Whether or not you’re the New Year’s resolution-making type or not, you probably understand that meeting your writing goals takes a combination of inspiration and intent balanced to the style and needs of the individual writer.
Still, when it comes to inspiration, there’s nothing quite like the words of another writer who’s been where you are, or somewhere near it, at some time or another to help you move your intent to action. To that end, we’ve collected 10 thoughtful writing quotes from writers we admire.
1. Stephen King: Life isn’t a support-system for art
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”
2. Kim Addonizio: Did you think writing would be easy?
“Did you think writing great, or even good, poems would be easy? What feeling of accomplishment would you get from doing what is easy, what anyone can do without trying? Athletes train relentlessly to become stronger, faster, better. Dancers attend class every day, and rehearse long hours in the studio. Actors memorize thousands of words and then practice saying them over and over, working to inhabit their characters. If you thought poetry was different, this is your wake-up call. Poetry is a bitch. It wants your energy, your intelligence, your spirit, your time. No wonder you want to avoid it. I know I sometimes do. But the only way past, as I read somewhere, is through.”
3. L.L. Barkat: Why try to master these things called words?
“When we possess a little natural talent for writing, we might be tempted to coast along. Why try to master these things called words? Isn’t writing an art? Doesn’t that mean we can just let things pour out as they will? I know a lot of writers who don’t work very hard, thinking this is no disaster.”
4. Tony Hoagland: Everything has not been done
“It is good to remember that Everything has not been done. Possibility has not been exhausted. More reality is being made at the reality factory every day, and new ways to handle it are being invented—language is a technology, after all. Its adaptations are legion; its evolution is hardly over.”
—from the essay “Self-Consciousness, ” published in Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft
5. Charity Singleton Craig: Be all in
“Writing is never a waste of time. The struggle and the difficulty prove writing’s worth, not its vanity. It’s the flirting with writing that felt empty, the sidling up all lipsticked and perfumed but never actually giving it my heart. I needed to be all in.”
6. Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge: I write to catch myself
“I can’t stand to lose anything. That’s part of what all this writing is about for me. I create a container around me so I won’t lose myself. I won’t just evaporate into the universe unannounced or undefined. I write to catch myself. Me. Who is me? I’m a row of little black books filled with tiny writing. I’m pasted-in pictures, scribbles, drawings and poems.”
7. Ann Kroeker: Stay receptive to the present
“If I remember the past in greater detail and stay receptive to the present, I’m never without material. The things I notice become part of my story; my work becomes more memorable, more texture, more real. I become one of those people on whom nothing is lost.”
—On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts (with a nod to Henry James)
8. Tania Runyan: Get out of the boat
“After working so hard on a poem, the poet needs to stand back and let the poem breathe. A good poem is an invitation, not a tool for instruction. Yes, we can learn from poems, even change our lives because of them. But most readers want to live with a poem, not be lectured by it. They want the author to get out of the boat so they can spend some time on the poetic waves themselves.”
9. Mary Ruefle: Pay attention to the wings, not the sky
“I believe that all poets are winged, and some can fly and some cannot, and that having wings is their distinguishing feature, not whether they can fly. Some poets can fly but they don’t have wings and they are the worse. If you are trying to fly, stop it. Just watch under your arms for signs of wings, and if they sprout, even if you can’t ever make it off the ground, say you are a turkey—well, that is an interesting thing. Of course, you may be a lark, and that would be lucky. But in general pay attention to the wings, not to the sky.”
—from the essay “Lectures I Will Never Give, ” published in Madness, Rack, and Honey
10. Annie Dillard: Write as if you were dying
“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What you you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”
Photo by Brennan Degan, Creative Commons license via Flickr.
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