Writing: Wise Words to Inspire and Motivate Indie Authors

Debbie Young making notes

ALLi Author Advice Centre Editor Debbie Young, pen poised to fill that blank page inspired by all the great advice in this post…

Do you have a favourite saying or quote that drives your writing? I asked that question of ALLi  members on our Facebook discussion forum (a members’-only benefit) and was overwhelmed by the smart, succinct responses.

Some shared famous authors’ aphorisms, others lines that they had arrived at by themselves. Here they are, and I hope they inspire you too. You might even want to use your favourite as a screensaver, or pin a note of it above your writing desk.

My favourite, by the way, is “Murder your darlings”, attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch – and I love it so much, I’m using it as the title for the second in my new cosy mystery series!

But the one that lives on my desk, printed on a mousemat, is “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step (Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher”. When I’m procastinating from my writing, a glance at that, substituting “story”  for “journey”, “words” for “miles” and “sentence” for step, and I’m away…

 Motivation and Productivity

“A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.” – Margaret Atwood
“This one has been a comfort over the years,” says Linda Gillard.

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time’. – Creighton Abrams

“Applicable to anything in life, as well as writing,” says Mark Gillespie. “For those who are intimidated by the idea of writing a novel and don’t know how or where to start, this is gold.)

“Writing only happens after a liberal slathering of butt glue’.

“Not sure where I heard it, but I try and remember it every time I think about checking Facebook,” says Charles Booth. “As an aside, if you Google butt glue, you will find that it is a real product, used by Miss America contestants to secure their swimsuit to their behinds. Sheesh.”) Helen Kara quotes Terry Pratchett on the Anglicised version, which is, of course, bum glue, which summons up a different image in the US!

“You do stuff, and then it’s done,” says Lisa Margreet Payne.

I have another variant: “The best way to get something done is to do it,” while Carol Cooper cites Nike’s pithier version: “Just do it!” This handy reminder from Michael MacMahon makes it easier to reach the stage of declaring something is done:

“Finished is better than perfect.”

Writing Craft

The road to Hell is paved with adverbs” – Stephen King

More smart advice from the King of writers chosen by Linda Gillard.

“I think to a poet, the human community is like the community of birds, to a bird, singing to each other. Love is one of the reasons we are singing to one another, love of language, love of sound, love of singing itself, and love of the other birds.” – Sharon Olds

“My favourite quote about writing,” says Ani Tuzma.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

“Reminds me to let the words and emotions flow on the first draft and get the heart of the story out,” says Amira Makansi. “Then edit and make it sound pretty later.” Various versions of this notion abound, and Amira cites Ernest Hemingway, but Orna Ross adds “It was sports writer Red Smith who said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and just open a vein.” I know this because Writers’ Digest have a book with title based on that quote, called “Just Open a Vein”. But Hemingway gets another shout-out from Ellie Holmes here:

“When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written…afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King

“With that simple statement,  says Ian Sutherland, “King taught me that writers block doesn’t exist and any excuse I may come up with for not writing is yet another form of procrastination!”

Michael Wills has picked a quote to do with plotting:
 “A good story should have incidents which defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible”. – from John Buchan‘s The Thirty Nine Steps
The phrase David Penny has pinned to his desktop is “What does the reader want?” – a great way to keep the focus off the writer and on the target audience.

Last Words

But last word goes to Sophie E Tallis: “If in doubt, write.” Can’t argue with that!

Many thanks to all the authors who contributed comments – too many to include in a single post, so there’ll be another one along like this later this summer.

OVER TO YOU Feel free to add your own favourite writing aphorisms via the comments box – and if you’d like to become an author member of ALLi to share best practice and advice in the privacy of our members’ only forum, click here.


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14 Responses to Writing: Wise Words to Inspire and Motivate Indie Authors

  1. Edmund Pickett July 14, 2016 at 1:42 am #

    “No work of art is ever finished; it is merely abandoned.” —Anton Chekhov
    A good reminder for those who get sucked into the endless edit whirlpool.

    And another from W. Somerset Maugham.
    “I only write when I’m inspired and I arrange to be inspired every morning at 9 a.m.”

  2. Joni Rodgers July 14, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    “I see us poised, metaphorically speaking, with one foot in the invisible world, and one foot in the visible world. And writing expands my knowledge of the invisible.” —Gerald Murnane

  3. Ed Clark July 13, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    If you don’t feel like writing today, write only one line — but who can stop, once started?

  4. Rob Johnson July 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    Two of my favourite quotes on writing from Elmore Leonard that I try to adhere to but not always successfully:

    “I try to leave out the parts that readers skip.”

    “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

    And here’s one from W. Somerset Maugham:

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

  5. Rory Graham July 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

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

  6. Rory Graham July 13, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    “To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.
    To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.”
    ― Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt

  7. Dorothy Rosby July 13, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    I am a syndicated humor columnist so I often say, ‘Writers block is a luxury for people who don’t have deadlines.”

  8. Derbhile Graham July 13, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

    “You got to write sh*t to write good. Charles Bukowski. Amen.

  9. Victoria Ichizli-Bartels July 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    My favourite is a variation what was said by many writers in many different ways: “You can’t edit an empty page.”
    I discovered it to be true even for very technical projects.

  10. Sophie E Tallis July 13, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    Great post, Debbie, I’ve re-blogged. 😀

  11. DL Bigelow July 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    My favorite is from my heroin (Jo Ring)in my trilogy, “If you choose your own poison…you can’t bitch about the side effects” DL Bigelow


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