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Writers on Writing: 15 Quotes

Humans began writing, in one form or another, around 5,500 years ago. Most scholars agree that the first form of writing began in Mesopotamia, when basic pictorial signs developed into a more complex system of characters that represented the Sumerian language. Other writing systems later emerged independently in nearly every corner of the world, from Egypt to China to Mesoamerica.

But why do we write? Fundamentally, we write as a form of communication with others — and with future generations. Carl Sagan, the great astronomer, author, and science communicator, called writing “perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs.” We also write for ourselves, whether privately or with the intention of sharing it later. Putting ideas into words can help us work through problems and order our thoughts — for many writers, famous or otherwise, writing is a form of therapy that becomes an essential part of their lives.

While writers may dream of fame and fortune, they are typically motivated by other, more profound factors. After all, as even the most successful writers generally attest, writing isn’t easy — there are far simpler, and less solitary, ways to make a living. As the following quotes from famous scribes reveal, writers often write because they love and respect their craft, and in most cases they simply can’t live without it.

A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibilities of their own souls.
— Walt Whitman

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!
— Anne Frank

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
— John Steinbeck

And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.
— Ray Bradbury

The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.
— William H. Gass

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
— Toni Morrison

I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn't, I would die.
— Isaac Asimov

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
— Octavia E. Butler

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.
— Truman Capote

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
— E.L. Doctorow

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
— Stephen King

Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them.
— Rebecca Solnit

I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world.
— Mary Karr

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.
— Neil Gaiman

Photo credit: Arash Asghari/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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