When you’re a writer, a lot of writing tips look like similar clichés after a while. We’ll highlight some lesser-known quotes by writers who told it like it is. In all their unfiltered glory.

On inspiration

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
― Jack London

Nothing if not direct. Too often we are told that inspiration comes from some divine source and we have to sit and wait at our writing desks, waiting for it to course through us. But we aren’t just a vessel for elusive inspiration. The power is within us. If you’re feeling uninspired, try to move around, go for a walk. See the sights, the people. 

On drafts

“The first draft of everything is shit.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Sound advice for those of us who are prone to self-editing. It can be tempting to put pressure on yourself to perfect your prose as you’re writing your first draft. Often, however, this can be detrimental. A first draft is for getting all your ideas on the page and assembling them into some kind of order. The spontaneity of the words will give birth to some brilliant ideas. Don’t squash these by trying to edit as you go. Come back later and finetune it. 

On reading ease

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
— Nathaniel Hawthorne 

This quote hits home for us editing experts, for obvious reasons. Hawthorne acknowledges here that it takes a lot of effort to make your writing clear. Redrafting doesn’t get enough credit in the writing process. In many cases, it’s much more difficult than your first draft. This leads us to a shameless plug...

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On books

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.”
— Stephen King

King of writing tips (pardon the pun) has a great point here. As well as going after inspiration by getting out into the world, you should also be reading voraciously. We must study other authors and traditions so that we have the know-how to turn tradition on its head. We also must find our idols. What writers do you love, and what is it you like about their writing? Take notes. This will help you find your own style and your own voice. Not by imitation, but by understanding what appeals to you. 

On habits

“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
— George Singleton

A big part of being a good writer is making writing a habit. The less you write, the more you’ll get blank page syndrome. Write something every day. Even if it’s bad. Even if it’s just a journal entry. You’ll likely find yourself wording experiences in a way that later inspires your work. 

We appreciate the safety caveat, too.

Laura Kelly

Laura is a freelance writer and worked at Readable for a number of years. Laura is well-versed in optimising content for readability and Readable's suite of tools. She aims to write guides that help you make the most out of Readable.