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20 literary quotes that'll have you writing again

19 December 2016

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Lost all inspiration? It’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? A blank page demanding words, but you have absolutely nothing to give.

Writer’s block strikes us all. It’s natural; no one can be creative constantly - we’re only human.

When you hit a roadblock, you can often find inspiration in the most unlikely of places, but, sometimes, even the more unusual approaches fail to offer any respite. Which begs the question: if you’re staring at a blank page and have been doing so for longer than feels comfortable, where do you go from here?

We think we have the answer, and it lies with the peerless geniuses in the world of literature. Quite often, a sentence or two is all we need to regain our writing mojo, and what better place from which to draw inspiration than from the words of the greats?

Without further ado, here are twenty hand-picked quotes from authors. If you’ve hit a significant roadblock, we think at least one of them will clear the way for you, immediately:

1. “Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

2. “All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.”
—Steve Almond

3. “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

4. “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

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

6. “If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
—Peter Handke

7. “We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
—John Updike

8. “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King

9. “Know your literary tradition, savour it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishising masterpieces.”
—Allegra Goodman

10. “I do not over-intellectualise the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
—Tom Clancy

11. “One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block

12. “Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”
—Leigh Brackett

13. “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
—Joyce Carol Oates

14. “Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully

15. “Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
—Ray Bradbury

16. “Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
—Ray Bradbury

17. “There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”
—Jim Thompson

18. “Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard

19. “You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide.”
—Marie de Nervaud

20. “Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg

Ah! You’ve found your writing mojo again! Brilliant. Keep this list handy, just in case it strikes again in future.

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