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40 Timeless Quotes About Writing

40 Timeless Quotes About Writing

You might think writing is easy- that all you need is a writerly instinct and you are good to go. But, having a writerly instinct alone doesn’t make a person a writer. Some of the most gifted writers of our time have tried and failed at writing because it’s a hard business. It lends itself to attacks on your intelligence, emotions, idiosyncrasies, and self-esteem- so you might as well be prepared. Even if you’re an utterly fantastic writer who will be remembered for decades to come, you’ll still receive a good dollop of criticism, rejection, and maybe even mockery before you get there.

George Orwell was rejected several times by publishers for Animal Farm, with Knopf Publishers, in 1945, saying the manuscript was a “stupid and pointless fable.” Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf too upon submitting Lolita, which would later go on to sell 50 million copies. Sylvia Plath’s first rejection letter for The Bell Jar read, “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” Gertrude Stein received a cruel rejection letter that mocked her style, and even Jack Kerouac’s perennial classic, On the Road received a blunt rejection letter that simply read, “I don’t dig this one at all.”

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rejection letter

    Arthur C. Fifield who didn’t bother reading the full manuscript for “The Making of Americans,” sent this most poetic rejection letter to novelist Gertrude Stein, who nonetheless went on to become one of the most prominent voices of American Literature. (Image credit: Mental Floss)

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    For those days when you feel dejected, hurt, weary or just a tad quit-y, a good writing quote can remind you of the essence of the craft and uplift your spirit. These timeless quotes about writing will encourage you to keep learning, to keep writing, and to keep striving.

    1. “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” – Harper Lee

    2. “Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.” – Paul Theroux

    3. “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” – Dorothy Parker

    4. “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” – William Zinsser

    5. “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” – Truman Capote

    6. “Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” – Agatha Christie

    7. “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” – E. L. Doctorow

    8. “The best advice on writing I’ve ever received is to take it seriously, because to do it well is all-consuming.” – David Guterson

    9. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury

    10.“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” – Thomas Mann

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

    12. “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

    13. “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” – Ray Bradbury

    14. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

    15. “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

    16. “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” – Neil Gaiman

    17. “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

    18. “I love my rejection slips, they show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

    19. “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

    20. “In general, what is written must be easy to read and easy to speak; which is the same.” – Aristotle

    21. “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

    22. “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson

    23. “A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood

    24. “You can make anything by writing.” – C.S. Lewis

    25. “Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” – Sylvia Plath

    26. “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

    27. “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” – Robert A. Heinlein

    28. “Writers are always selling somebody out.” – Joan Didion

    29. “It’s immoral not to tell.” – Albert Camus

    30. “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” – Robert Benchley

    31. “So what? All writers are lunatics!” – Cornelia Funke

    32. “Writers aren’t exactly people…. they’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.” – Scott Fitzgerald

    33. “Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” – Lev Grossman

    34. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso

    35. “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.” – Sharon Olds

    36. “Writers live twice.” – Natalie Goldberg

    37. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anaïs Nin

    38. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ” – Benjamin Franklin

    39. “Write what should not be forgotten.” – Isabel Allende

    40. “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” ― Winston S. Churchill

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    More by this author

    David K. William

    David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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