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18 Famous Writers on Writing

If there’s one thing writers have in common, it’s that we all suffer from that dreaded writer’s block. When inspiration runs dry and you can’t seem to make the words flow. Even the greats know how it feels. That’s why it’s comforting to read words of advice from famous writers. Some say oddly sensible things. Others offer harsh but much-needed counsel. Here are some words of wisdom from famous writers about the art of writing.

Maya Angelou

Famous Writers on Writing: Maya Angelou, author of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," "And Still I Rise," and "Phenomenal Woman"

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

F. Sionil Jose

“Don’t give it up kung talagang gusto ninyo [if you really want it]. No matter what kind of criticism you get—even if you are called the lousiest writer in this country.”

Madeleine L’Engle

“Risk is essential. It’s scary. Every time I sit down and start the first page of a novel I am risking failure. We are encouraged in this world not to fail… We are encouraged only to do that which we can be successful in. But things are accomplished only by our risk of failure.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Famous writers on writing: F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of "The Great Gatsby"

“Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”

Zadie Smith

Rule 7 out of 10: Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

Stephen King

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Joan Didion

Famous writers on writing: Joan Didion, author of "The Year of Magical Thinking," "The White Album," and "Blue Nights"

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Kevin Kwan

“If there’s anything I’ve learnt from my own experiences over the past few years since [Crazy Rich Asians] was published, it’s that we are all capable of infinitely more than we think. So much else is possible beyond what we can imagine… And find a good Chinese takeout place that doesn’t use MSG.”

Jhumpa Lahiri

“Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me.’”

Neil Gaiman

Famous writers on writing: Neil Gaiman, author of "American Gods," "Good Omens," and "Stardust"

“Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

Ernest Hemingway

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out.”

Margaret Atwood

Famous writers on writing: Margaret Atwood, author of "The Handmaid's Tale," "Alias Grace," and "The Blind Assassin"

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

Charles Bukowski

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

Sylvia Plath

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Haruki Murakami

Famous writers on writing: Haruki Murakami, author of "1Q84," "Kafka on the Shore," and "Norwegian Wood"

“If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.”

Rainbow Rowell

“Finish your book before you try to make it perfect. You can paralyze yourself if you worry about getting everything just right. You’ll never finish.”

John Green

“I never liked writing concluding paragraphs to papers—where you just repeat what you’ve already said with phrases like ‘In summation,’ and ‘To conclude.’”

Hope that keeps your writer’s block at bay. Want more tips? How about a survival guide for students? Check out our All About Senior High section.

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