Writing Quotes

Most writers of my acquaintance like to tape inspirational quotes to their computer monitors. Whether they do this literally or just figuratively, I’ll never know — I just know that when someone posts a great quote, I see a great number of responses involving printing and taping.

I love these quotes. The best quotes aren’t the ones that introduce a new concept into your life, but those that illuminate or reinforce the idea that, deep down, you know you should be focusing on. When we’re lost in the tangled forest of our own thoughts and fears and hesitations and self-doubt, a single quote can be the beacon that leads us back into the light. Or maybe just the beacon that shows us the direction we should be heading.  The trek itself is up to us.

At different times in our lives and our writing careers, different quotes become powerful. We don’t always need the same advice. Our weaknesses and strengths change (“Screw the quotes about language, I need quotes on plotting!”), our tone changes (“Stop kicking my ass, I just need a hug.”), and our excuses change (“See? Stephen King says I don’t need to plan out my novel…”).

So here’s my question: What quotes do you have “taped to your monitor” now? What quotes have you found useful in the past? Are you one of those rare people who doesn’t find any particular inspiration from quotes?

Most of my quotes are from Bruce Lee. My current beacon is:

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

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  1. 1. Phil

    I had this one tacked to my monitor for ages–it was meant to keep me on track when I was goofing off on the internet:

    “We sacrifice the thrones of angels for a short and spurious pleasure.” –Emerson

    I’d look up, read it, and go ‘Ouch!’

  2. 2. Natania

    Pretty much sums up the way I write, and always reminds me of the wonderful mystery of creativity and imagination.

    “Artists of all disciplines must be willing to go into the dark, let go control, be surprised.” – Madeleine L’Engle

  3. 3. Alma Alexander

    Bruce Lee:

    Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

    heh. Sorry, but was he channeling Yoda or was Yoda channelling him? (“No! Try not! DO, or do not! There is no try!”

    I don’t have inspirational quotes, oddly enough. Not the kind I copy out and stick on monitors, anyway. The one that I carry inside my heart and that gets me through blocks and frustrations and hard times is something that the late great Roger Zelazny told me once, after reading my work. Corner me at a con somewhere and I’ll tell you the full story…

  4. 4. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett

    Abandon All Standards and Write Fast (no idea the source)

    Before enlightenment
    chopping wood and carrying water
    After enlightenment:
    chopping wood and carrying water

  5. 5. Bruce

    I like this one:

    “When we’re lost in the tangled forest of our own thoughts and fears and hesitations and self-doubt, a single quote can be the beacon that leads us back into the light.”

  6. 6. Marie Brennan

    . . . I just have “Write your novel!”

    Written in Japanese.

    For reasons that are now completely outdated, but the thing has been there for about six years now and I hardly ever even notice it’s there anymore. (Which kind of defeats the purpose.)

  7. 7. Adam Heine

    I have excerpts from a comic book by David Mack where he discusses the War of Art. For example:

    The only way to combat
    resistance of something
    you must do is to put in
    the time & due diligence
    daily. Consider yourself
    a pro beforehand.

    You can read the whole excerpt (not all of which is taped to my desk) here.

    I also have 4 words taped around my laptop monitor to remind me what I must be for my kids no matter what I happen to be doing when they seek my attention: “available”, “responsive”, “not annoyed”.

  8. 8. Joe Iriarte

    I don’t literally clip and paste quotes, but here are a couple that I have found powerful for me recently:

    “The important thing about songs is that they’re just like stories. They don’t mean a damn unless there’s people listenin’ to them.” -Anansi (Neil Gaiman)

    “Climbing as we fall
    We dare to hold on to our fate
    And steal away our destiny
    To catch ourselves
    With quiet grace”
    -INXS, “The Stairs”

  9. 9. Bran Fan

    I like the one from Miss Snark. “Write well. Quit obsessing.” I read her blog from beginning to end, and those four words sum it all up.

    (I miss Miss Snark!)

  10. 10. Graeme Williams

    I have index cards scattered around. Actually taping them somewhere is well beyond my organizational powers. Anyway, here’s a timely one:

    If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

    – Emma Goldman

  11. 11. Pat Lundrigan

    Here’s what I have . . .
    2cd draft = 1st-10%

    Each para is a complete moment/A sentence is a thought. Visualize first, then describe.

    From now on, you will write, write, write, write, write, every day of the week and every week of the year.


  12. 12. Steve Buchheit

    About four months ago one of the writers in my critique group put his work to be critiqued on our group site and sent around an email with the title, “Novel Up.”

    I loved that. There’s so many permutations of meaning to it. Like “Pony up,” “Giddy Up,” and the way I use it when I taped it to my laptop, “Cowboy Up.” Time to Novel Up.


  1. Jenn Reese » Blog Archive » SF Novelist: Writing Quotes

Author Information

Jenn Reese

Jenn Reese is the author of JADE TIGER (Juno Books, 2007), an action-adventure kung fu romance, with tigers. Her short stories have appeared online at Strange Horizons and Lone Star Stories, and in various print anthologies like Japanese Dreams, Sword & Sorceress, and Polyphony 4. When she's not writing, Jenn is practicing martial arts, playing World of Warcraft, or dreaming of rain. Visit site.



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