91 creative writing quotes by 62 great authors

I’m a pretty terrible writer, but I write a lot. Every single day. And I want to get better at it. Maybe you’re in the same boat, and if that’s the case—this is for you. You see, I read a lot about writing. You know, I read what writers who actually write good stuff write about creative writing. Tens of thousands of pages, almost a hundred books, countless articles, blog posts, interviews… and here are my favorite creative writing quotes, kind of categorized in a way that (hopefully) makes it easy for you to find the ones that are most meaningful to you at any given time. Here we go:

Creative writing quotes on the importance of consistent practice

At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that—the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.

—William Faulkner

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

—Steven King

This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

—Neil Gaiman

The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.

—William Zinsser

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.

—Orson Scott

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

—John Steinbeck

Related reads:

Creative writing quotes that acknowledge the writer’s quirkiness and imperfection

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

—Douglas Adams

Every writer I know has trouble writing.

—Joseph Heller

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

—Thomas Mann

I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.

—Oscar Wilde

Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

—Cesar A. Cruz

Creative writing quotes on technique

The key to all story endings is to give the audience what it wants, but not in the way it expects.

—William Goldman

Time passes, as the novelist says. The single most useful trick of fiction for our repair and refreshment: the defeat of time. A century of family saga and a ride up an escalator can take the same number of pages. Fiction sets any conversion rate, then changes it in a syllable. The narrator’s mother carries her child up the stairs and the reader follows, for days. But World War I passes in a paragraph. I needed 125 pages to get from Labor Day to Christmas vacation. In six more words, here’s spring.

—Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement

Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the readers’s.

—Stephen King

When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.

—Kurt Vonnegut

Creative writing quotes on beginnings

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.

—Anne Lamont

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

—Louis L’Amour

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

—Jodi Picoult

I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.

—Robert Frost

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

—Stephen King

Beginning a novel is always hard. It feels like going nowhere. I always have to write at least 100 pages that go into the trashcan before it finally begins to work. It’s discouraging, but necessary to write those pages. I try to consider them pages minus 100 to zero of the novel.

—Barbara Kingsolver

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

—Terry Pratchett

I know very dimly when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.

—Aldous Huxley

There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.

—Beatrix Potter

Creative writing quotes on the (non-) rules of writing

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

—W. Somerset Maugham

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

—Ernest Hemingway

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

—Stephen King

If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule – a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.

—John Steinbeck

A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.

—Oscar Wilde

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons… All they do is show you’ve been to college.

—Kurt Vonnegut

Creative writing quotes on what to write about

Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.

—C.S. Lewis

When all else fails, write what your heart tells you. You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

—Mark Twain

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

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

—George Orwell

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

—Barbara Kingsolver

That is the mission of art – to make us pause and look at a thing a second time.

—Oscar Wilde

To be the kind of writer you want to be, you must first be the kind of thinker you want to be.

—Ayn Rand

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

—John Steinbeck

One of the best ways to come up with great ideas is to come up with a lot of ideas. I do this by keeping a creative journal. If you are curious about this, check out my creative journal ideas.

I also write morning pages which I find incredibly helpful in getting my creative juices flowing. Check out my morning pages prompts.

Creative writing quotes on persistence

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.

—Richard Bach

The ability to go anywhere in our imagination is a pure expression of individual freedom. It is a creative force that can help us transcend reality.

—Esther Perel (check out more Esther Perel quotes)

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

—E.B. White

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Creative writing quotes on inspiration

If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.

—Dan Poynter

I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.

—William Faulkner

Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.

—J.K. Rowling

Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.

—Ray Bradbury

Creative writing quotes on dealing with doubt

Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.

—Mark Twain

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

—Steven Pressfield

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

—Sylvia Plath

One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterward it grows on one. Let others judge and make decisions.

—Anton Chekhov

Creative writing quotes on perfectionism

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.

—William Faulkner

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.

—Margaret Atwood

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

—Ernest Hemingway

There is no innovation and creativity without failure.

—Brené Brown

He is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.

—Anton Chekhov

Creative writing quotes on being prolific and doing the work

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

—Edgar Rice Burroughs

Don’t ‘be a writer.’ Be writing.

—William Faulkner

Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.

—Philip José Farmer

This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

—Neil Gaiman

I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. ‘The first thing,’ I said, ‘is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.’

—Aldous Huxley

Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.

—Henry David Thoreau

The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.

—Nora Roberts

Write, write, write-till your fingers break.

—Anton Chekhov

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.

—Aldous Huxley

Creative writing quotes on the importance of reading

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

—Stephen King

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.

—Ray Bradbury

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.

—William Faulkner

There’s no better teacher for writing than reading… Get a library card. That’s the best investment.

—Alisa Valdes

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book.

—Samuel Johnson

I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.

—Oscar Wilde

Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.

—Lisa See

Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.

—Annie Proulx

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

—Stephen King

A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write.

—Madeleine L’Engle

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

—Oscar Wilde

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

—Oscar Wilde

If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.

—Natalie Goldberg

The proper study of mankind is books.

—Aldous Huxley

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

—Benjamin Franklin

Creative writing quotes on the need to write

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.

—Isaac Asimov

We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.

—Franz Kafka

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

—Toni Morrison

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

—Gloria Steinem

There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.

—Albert Einstein

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

—Maya Angelou

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

—Anaïs Nin

A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.

—Toni Morrison

I write because it gives me the greatest possible artistic pleasure to write. If my work pleases the few I am gratified. As for the mob, I have no desire to be a popular novelist. It is far too easy.

—Oscar Wilde

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

—Anne Frank

Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.

—Aldous Huxley

Creative writing can be a difficult and sometimes intimidating process. It requires not only imagination and skill, but also the willingness to let go of the expected and to embrace the unknown. It can be a challenging and daunting task, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and even transformative when you overcome creative blocks. As the great American writer Ernest Hemingway once wrote, There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

It’s creative writing quotes like these that I sometimes find more impactful than actual writing advice. And there are some great movies about writing that can help you get your creative juices flowing. (That might be one of the reasons why my writing is still so bad, despite the enormous amounts of time and energy I’ve dedicated to becoming a good writer.)

The creative writing process can often be one of trial and error. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it can take a lot of hard work and dedication to reach a satisfaction level with one’s work.  In fact, you could try to make social media a place for your creative writing outlet. Maybe post some inspirational quotes for writers on X, or whatever your social network of choice is, and post your own commentary to it.

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