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?

Advertisements

Loved, Chosen, and Writing (for the Forseeable Future) at 5 a.m.—A Lesson from Anne Lamott

Anne-Lamott-2013-San-Francisco--Wikimedia Commons--ZboralskiI just returned from Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing, featuring such diverse writers as Luci Shaw, Richard Foster, Rachel Held Evans, and Anne Lamott and offering sessions on everything from how to write a book proposal to self-publishing, writing about trauma to writing novels, writing children’s books to writing faithfully about sex. Some sessions were practical, others funny, some heady, some worshipful. All inspired and challenged me. Several offered strategies I’ve taken to heart and will pass on to my students.

The best advice, from Anne Lamott, was the simplest and hardly new or profound. She must have said it twenty times during a characteristically hilarious and solipsistic one-hour interview—which surged pell-mell in and out of her various addictions, the gift of desperation, her cellulite-pocked thighs, people she appreciates (those who give her even more cream for her coffee, for example) and those she avoids (e.g., those who claim you can’t have fear and faith simultaneously), her love of desserts and coffee with massive amounts of cream (Did I mention that already?), the interminably lost and sought jetliner on CNN in her hotel room, and the good news that we’re “loved and chosen” (a refrain I’m already aware of reiterated apropos to nothing that I could tell but nevertheless causing tears to start from my eyes each time)—and it was the same advice I’ve encountered whenever I’ve heard her talk or reread her wonderful book on writing, Bird by Bird. Still, like that loved and chosen refrain, it seized me anew each time she said it. It was this: All it takes to write is to sit down and do it.

She put forth several ancillary recommendations. That you can’t wait for your toddlers to start school or your teens to leave home. That you don’t need an office, just a door that closes. That you have to say no, nicely, to the dogs, cats, and kids at that door, who are attracted like heat-seeking missiles to your lap (or thighs or cellulite, I can’t remember). That all one needs—not only in writing but in everything (“Anything I know about anything,” she observed, “applies to everything else.”) is structure and discipline. That, for the past four years, she’s turned off her cellphone and written every day, at the same exact time (9 a.m.), no matter what.

“Give me an hour!” she kept demanding—as if she were our mom and we her teenage wastrels—and pointing out all the junk we waste our time on each day. Though I’ve written and revised and published five books, I still need this reminder, this goad to get after it.

“You’ve got an hour! Give me that hour!” she yelled, as though we would be writing just for her.

And truly, inspired as I was by that simple call to quit dallying, I really feel as though I’m writing, right now, for Anne alone.

Farmland_and_Airbus_Beluga_near_Cop_House_Farm_-_geograph_org_uk_-_446678I planned out that hour—or maybe two, since, as she said, you’ll really only get forty usable minutes out of an hour, only an hour and twenty minutes out of two—all the way back to Oklahoma. In the seats at my gate, on the tarmac waiting in vain to take off, back in those airport seats after deplaning because of weather in Chicago (Who knew you couldn’t take off on a runway perpendicular to the wind direction?), through the murky clouds over Illinois and Missouri and Arkansas, in the car snailing the empty roads at midnight with my cautious husband.

“I’m gonna write as soon as I get up,” I told him. “Before I run. Before I do any grading or reading. Get me up at five, when you get up, but don’t talk to me. Just give me my coffee and let me write.”

Don’t worry: I’m a morning person. And with our dogs living outdoors and daughters away at college, I can write in my non-office—the living room—without even the closeable door Lamott requires. If my gaze strays from my computer screen, I’ll see the sun turn the horizon pink. Every single day. At this rate, I’ll get my novel drafted before summer’s end and revised and sent off sometime before moving on, loved and chosen, to a heaven of no distractions from what I should be doing.