15 Motivational Quotes for Authors

What Does Writing Teach Us?

What is it about motivational quotes that inspire us to greater endeavors? Daring us, energizing us, prodding us to overcome our fears and anxiety, so we can do what we truly desire?

Maybe it’s the quick, easy-to-remember word bites, or perhaps simply the comfort of knowing we are not the first trodding this territory. Regardless, the human spirit responds to simple quotes with powerful impact.

As writers, quotes from successful authors can move us past blocks, help us overcome anxiety, and keep us from giving up in the face of rejection. Maybe you could use a quick boost of daring, energy, or prodding today.

If so, here are fifteen of my favorite motivators:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” — Joan Didion

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” — Lord Byron

“It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.” — Stephen King

“Writing is the supreme solace.” — William Somerset Maugham

“If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.” — Mickey Spillane

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.” — Emily Dickinson

“Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.” — Anne Rice

“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“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

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” — Henry David Thoreau

“My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” — Anton Chekhov

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

“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.” — Gustave Flaubert

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” — Sidney Sheldon

Which of these inspires you most?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Writing is one of those creative aspirations that typically accompanies another salaried job. Few can sustain a living simply from writing. If you ever start to feel down about not being able to make ends meet via your writing career, don’t fret. You are in good company. Here are just a few famous authors and the jobs they maintained in order to pay the bills:

Large group of diversity workers peopleJ.D. Salinger was employed as the entertainment director on the H.M.S Kungsholm, a Swedish luxury liner.

Stephen King was a janitor, as well as a high school teacher.

William Faulkner went to Ole Miss for three semesters, then dropped out and became the school’s postmaster.

John Steinbeck ran a fish hatchery near Lake Tahoe. He would also give tours of the facility.

Harper Lee was a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines.

Jack London was an “oyster pirate.” During the night, he would steal oysters from the oyster beds  of the most successful farmers and then sell them.

If these famous writers had to have other means of making a living, then we shouldn’t consider ourselves immune. In fact, it is precisely these day jobs that often fuel our creativity, providing content for stories to make them more realistic.

Some authors are able to find jobs that support their writing. If you can find a way for your job to complement and sustain your writing, then so much the better. Perhaps you are a chef and like to write about restaurants. Maybe you are a nurse who writes about life in the medical field. Keep a diary of your daily experiences and the emotions they elicit (happy, sad, mad, surprise, fear, love) as each can similarly move your audience in the future. People enjoy writing that is insightful and allows them to visit places they wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Isn’t that part of the fun, to enjoy vicarious adventures? So, as a writer who often lives in the career world, why not incorporate subject matter expertise into your writing? It will bring a three dimensional quality to each story.

Maybe you won’t give up your day job because it’s a significant part of your life and who you are. Did you know Wallace Stevens declined a prestigious professorship at Harvard because he didn’t want to leave his career (forty years in the making) with an indemnity company? Getting paid for writing is not always steady and consistent. You may have great book sales in August from a successful marketing push, and then watch sales decline in September. Maybe you sell one story and have to wait for years until selling another one. With creative careers, it is prudent to wait until making two or three times the salary of your day job before taking the plunge. Why? Because you will probably no longer have an employer who is helping to share or pay the expenses of benefits, such as health insurance, company profit sharing or a 401(k) match. Many employees do not adequately count the value they should be contributing to their current employer, so be sure and calculate the indirect earnings of any and all company perks (even gym memberships, mileage reimbursement, car allowance, et cetera).

It is the easiest thing in the world to allow the burst of enthusiasm from a great day in writing overshadow your career as a banker, doctor, lawyer, or teacher. There’s nothing like getting rewarded for what you love to do. If you can, enjoy what you do as much as possible, so it can feed and sustain your writing life.

What do you do as a day job?

With writing, how do you maintain a work / life balance?