Sometimes it’s hard to write. Most of the time, it’s hard to write. Or at least to just get started. For me, motivation comes from many places. I may spend a year revising a poem, but that initial draft generally comes in one fell swoop.
I’m on the bus or walking around the city and an image plants itself in my brain and refuses to let go. It can be anything. The woman tying one end of a tarp to a light pole and the other to a grocery cart so she can sleep at night without the rain soaking her. Something a friend says in passing. The man on the street corner passing out miniature versions of the old testament.
But Neil Gaiman once said “If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.” His words are blunt, but there’s a certain truth to that. With short stories or novels, one image isn’t enough—in the way it might be for a poem. Sure, one image might get the gears turning, but it’s not enough to sustain the piece or your own motivation for that matter.
During down time, I sometimes go on Goodreads. Not to stare at the pitiful amount of books I’ve read this year in between my full-time course load, but to read what other writers have to say about the act of writing. Some of these quotes are plain beautiful, while others are plain honest—making me realize that the only thing stopping me from becoming the writer I hope to be someday is myself. Here is a sampling of some of my favorite quotes about writing that I’ve come across over the years. I hope they provide you with as much motivation as they have for me.
“Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” — Philip José Farmer
“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” — Natalie Goldberg
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” — Virginia Woolf
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” — Madeleine L’Engle
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anais Nin
“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank
“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.” — Joss Whedon
“Write about the emotions you fear the most.” — Laurie Halse Anderson
“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” — Truman Capote
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” — Robert Cormier
“So okay—there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.” — Stephen King
“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” — Martin Luther
“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” — Gloria Steinem
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” — Beatrix Potter
“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” — Junot Diaz
“Half of what I write is garbage, but if I don’t write it down it decomposes in my head.” — Jarod Kintz
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.” — William Faulkner
“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card…and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” — Joyce Carol Oates