Writers in the Storm

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September 9, 2019

A Pessimist's Collection of (Inspiring) Writing Quotes

Julie Glover

I'm a born pessimist — whenever things are going too well in my life, I get this overwhelming sense of dread. Because I just know that doom is right around the corner.

Obviously I'm not here to advocate pessimism, or we'll all be doomsayers and how annoying would that be?!

But sometimes, writers read motivational quotes, and rather than feel inspired, we feel cheated. For example, remember that saying, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it"? Yeah, right. Whoever said that probably didn't dream of making the New York Times bestseller list with their debut book.


So what if you're a pessimist like me? Or just having one of those seasons when the writing gig is going about as well as Alexander's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? What if the motivational quotes just aren't doing it for you?

You're not the only permanent or temporary pessimist writer out there. Let's hear from some famous authors with their pessimistic — and yet somehow inspirational — observations about writing.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway

No wonder I keep feeling like this should be easier than it is, and yet it isn't. We're always learning, or should be.

Writing is a delicious agony. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

Sounds about right.

To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself. ~ Anne Rice

Oh great, the very thing I tried so desperately to avoid doing throughout adolescence and my dating years, now I'm supposed to embrace. Bring it on! Let me be a fool for the sake of the story.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. ~ Anne Lamott

Too often, we compare our first drafts to other authors' final products, and then feel awful because we don't measure up. But maybe it's okay to be terrible at the beginning, as long as you're willing to polish the story and the prose to a shine.

Because hey, the alternative sucks.

The easiest reading is damned hard writing. ~ Thomas Hood

Of course it is! Why should we be surprised? Dancer Fred Astaire once admitted: "I suppose I made it look easy, but gee whiz, did I work and worry." Creatives must recognize that requires intense effort to make something appear seamless.

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~ Thomas Mann

True. Becoming a better writer makes it more likely that you'll recognize when your story isn't quite there. You know you can do better, and you will.

When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. ~ Stephen King

Only Stephen King would immediately come up with the analogy of murdering children (I hope), but he's spot-on about how much it can hurt to edit. And yet, we must accept the pain to reach that next level, the level of penning a novel readers won't forget.

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. ~ Harper Lee

We can't take critique, rejections, and bad reviews too personally. Even if what you write is fantastic, someone won't like it. (Though I don't know who it was that didn't like To Kill a Mockingbird.)

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business. ~ John Steinbeck

Good information to know going in. But hey, we can do a lot to make it more likely we'll win the race, and when our horse crosses the finish line first? Aaaah, a sweet, sweet victory!

Or at least carry on.

What pessimistic quotes about writing actually inspire you to keep going?

About Julie

Julie Glover is a pessimist by nature, but an optimist in practice! Because no wants to hang out with an Eeyore all day—not even Eeyore himself. (Although an overly cheery Tigger would get old quickly too...)

Julie writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, and supernatural suspense (under the pen name Jules Lynn). Her upcoming YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®, and her co-written Muse Island Series is available now, beginning with book one, Mark of the Gods.

You can visit her website here.

27 comments on “A Pessimist's Collection of (Inspiring) Writing Quotes”

  1. You know I'm the sunny side of you, Julie, so it's a challenge for me to find these...but you also know I'm a quotaholic, so I'm up to it!

    A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God. - Sidney Sheldon

    If people knew how hard i worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all. -Michelangelo

    Submitting your work is like getting on stage, pulling down your pants, and asking for comments. - Christina Dodd

    1. Great ones! I especially love the Michelangelo quote. Of course, we all know he was naturally talented too, but he didn't rely on that — he worked hard at it. And yeah, I find that inspiring!

  2. Fabulous quotes. Appealed to my inner curmudgeon, but I'm mostly a glass half-full gal. But we all can get discouraged. Important to keep in mind that 1. this isn't easy and 2. even some big names have felt frustration, too. Great post!

  3. I LOVE the Thomas Mann quote. And I don't consider myself a pessimist. Just a realist. (So say all pessimists everywhere. Except for you, who are enough of a realist to realize that makes you a pessimist.)

    1. Oh, I think I'm a realist too. But enough people have told me I'm actually a pessimist that I decided to just roll with it. Not worth arguing with those cockeyed Pollyannas. 😉

        1. One of my favorite Disney movies! And yes, I always wait for the good thing to happen, because I just know it will. That got me in trouble in an on-stage rehearsal once.

  4. I don't have many pessimistic quotes (I do that by myself), but one I've always liked is: "Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words." I keep this and the Tom Clancy quote, "Just write the damned book!" above my desk.

    However, my favorite writing quote was created inadvertently by my then 11 year-old grandson. I was writing a short story and I was struggling to find a way to end it within the word limit. This particular story featured him and his cousins as the protagonists. I let him read what I had so far, and this is what he suggested:

    "Wanna know a fast way to end a story, Gram? Just have everyone die."
    Gram: "What?!"
    Grandson: "You know. Like have everyone climb a mountain and after they get to the top, there's an accident and they all fall off. If they were on a mountain and fell off, that would be realistic."
    Gram: "I'm couldn’t have one of you kids die, let alone all of you! I couldn't write something like that!"
    Grandson: "Why not? You're just making it all up anyway. And, when everyone's dead, the story is over."

    The quote I've kept, with others over my desk: "When everyone's dead, the story is over." I turned 70 a few months ago--it's a good reminder.

    1. "When everyone's dead, the story is over." I love that quote but I gotta say that maybe the story isn't over. It really depends on what genre you're writing. If it's paranormal, fantasy, or horror it could be the beginning of the book and the start to a whole new adventure.

      And I have just got to add that at seventy years young, depending on your pov, it could be your adventure is just beginning. At 57 what I keep reminding myself is that my life is not over, I'm not done living or learning and maybe there's still an adventure or two that will come along. If no adventures show up I still have plenty of stuff left to do. My family and animals will see to it, lol.

      My other two favorite quotes were: "Submitting your work is like getting on stage, pulling down your pants, and asking for comments". - Christina Dodd and "Writing is a delicious agony." ~ Gwendolyn Brooks.

      Thanks for sharing Julie, I enjoyed all of the great quotes.

  5. When my story is flowing, I'm on cloud nine and feeling good. When I hit an uh-oh moment and begin struggling, I call it my "sliding down a razor blade" moment. Those moments are not particularly fun as I work to find the problem, figure out a solution, try it out (sometimes many times), before finding the AHA moment and start flying again. The moments may not be fun, but they are never as bad as actually sliding down a razor blade.

  6. Katherine Center had a great quote she turned into a meme the other day. It was raw and honest, and heartfelt:

    "Write for joy. Keep your expectations low. Most writers never make money, or get famous, or make their high school boyfriends regret their choices.

    Be okay with that going in. Write for love. Write for pleasure. Understand that it's a long game, and the only way to win is to savor what you're doing.

    You'll fail more than you'll succeed. Find a way to let that make you better. Learn how to encourage yourself. Learn how to focus on what you're getting right.

    Learn how to write for your own inner reader. Nurture your tender heart. Trust your own compass about what matters. Know that trying is vastly more important than exceeding.

    Believe that writing, in the end, is its own reward."

    Katherine Center

    And, I have a whole pinterest board devoted to writing quotes: https://www.pinterest.com/momof3boysj/writing/


  7. These are great quotes! Actually, I find them the opposite of pessimistic. If these wonderful published writers felt this way (writing is hard, hopeless, full of criticism and no monetary benefit), than I'm on the right path! 🙂

  8. Laura Drake - What's that quote you often say? That brick wall is there for folks who don't want it bad enough. Something like that. Love all these quotes!

    1. From Randy Pausch - The Last :Lecture (which, if you haven't read, you should. It changed my life). Here's the whole quote:

      “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."

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