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Where Are the Best Writing Tips? In the Best Writing Quips, Of Course!

The reason I’m sold on “quips and tips” is because the best writing tips are found in the best writing quips! These 21 quotations from successful published authors range from dealing with despair to finding the most inspirational place to write. I’ve quoted authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Anne Lamott, Anne Tyler, Erica Jong, John Updike, Julia Cameron, Walt Whitman, and more.

To kick things off, here’s one my favorite writing quips from Annie Dillard:

“I don’t do housework. Life is too short and I’m too much of a Puritan. If you want to take a year off to write a book, you have to take that year, or the year will take you by the hair and pull you toward the grave.”

But wait! It gets better…

“Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say, I kept a tidy house, I made my own cheese balls.”

Break free from the chains of housework, TV, food, shopping, or endlessly surfing the internet, fellow scribes! Follow your dream of being a writer — do what you love! If you need inspiration and motivation, read 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire!) the Muse. Remember: when you clutch the things you love (writing writing writing), you’ll taste sweet success.

May these writing quotations inspire and motivate you to achieve your writing goals…

Where Are the Best Writing Tips? In the Best Writing Quips, Of Course!

Unles otherwise specified, these quotations are from the wonderful Shoptalk: Learning to Write with Writers by Donald Murray…

Writing Discouragement and Rejection

Erica Jong on writing problems:

  • “All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged,” said Jong. “If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.” (from The New Writer’s Handbook)

Madeleine L’Engle on discouragement:

  • “I got so discouraged, I almost stopped writing. It was my 12-year-old son who changed my mind when he said to me, “Mother, you’ve been very cross and edgy with us and we notice you haven’t been writing. We wish you’d go back to the typewriter,” said L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time. “That did a lot of good for my false guilts about spending so much time writing. At that point, I acknowledged that I am a writer and even if I were never published again, that’s what I am.”

Writing Inspiration

Walt Whitman on writing now now now!

  • “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,” said Whitman.

Anne Tyler on making up stories:

  • “For me, writing something down was the only road out…I hated childhood, and spent it sitting behind a book waiting for adulthood to arrive,” said Tyler. “When I ran out of books I made up my own. At night, when I couldn’t sleep, I made up stories in the dark.”

E.B. White on waiting for the right (write) timing: 

  • “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper,” said White, author of Charlotte’s Webb and Stuart Little.

Editing, Rewriting, and Writing Well

Joan Didion on rewriting:

  • “My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. In the rewriting process you discover what’s going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point. Sometimes you’ll just push through, indicate a scene or a character, leave a space, then go back later and fill it in,” said Didion.

Anne Lamott on good writing:

  • “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper,” said Lamott. “What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a sh**ty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. (from Bird By Bird – Some Instructions On Writing And Life)

Sarah Ban Breathnach on letting go of your writing:

  • “I approach my work with a passionate intensity, acting as if its success depends entirely on me,” says Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance. “But once I’ve done my best, I try to let go as much as possible and have no expectations about how my work will be received by the world.”

Achieving Writing Goals

Arthur Hailey on setting a daily word count:

  • “I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind or if I’m sick or well. There must be 600 finished words – not almost right words. Before you ask, I’ll tell you that yes, I do write 600 at the top of my pad every day, and I keep track of the word count to insure I reach my quota daily – without fail,” said Hailey.

Barbara Sher on taking action: 

  • “Action is absolutely essential for people who don’t know what they want. Action will help you think better and more clearly than if you sat still and weighed all the theoretical factors. Even action in the wrong direction is informative,” says Sher. (from I Could Do Anything…If Only I Knew What It Was!)

Mark Twain on giving it your best shot:

  • “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” said Mark Twain.

Writing Leads and Introductions

Nora Ephron on writing the lead:

  • “I don’t write a word of the article until I have the lead. It just sets the whole tone – the whole point of view. I know exactly where I’m going as soon as I have the lead,” said Ephron, author of the screenplay When Harry Met Sally.

Joan Didion on the first sentence:

  • “What’s so hard about the first sentence is that you’re stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you’ve laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone,” said Didion, author of several novels, non-fiction books, and screenplays.

Finding Writing Mentors

Julia Cameron on finding a mentor:

  • “You are on the look out for experience, strength, and hope. You want to hear from the horse’s mouth exactly how disappointments have been survived,” said Cameron. “It helps to know that the greats have had hard times too and that your own hard times merely make you part of the club.”

Accepting Yourself as a Writer

Natalie Goldberg on self-acceptance as a writer:

  • “We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance,” said Goldberg. (from Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life).

Anne Lamott on perfectionism:

Margaret Atwood on the blank page:

  • “The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror,” said Atwood. “What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?”

Writing Ideas and Inspiration

John Updike on inspiration:

  • “A few places are especially conducive to inspiration – automobiles, church – public places. I plotted Couples almost entirely in church – little shivers and urgencies I would note down on the program, and carry down to the office Monday,” said Updike, author of dozens of novels, short stories, and non-fiction works.

Robert Cormier on creativity and flow:

  • “What if? What if? My mind raced, and my emotions kept pace at the sidelines, the way it always happens when a story idea arrives, like a small explosion of thought and feeling. What if? What if an incident like that in the park had been crucial to a relationship between father and daughter? What would make it crucial? Well, what if the father, say, was divorced from the child’s mother and the incident happened during one of his visiting days? And what if…” said Cormier, author of several novels, including I Am The Cheese.

Ernest Hemingway on when to stop writing:

  • “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you’re rewriting a novel you will never be stuck,” said Hemingway.

If you can add anything to these writing tips and quips, I dare ya below!  🙂

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