Reblog: Timeless Advice on Writing from famous Authors

Maria Popova

Italo Calvino on Writing: Insights from 40+ Years of His Letters

“To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”

Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

“The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.”

Henry Miller: 11 Commandments of Writing

“Work on one thing at a time until finished.”

Anaïs Nin: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity

“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

David Ogilvy: 10 No-Bullshit Tips on Writing

 “Never write more than two pages on any subject.”

Isabel Allende: Writing Brings Order to the Chaos of Life

“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”

Stephen King: The Adverb Is Not Your Friend

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

Susan Sontag on Writing

“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Secret of Great Writing (1938)

“Nothing any good isn’t hard.”

Ernest Hemingway : Writing, Knowledge, and the Danger of Ego

“All bad writers are in love with the epic.”

Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules for a Great Story

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Malcolm Cowley: The Four Stages of Writing

“The germ of a story is a new and simple element introduced into an existing situation or mood.”

Advice on Writing: Collected Wisdom from Modernity’s Greatest Writers

“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.”

John Steinbeck: 6 Tips on Writing, and a Disclaimer

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”

Herbert Spencer: The Philosophy of Style, the Economy of Attention, and the Ideal Writer (1852)

“To have a specific style is to be poor in speech.”

Susan Orlean on Writing

“You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”

Zadie Smith: 10 Rules of Writing

“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”

E. B. White: Why Brevity Is Not the Gold Standard for Style

“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.”

E. B. White: Egoism and the Art of the Essay

“Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays”

Ray Bradbury: Creative Purpose in the Face of Rejection

“The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”

Mary Karr: The Magnetism and Madness of the Written Word

“Be willing to be a child and be the Lilliputian in the world of Gulliver.”

Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style and the 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word (1985)

“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”

Ann Patchett: What Now?

“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”

Mary Gordon: The Joy of Notebooks and Writing by Hand as a Creative Catalyst

“However thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”

H. P. Lovecraft: Advice to Aspiring Writers (1920)

“A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.”

Joseph Conrad: Writing and the Role of the Artist (1897)

“Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.”

Henry Miller: Reflections on Writing

“Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”

Margaret Atwood: 10 Rules of Writing

“­Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.”

David Foster Wallace: The Nature of the Fun and Why Writers Write

“Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.”

Joy Williams: Why Writers Write

“A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”

Neil Gaiman: 8 Rules of Writing

“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

Joan Didion: Ego, Grammar, and the Impetus to Write

“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”

George Orwell: The Four Motives for Writing (1946)

“Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”

Ezra Pound: A Few Don’ts for Those Beginning to Write Verse (1913)

“Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.”

Ray Bradbury: Storytelling and Human Nature (1963)

“Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”

Helen Dunmore: 9 Rules of Writing

“A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.”

E. B. White: The Role and Responsibility of the Writer (1969)

“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

Jack Kerouac: 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life

 “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.”

Raymond Chandler on Writing

“The test of a writer is whether you want to read him again years after he should by the rules be dated.”

Samuel Delany on Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

28-Year-Old Susan Sontag on the Four People a Great Writer Must Be

The writer must be four people:

  1. The nut, the obsédé

  2. The moron

  3. The stylist

  4. The critic

1 supplies the material; 2 lets it come out; 3 is taste; 4 is intelligence*.

A great writer has all 4 — but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2; they’re most important.

Annie Dillard on Writing

“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”

10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates

“Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader — or any reader. He/she might exist — but is reading someone else.”

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

“If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.”

Michael Lewis on Writing, Money, and the Necessary Self-Delusion of Creativity

“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”

Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews

“A writer’s work is the product of laziness.”

Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”

Charles Bukowski on Writing and His Insane Daily Routine

“Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”

Samuel Johnson on Writing and Creative Doggedness

“Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”

David Foster Wallace on Writing, Death, and Redemption

“You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”

Stephen King on Writing and the Art of “Creative Sleep”

“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

John Updike on Writing and Death

“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”

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