your words to transport yourself and your reader to wherever you want to take them, you are steering the boat, make sure it’s in the right direction.
#2. Joss Whedon
I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”
It may seem strange adding Joss Whedon (director of Firefly and Buffy) to a list of established wordsmiths, however the quote Mr. Whedon made in relation to his work is no less profound than the words of those artists. As writers we have been given a gift. It is the gift of knowledge and understanding, a gift which enables us to project our thoughts into something tangible and malleable. Through it we have the chance to enrich the lives of others, as well as our own.
Often in our lives we come face to face with things we have no control over; the actions of another, the death of a loved one, the simple change of seasons. When writing, we are in control. We decide the events which take place on the blank canvas before us. We are the creators, the deciders of fate… Writing is our catharsis, it is our inherent duty as artists to bring our beliefs and ideas to life, and in the process of doing so we can strengthen ourselves and extol the demons that may plague our minds.
1. Enid Bagnold
Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
Life is a cactus, Miss Bagnold, let’s not dance around the fact we all know. Life is full of the terrible, the mundane and dull. But sometimes through the cracks of the crumbling façade we call humanity, there are flickers of light. We are people of the profession who aim to break through the cracks and have this light fill the void.
To write is to love life, plain and simply; to live life to its fullest. To write is to favour every action. Every day someone laughs, someone cries, someone moves through the motions of their life as per usual. Yet the usual can still mean the world. The simple blink of an eye can hold a plethora of meaning given the right storyteller. As Enid Bagnold beautifully states in her quote, to write is the streaming reason for living.