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Dorothy Sayers said,

“A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”
There is a tiny bit of truth to that, and not a little bit of irony. I, however, have a different view of quotes; they are a source of inspiration, a reminder of what I do and why at times when I lose motivation. They encourage me and challenge me and show me that so many before me have gone through the same trials, challenges and heartbreak that inhabit the world of writing.

Some quotes make me laugh and lighten my mood when writing gets dreary. This one cracks me up:

“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer--and if so, why?”
- Bennett Cerf
Yup, we writers are crazy, lol. But we still do it because anything else would be a fail.

This one makes me laugh, too, but it’s more a sinister laugh than a shaking my head laugh:

“Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.”
- Flannery O'Connor
This is the one that flashes through my mind when every last person I tell I’m a writer says, “Ah, yes. I’d like to write a book one of these days.” As though it were a walk in the park.

Others allow me to identify this strange, creative part of me with other writers. Like this one by Orson Scott Card:

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”
Reading this relieves my frustrations when I find myself inundated with SNIs. Instead, I feel grateful to have so many ideas, lucky to be blessed with my talents, and happy to have a special creativity.

If I’m stuck on a particular passage I recall this quote by Terry Pratchett, smile a little, and move on:

“There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write.”
The perfect illustration of the editing process:

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back in."
- Oscar Wilde
The path to perfection is fraught with commas. It's also fraught with people who smile condesceningly when I tell them I write Young Adult and Children's lit. To them I say,

"You must write for children in the same way you write for adults, only better."
- Maxim Gorky
After all, teens can see through anything. And they are far more discerning when it comes to what they'll spend their precious time on.

My favorite quote to read as I embark on a new project:

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”
- Nabakov
Reading this, I feel empowered to put pen to paper and fill the sheet with writing.

My favorite quote of all time is the pinnacle of inspiration for me. It teaches me how to write and forces me to put down words and thoughts that are beautiful. Chekov said:

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Gorgeous. Not only is he practicing what he’s preaching (show, don’t tell), he does it in such a lovely way that inspires my own writing.

It’s easy enough to find quotes to inspire your work. Check out Brainyquote, QuotationsPage, The Quote Garden or Great-Quotes on the internet. Also, Bartlett’s is a print resource (i.e. book) that compiles quotes that you can find at your local library. They're not a substitute for original thought, but quotes can be a motivation when you feel your brain has been wrung dry.

What are your favorite quotes for writing, inspiration, laughs, motivation, etc.?
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. Yay quotes! I especially like the one about writing for children vs. adults.'s true.

  2. I just made a list like one this one :) It's here! I love, love quotes... I have a Quotes Word doc! haha.

  3. I love quotes :-)

    The Chekov one is particularly wonderful, and the Nabakov too. It explains exactly why I'm always buying myself new notebooks even though I already have a drawer full of them waiting to be used. I love that sense of pages haunted by words which I'm yet to write.

    My favourite quote for going back to whenever I get stuck is from E. L. Doctorow:

    "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

  4. I like that quote a lot, Leila. It's so true. I think that's what's great about so many quotes: their trueness.

    Emilia, thanks for sharing your Electrifyin' Quotes!!

  5. Such a fun post!

    My favorite quote inspired the title of my blog. :) "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." (Also be E. L. Doctorow. :D)

  6. love these. I have definitely referenced (and probably mangled) the Gorky quote.

    the one I write by is "give them what they want, not what they expect." I wish I knew the source. (well, *my* source was my college screenwriting professor)

  7. I am a huge disciple--er--fan of SARK. In her most recent book, "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper" there are TONS of great quotes from other writers. But she has one of many of her own in there that I would love to have on a poster:

    "Your writing inspires others. If you share it, then we can be inspired."

    The whole book is completely amazing, especially the Writer's Manifesto at the beginning. That SERIOUSLY needs to be on a poster, hanging up in my office.


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Item Reviewed: Quotables Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook