As every aspiring novelist knows, coming up with the ‘big’ ideas is the easy part. But, unfortunately, developing your scribbled notebook entries into a fleshed-out story with believable characters isn’t quite so simple. [Read more…]
Today, we learned of the passing of renowned author E.L. Doctorow. According to his son, the cause of his death was complications due to lung cancer.
The author is probably known best for Ragtime, which made it to the Modern Library’s list of 100 best novels of all time.
With his passing, we pay tribute to one of the most brilliant novelists of our time by learning from him. Of course, we can always put his books next on our reading lists, but for starters, here are some of the best E.L. Doctorow quotes that will make you think and inspire you as a writer.
Best E.L. Doctorow Quotes
- Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
- Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
- The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.
- Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
- A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.
- When I’m writing, I like to seal everything off and face the wall, not to look outside the window. The only way out is through the sentences.
- I began to ask two questions while I was reading a book that excited me: not only what was going to happen next, but how is this done? How is it that these words on the page make me feel the way I’m feeling? This is the line of inquiry that I think happens in a child’s mind, without him even knowing he has aspirations as a writer.
- Happiness consists of living in the dailiness of life and not knowing how happy you are. True happiness comes of not knowing you’re happy.
- I get intrigued by a first line and I write to find out why it means something to me. You make discoveries just the way the reader does, so you’re simultaneously the writer and the reader.
- The important thing is not to be too comfortable when you’re writing. Noise in the street? That’s good. The computer goes down? That’s good. All these things are good. It has to be a little bit of a struggle.
Which of these quotes do you relate to the most? Which ones make you think about what you do?
You might also like: Writing Tools of Famous Authors
Last year, I wrote a piece about things that you can do when you feel like a failure. About a year later, I find it a slightly weird coincidence that I am writing something about the same topic.
I am not sure if it’s because my subconscious is telling me that I feel like a failure (because I honestly don’t), or if it really is just a coincidence.
In any case, we all need some encouragement from time to time. The reasons may vary. A client may be dissatisfied with your work. You may have the blues, resulting in low output. You may feel that your work isn’t good enough.
Whatever the reason may be, I hope these encouraging writing quotes will give you a morale boost.
1. If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write. – Somerset Maugham
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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
5. Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. – William Faulkner
6. Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them. – Isaac Asimov
7. If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor. – Edgar Rice Burroughs
8. Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose…not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember. – Anne Sullivan Macy
9. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance. – Samuel Johnson
10. The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning. – Anne Tyler
11. Mistakes are the portals of discovery. ~ James Joyce
12. Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. – Harper Lee
13. I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent re-writer. – James Michener
14. In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. – Leo Tolstoy
15. No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better. ― Erin Bow
Allow yourself to feel discouraged, but don’t dwell on it. Get up and do what you can do. Before you realize it, you’ll be back with a vengeance.
Or keep you going when you’re just about ready to throw in the towel. In other words, I’m sharing 14 inspiring writing quotes that ought to help you if you’re lacking in the inspiration department. If you’re looking for specific ideas for blog posts, take a look at my post last week: 5 Blog Post Topics When Your Inspiration Well Runs Dry.
So, hate them or not, quotes can help give you a boost, even though sometimes, it’s a temporary one. You know that we like sharing all sorts of quotes on Facebook and Twitter, so I thought I’d take a look at put together some of the most inspiring writing quotes I’ve encountered.
You may ask, why 14? I like the number, that’s all.
14 Inspiring writing quotes
- “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
- “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.” ~R.A. Salvatore
- “This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy and that hard.” ~Neil Gaiman
- “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~Stephen King
- “Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.” ~Cory Doctorow
- “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” ~Ernest Hemingway
- “If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” ~Somerset Maugham
- “Start before you’re ready.” ~Steven Pressfield
- “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~Richard Bach
- “Don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” ~Pearl S. Buck
- “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” ~William Faulkner
- “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” ~Edgar Rice Burroughs
- “The secret of it all is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood of the moment–to put things down without deliberation–without worrying about their style–without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote–wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant, the very heartbeat of life is caught.” ~Walt Whitman
- “In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” ~Leo Tolstoy
I leave you with that last quote from Tolstoy, which may seem counterintuitive, but it does give you the license to take a step back and reflect for a while – but only for a while, after which you get right back to work. 😉
When Hemingway said this, he probably had no idea just how the tools of the trade would change in the future. While many – if not most – of us would probably not hesitate to shell out some cash to own a vintage typewriter, the fact is that writers have more advanced tools at our disposal today. Of course, there are times when nothing beats good old pen and paper.
The other day, while working at a coffee shop, I couldn’t help but glance (okay, more than glance; maybe stare a little) at the people there. Many seemed to be online workers like me, and many had more than one device within arm’s reach at all times. This got me thinking about what the essential writing gadgets of writers today are.
Here’s my list. It is surprisingly short!
I have several devices which I can use to browse the Internet and hammer out blog posts. With word processing software installed, those devices can also be used for writing longer pieces. Then there is the notepad, which I use to jot down whatever idea comes to me.
At the end of the day, though, the laptop is my go-to device. There is nothing like a huge (compared to a phone/tablet, 13 inches is huge) screen and a full-sized keyboard.
I included my smartphone not because of content creation but the other way around: consumption. Another writing quote that I like sharing is from Stephen King:
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.
There have been many occasions when I find myself buried in work and not having time to enjoy my favorite pastime: reading. This quote always reminds me that it is essential to devour other people’s writing in order to be a good writer.
And that’s where my smartphone comes in. With unlimited data connection, I can check up on the news, read online articles, and read my ebooks wherever I may be. I may not actually use the phone to write, but it is an essential writing tool.
Portable music player
Here’s another gadget that is not directly related to my writing output but without which, I’d probably be in a totally different place. I rely heavily on music throughout the day, especially when I’m on the road. I also like working at different locations, which lends to creativity, but can also be prone to external noise. I don’t need to tell you how my portable music player helps me get (and stay) in the zone, do I?
Your turn: What are your essential writing gadgets?
Sara Wells is a tech writer and blogger. She writes on behalf of leading brands such as protectyourbubble.com cell phone insurance provider.
A quick and dirty list of some of my favourite writing quotes for you to use in any article, post, diatribe, speech, dedication, mantra or bellow to the heavens. Hope you enjoy and feel free to add your own in the comments!
1. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
The Aging Writer
2. With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs.
3. If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.
4. I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974.
5. Get the facts first. You can distort them later.
6. The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
7. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Ray Bradbury
8. Every writer I know has trouble writing.
Joseph Heller quotes
9. I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.
10. Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.
11. For a moment, nothing happened.Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
12. The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.
13. Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance
Getting It Right
14. A good novel tells us the truth about it’s hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
15. The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.
Richard Harding Davis
16. The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
The Truth about Writing
17. A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.
18. Let’s face it, writing is hell.
20. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.
21. I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.
Peter De Vries
22. The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence.
Cyril Connolly quotes
23. This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
24. The free-lance writer is the person who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.
25. The large print giveth, but the small print taketh away.
26. A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys.
27. A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.
P. L. Travers