Quotes on Writing

I collected a short list of quotes about writing, and my comments on each regarding what they mean to me. One of them is by Maya Angelou, who passed away on May 28 of this year. May she rest in peace.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

— Benjamin Franklin

As I discussed in my last post “When You Have Writer’s Block, Leave the House”, sometimes it doesn’t help to strain for ideas when you suffer from writer’s block. Inspiration is everywhere outside the house or office, away from the writing desk or kitchen table. It gets you to break the cycle of boredom, frustration and other negative emotions associated with writer’s block, so you’ll feel refreshed when you return to work.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.

— Maya Angelou

I could say that behind every great writer is a great editor. However, don’t depend too much on the editor to rewrite the story for you; the job of a good editor is to pinpoint the errors in a writing and suggest improvements, not do the rewriting. If a writer can’t clarify what he/she is communicating through a clear reflection of sentence construction, grammar and spelling, no amount of editing talent will rectify that.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

— Mark Twain

There are such things as crutch words, words that writers rely upon like a “crutch” to move a story along while hampering the storytelling. Such examples are adverbs, “very” (as Twain pointed out) and like, you know, “like” and “you know”. To improve a sentence, eliminate crutch words, make a list of them and try avoiding them. A list of crutch words is not the same for everyone. Use stronger verbs too. Instead of saying a character “walked”, how did he/she walk? Trudge? Stroll? March?

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

— Ernest Hemingway

Like anything worth pursuing well, writing is something that has often evolved for each writer. Writers grow and change not just in skills, but also in experience, opinion, ideology, etc. The way I wrote at 10 years old is not how I write now, and the way I will write 20 years from now will be different from today.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks Teresa. I am writing a book and that is not an easy thing. There are many days that I have writers block. Thanks for this information.

  2. Greetings from NaBloPoMo! I love this post–a refresher on some guiding principles that are easy to drift away from when you’re in the trenches of creating. The Hemingway line is my favorite because it is so true, the idea of writing as an ever-evolving craft.

    1. I’m happy you like my post! Reading about writing — other people’s quotes, blogs giving writing advice, how-to books — are great motivations for one’s writing career. It’s all a cycle really — learning about writing, writing, getting feedback, growing, then repeat.

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