Writing Advice From Famous Irish Authors

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In anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it might be fun to tap into the wit and wisdom of a few famous Irish and Anglo-Irish writers. While March 17 seems like a logical time to celebrate all things Irish, Ireland’s contributions to literature are worth noting anytime. From the Middle Ages to the present, Irish poets, novelists and playwrights (writing in both Irish and English) have deftly matched matters of art and identity with distinctive voice, experimentation and wit.

Maybe in your own explorations as a writer and reader you’ve encountered the drama of the medieval Tain Bo Cuilange sagas, the satire of eighteenth-century author Jonathan Swift, the romance of the Gaelic Revival via William Butler Yeats, or James Joyce’s “stream of consciousness” writings. Or perhaps you’ve read a bit of Maria Edgeworth, Elizabeth Bowen, Eavan Boland or (if you’re a fan of chick lit) Marian Keyes. I could probably add to this list until next St. Patrick’s Day ... . For today, I’ve selected these five tidbits of writing advice from famous Irish authors:

Being a Writer:

“The intellect is forced to choose: perfection of the life, or of the work.” –William Butler Yeats

Finding Your Voice:

“Write as you speak.” –Maeve Binchy

Writing Fiction:

“The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” –Oscar Wilde


“No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.” --James Joyce

The Genius of James Joyce:

“His writing is not about something. It is the thing itself.” --Samuel Beckett

Read a Writer's Digest Interview with Emma Donaghue, Irish author of the bestselling novel Room:

For more writing advice from a contemporary Irish author, check out Writer With a Day Jobby Aine Greaney, published by Writer’s Digest Books.

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