5 Great Quotes on Writing

As we’re gearing up for WD’s 90th anniversary party next week—talking about printing magazine covers on cakes, sustaining unfortunate injuries such as a thumbtack puncture from a flier posting gone wrong—I keep flipping back to our January issue to check various covers, round up materials, etc.

In the process, I’ve been bumping into WD Editor Jessica Strawser’s 90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors feature. Here are five of my favorite tidbits from the piece … followed, of course, by today’s prompt.

(Also, thanks to everyone for your excellent author ideas. I’m going to add them to our list of possibilities. If you have an author you’d love to see in Writer’s Digest magazine, post his or her name here!)

“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.” —PEG BRACKEN, 1970 WD

“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.” —RAY BRADBURY, 1991 WD

“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’” —STEPHEN KING, 1992 WD

“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” —ANDRE DUBUS, 1988

“Writing is like being in love. You never get better at it or learn more about it. The day you think you do is the day you lose it. Robert Frost called his work a lover’s quarrel with the world. It’s ongoing. It has neither a beginning nor an end. You don’t have to worry about learning things. The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.”

Fight Club

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

Take the last fight or disagreement you were involved in—be it a fistfight, a verbal battle with a spouse, a passive-aggressive note campaign with a neighbor—and incorporate it into a scene with a different resolution.

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3 thoughts on “5 Great Quotes on Writing

  1. Martha W

    Mark — I’m really sorry you have such a wonderful job. I mean, you get to watch clowns all day? That sounds fabulous!

    Zac – My favorite quote? "Be careful what you wish for." *grin*


    I watched the little angel as he stood on tip-toe to reach the cabinet door. The glass in his hand tilting precariously to one side.


    For that I received an eyeroll. You’d think he was thirty, not four. Again he stretched. One thing my son has not figured out is that both his hands are attached to the same body.

    The sound of spilling lemonade and ice cubes rang through the kitchen. I closed my eyes briefly. Just once I wish…

    "Uh-oh." That was angel number two.

    The oldest stared at me from near the window, the sunshine streaming through to flicker across his golden hair like flame. Brown eyes wavered with tears as he pointed to the mini brunette standing beside him.

    "He did it."

    I sighed. "No. He didn’t."


    "I saw you."

    His eyes narrowed. I knew he was deciding if that was possible. "Nuh-uh."

    I could feel my blood begin to boil. There wasn’t much that got to me. I considered myself to have pretty thick skin. Unless my son acted like me.

    "Sweetheart-" I barely ground the word out from between my teeth. My jaw started to ache.

    "What." His tone a perfect match to mine.

    I stood perfectly still, counting to ten. Then I started over and went to twenty. Finally able to speak without teaching my sons new words, I pointed to the couch. "Get out of the corner. Go. Sit. Down."

    "Mom." He stared at me expectantly, one eyebrow raised.


    "I’m not in the corner."

  2. Mark James

    It didn’t really happen like this, but ohhhhh. . . what I wouldn’t give to make it so.

    The Monthly Status Heads Up Meeting. I called it the Monthly Circle Jerk. I sat at the conference table staring at my manager. Huh, I thought, didn’t know toadstools came that big.

    They talked about leveraging assets, minimizing liabilities, and there he was, center ring, playing to an audience too dumb to know he was a clown in the wrong kind of suit.

    I sat back, mildly entertained, utterly dazzled by their dense minds. I didn’t get it. They all looked pretty smart, but still, they nodded, took notes, acted like he was saying something that made sense.

    Oh no. My manager’s boss, the Very Important Person, Vice President of the Northern Quarter of the Civilized World was asking me a question.

    “I’m sorry, what was that?”

    She smiled, gave me that look, the one that said she couldn’t believe words dropped from her lips had gone unheard in the infinite universe. “I wanted your opinion as to the plan to minimize Predictable Liability.”

    I looked at my boss. “I think your biggest liability is sitting across from you, wearing the wrong suit. Predict something good. Tell him to walk.”

    Twelve people at that table, and it got so quiet, you could have heard a hard drive spin.

    She cleared her throat, pasted that fake smile onto her face. Her bouffant hair-do stood up a couple more inches. “You think that’s a viable solution?”

    I shrugged. “Depends.”

    Her smile was stretching her face so bad, she’d have to go get her wrinkles tightened again soon. “And what would it depend on?”

    My boss was glaring at me. Had one hand pressed to his face, finger pushing at his eyebrow, making that eye bigger, making me think about toads. I ignored him, like I always did. “Depends on if you got an extra clown suit lying around. Could use some funnier shtick in these meetings, besides you all jawing at each, acting like you’re all the one child that got left behind.”

    Sometimes we say things so much, we don’t hear them anymore. The guy next to me, Dex, was the biggest nerd you ever saw. Swear to God. He should wear a t-shirt that says ‘Free Nerd Demonstration. Keep Watching.’

    “And you believe that would be an appropriate solution, given the current state of the market, and recent economic indicators?” Dex said.

    What? It was like he was on Steroids For The Terminally Corporate.

    I glanced at him. “Come again?”

    From the corner of my eye I saw my boss. His face was beyond red. Magenta would come close to the color blooming across his fat cheeks.

    The VP of the Northern Quarter gathered spread sheets in front of her, like a teacher putting all the test papers together. “We’ve done some very constructive work today,” she said. I knew that smile had to hurt. Skin can only stretch so far. “I’m looking forward to our next time together.”

    Like it was Circle Time, and we were in Kindergarten.


    That’s me. “What?”

    “Stop by my office later today, please.”

    I’d been summoned. “Yeah. Sure. You want me to come by before I pack up my desk or after?”