Women Writers On Writing featured image with photos of Anne Rice, Edwidge Danticat, Joyce Carol Oates, Ellen Gilchrist, and Octavia Butler

Women Writers On Writing

A list of inspirational quotes and writing advice from women writers!

March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate that we have compiled a list of inspirational writing quotes, tips and advice from some of our favorite women writers. Whether you are a writer yourself looking for the motivation to keep going, are searching for creative ideas, or just simply enjoy these writers as much as us, we hope you enjoy these quotes!

Continue your exploration of women writers and honor their indelible impact on our culture, our history, and our daily lives with our Women’s History Month Resources.


“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

—Meg Cabot

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

—Octavia E. Butler
Photo of Octavia Butler with quote of hers that reads, "First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable."

“Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you’re working. Tell them it’s research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.”

—Jennifer Weiner

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

—Joan Didion

“Incident (in novels and in life) is momentary, and temporary, but the memory of an incident, the story told about it, the meaning it takes on or loses over time, is lifelong and fluid, and that’s what interests me and what I hope will prove interesting to readers. We’re deluged with stories of things that have happened, events, circumstances, actions, etc. We need some stories that reveal how we think and feel and hope and dream.”

—Alice McDermott

“Instructions for living a life:

pay attention
be astonished
tell about it”

—Mary Oliver

“Create dangerously, for people that read dangerously…. [Write] knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.”

—Edwidge Danticat
Photo of Edwidge Danticat with quote of hers that reads, "Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously..."

“Tell almost the whole story.”

—Anne Sexton

“Sooner or later every writer evolves his own definition of a story. Mine is: A reflection of life plus beginning and end (life seems not to have either) and a meaning.”

—Mary O’Hara

“Your day’s work might turn out to have been a mess. So what? Vonnegut said, ‘When I write I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’ So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use lots of paper. Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friends.”

—Anne Lamott

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

—Shannon Hale

“How often I have tried to tell writing students that the first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well. The writer must trust the reader to be at least as intelligent as he is. Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.”

—Ellen Gilchrist
Photo of Ellen Gilchrist with quote of hers that reads, "...only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen."

“The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning. The former is not always apparent, while the latter always has to be, before the end.”

—Vera Nazarian

“Writing is about resilience and faith. Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

—Cheryl Strayed

“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

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

—Annie Dillard

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”

—Joyce Carol Oates
Photo of Joyce Carol Oates with quote of hers that reads, "The first sentence can't be written until the final sentence is written."

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

—Madeleine L’Engle

“When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.”

—Lady Gaga

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

—Lili St. Crow

“Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.”

—Amy Joy

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.”

—Anne Rice
Photo of Anne Rice with quote of hers that reads, "To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself."

2 thoughts on “Women Writers On Writing

  1. Zehra Rasool says:

    The roar of the Niagara Falls, a deafening sound,
    As I approached, the mist became pronounced,
    I was drenched to the bone, but I didn’t care,
    That moment, that thrill, was beyond and compare.
    The water churns, a frothy white,
    As I got closer, it was quite a sight,
    I felt so small beneath its power,
    But in that moment, I was truly discovered.
    The maid of the Mist, my guide and friend,
    She took me close, around the bend,
    The beauty of the falls, I cannot deny,
    And on this ride, I felt truly alive.

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