10 Essential Quotes on Becoming a Writer (plus one of my own)

by Joe Bunting | 33 comments

I first wanted to become a writer because I read those great books (you know the ones: Great Expectations and Harry Potter and Les Miserables and On the Road) and thought, “Wouldn't it be wonderful to do this all day, to spend your afternoons having conversations with interesting characters and dealing with the deep challenges of the soul?”

I didn't begin actually writing regularly, though, until much later. First, I wrote a few songs, about twenty actually—terrible things, but they were thrilling to write. Then, because I thought I was going to become a rock star, I started a blog to promote my music. I found, by accident, that I preferred to write paragraphs than verse.

And so it began.

Since then, I've written books and magazine articles and blog posts and website copy, both professionally and for my own pleasure, and I'm very grateful to say that after years of dreaming (and many more of hard work) I've become a full-time, professional writer.

However, it all began out of a deep awe of the books that had touched the hidden places inside of me, and a profound respect for the authors who wrote them.


10 Quotes on How to Become a Writer

Some of these quotes, I've been collecting for years, others I found only recently, but all of them speak to universal truths about why people become writers and how to become a writer. I hope you enjoy the quotes as much as I enjoyed discovering them.

1. “A person is a fool to become a writer…”

roald dahl quote how to become a writer

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” —Roald Dahl

2. “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers…”

dorothy parker quote become a writer

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy.” —Dorothy Parker

3. “… They stop being writers.”

charles bukowski quote become a writer

“Writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.” —Charles Bukowski

4. “When writers die they become books…”

become books borges quote become a writer

“When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.” Jorge Luis Borges

5. “The entire reason for becoming a writer…”

neil gaiman quote become a writer

“As far as I'm concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.” —Neil Gaiman

6. “But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth…”

colette quote become a writer

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” —Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

7. “A professional writer is…”

becoming a professional writer richard bach quote

“A professional writer is an amateur who did quit.” —Richard Bach

8. “Don't be a ‘writer.'”

william faulkner quote become a writer

“Don't be a ‘writer.' Be writing.” —William Faulkner

9. “… You need to become the person you need to become to write that book.”

junot diaz quote become a writer

“In order to writer the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person the person you need to become to write that book.” —Junot Diaz

10. “These things are your becoming.”

cheryl strayed quote become a writer

“The useless days days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels…. These things are your becoming.” —Cheryl Strayed

10 Steps to Becoming a Writer

If you'd like to become a writer, we recently released a short, 10-step guide on the process of becoming a writer. You can find it by clicking the download button below or clicking here: 10 Steps to Becoming a Writer

Here's one last quote on becoming a writer, this one from me.

Joe Bunting Quote Becoming a Writer

“No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. In fact, you never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.” —Joe Bunting

Why do you want to become a writer? Let us know if the comments section.



William Faulkner said, “Don't be a ‘writer.' Be writing,” but is it too much to ask for both?

For your writing practice today, write for fifteen minutes about your experience being a writer. Describe your daily writing habits (or lack thereof!). Write about what it feels like to write.

When your time is up, share your practice in the comments section. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few practices by other writers.

Enjoy becoming a writer today!

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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  1. Marcy Mason McKay

    As a child, I gobbled up Roald Dahl’s novels like everlasting gobstoppers, so his quote was my fav (though I loved all the sayings). I feel like I didn’t choose to be a writer. Words chose me.

    • Joe Bunting

      Me too. The BFG was one of my favorite books growing up!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      My favorites were Willy Wonka, and one of the least well-known novels: Danny, Champion of the World. That man had an AMAZING imagination.

      Thanks again for the wonderful quotes, Joe.

  2. Helaine Grenova

    Joe, you ask if I want to be a writer. No I don;t want to be a writer, I am a writer. I have a short story that is submitted to Glimmer Train literary magazine. I will find out at the end of January if my work meets the criteria to be published. I write whether it is on a page or in my head. I will willingly admit that not all my writing is good, but the stuff that I think is good I will continue to work on until I think it is perfect.

    • Joe Bunting

      Love it, Helaine! That’s what it takes.

  3. Natalia

    Thank you for posting those quotes, and plus more for writing them in the body of the letter, for subscribers could easily copy-paste the ones speaking to them, as I did.

    • Joe Bunting

      You’re very welcome, Natalia!

  4. Kathy

    These quotes were very inspiring. The one I like the best is from Faulkner, “Don’t be a ‘writer,’ be writing.” It tells me that this is an active pursuit of putting down words that mean something and will result in a work that makes sense and bring enjoyment.

    • Joe Bunting

      YES. Agreed Kathy.

  5. Yvette Carol

    Great list. More fodder for my Great Quotes file. Merry Christmas to you, Joe, and the team!

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Yvette! Merry Christmas to you too!

  6. Krithika Rangarajan

    Thanks Joe! Neil Gaiman’s quote cracked me up 😉 , while yours moved me to tears #HUGS

    • Joe Bunting

      Aw, wow Krithika. Thanks for telling me! We’re becoming writers together!

  7. Diane Turner

    Great list. Thanks for posting it, Joe.
    Writing every day is a must for me. Otherwise I get twitchy. It may not be a long session of BIC, but something produced makes it a good day. When the writing flows, it feels like melted butter, and I breathe faster to keep up. When it doesn’t, cracked concrete sets up shop between my shoulder blades and weighs me down. Happy holidays to you and your team.

  8. Erin Ramsey

    I am starting back in writing. I was burned out for a few years while obtaining a graduate degree where I feel like I wrote over 100 papers on topics for what someone else wanted. Now I want to get back into it just for the enjoyment. It has been difficult for me because I feel I have a bad habit that everything I write now will be graded. Thankfully a good friend of mine introduced me to this site to help me get over my misguided views and fears of getting back to writing. I still am skittish about starting a large project. Short stories seem like a giant task for me. I guess the best be for me is to take baby steps through the suggested topics on this website and it looks like it will help. I look forward to all the topics and suggestions that will be brought forward to help all writers. I also look forward to developing the habit of wanting to write every day and having that build my writing confidence and creativity.

    • Joe Bunting

      I don’t blame you for being burned out, Erin, but it’s great that you’re getting back into it. I hope you’re able to rediscover your voice!

  9. Eliese

    Quotes are such a great way to get in a writing mood, and these are wonderful. Thank you, and for the book as well.

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Eliese. I hope they help!

  10. EndlessExposition

    Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman are two of my personal deities – and Neil is the unofficial mascot of my school’s writers’ club – so seeing them on the list delighted me. I think like a lot of others in the comments, writing chose me, not the other way round. My mentor likes to say “We writers are a little bit crazy – people who don’t exist are constantly talking to us in our heads”. I have a compulsion to let the voices of those people be heard. Ever since I started my WIP, I’ve never looked back. I fell in love with my two main characters and I know they’ll be with me for the rest of my life. It’s an incredible feeling when you finally find THE story and THE characters – like finding your soul mate, really.

    • Joe Bunting

      I’m a big fan of Roald and Neil, too. I love your perspective. Thanks!

  11. Dawn Atkin

    I write because I go mad if I don’t. I write because I’m mad. Writing is madness for me. Writing liberates me from the strain and structure of predictable reality and frees a stormy inner muse.
    I writes spasmodically, because, like my madness, it is an unpredictable urge. More of a surge.

    I write morning pages in spurts and spurts. I respond to prompts with vigour and urgency. They are short and easy, I can pounce around the mad abyss for 15 minutes; totally unhindered.

    I fantasise about longer projects. I write ideas down. And then I write more ideas down. And then I write even more ideas down. And then the old ideas get lost. And so do I. So I go back to short bursts and sprints of writing prompts and hints. Gets the blood pumping. Gets the heart thumping.

    I’m a lazy writer. I wrote because I love it. I fantasise about possibly being published. And then I curl my tail, like a lazy cat, and purr backwards into my own writing world. It’s so comfy here. Purrrrr. There’s storms and lullabies and weird coloured skies and poetic nuance, and charming thoughts waxing lyrical and bursts of philosophical unearthing and gentle fuzzy moments and so much more.

    Truth is I’ve written a novel. Next truth is I need to get some professional feedback and structural work so I can start the re-write. The most exciting truth is – I’m really excited about it.

    As you’ve probably gathered I’m a ‘panster’, ‘free-former’, ‘let go and let it flow’ , kind of writer.
    So I reckon that if I can work out a cool structure for my story I can plan the chapters and scenes and treat each as a writing prompt and pick them out as they appeal to me.

    The first draft is very chronological and linear. And some parts of it I find a re dull writing. It’s is really just the story-line. I hope the re-write is a little more complicated, and my plan to jump in and storm the chapters and scenes as prompts will allow my manic pen to romp and stomp and bite and kick (ass) and have some fun.

    The real BIG ABSOLUTEY TRUE TRUTH is that I WRITE EVERYDAY, at work, at home and at play! I just haven’t bothered with the submissions, competitions and other writerly missions.

    I’ve done a few poetry slams. Does that count? 🙂

    • Dawn Atkin

      P.s I’m not mad really…

    • George McNeese

      Writers are a crazy bunch. But, craziness equates to creativity, I guess. At any point, I feel the same way about writing. It occupies my every thought. I need to respond to those thoughts once in a while.

    • Clara Bates

      What you wrote sounds like it should be a famous quote.

  12. Lyn

    I started writing when I was ten. I fought my mother through high school. I fought my ex-husband when I was married. I raised three kids on my own. I secretly and guiltily indulged in writing when they were in high school. I started writing again eight years ago. My first MS was short listed and then a finalist in an unpublished MS competition three years ago. I’m hoping next year it will be published. There are 3-4 more books rattling around in my cranium begging to be let out. I am proud of what I am…I AM A WRITER!

  13. Olivia

    The reason I write is because if I didn’t my life wouldn’t be complete (excuse the cliche.) I have a pretty bad habit of starting stories, reaching the middle, and giving up but my mind is always going so I don’t lack ideas, but I do lack structure. Again writing is something special to me, and to stop would be like asking the sun to quit rising

    P.S. I’m also a teen writer :

  14. MF1000

    I have to be honest, writing to me thus far has been more of the thought of writing than the actual act. Often, I get excited to think about the worlds or feelings I can create with just a combination of words, pencil and paper. I can manipulate the words into my feelings like a molding a glob of misshapen clay into the loving face of your lover. You can truly make something from nothing and I love it.

    You can use it to purvey a political idea or go sic-fi and create a creature that can read minds and has lasers for eyes. It can be a art or a science. It is my favorite medium!!!

  15. George McNeese

    I take a lot of pride in my writing. I can’t imagine what I would do if I couldn’t write. Writing keeps me sane. It helps me to make sense of this crazy world.

    I try to write something every day, but it’s not always feasible. There are days when I don’t know what to write. So, I free write when I make the time. I write short stories, although they don’t seem to be “short” in nature. I am working on that. I use short stories as practice to, one day, write a novel.

    I have some lofty goals in the coming year. I am starting a blog and want to submit some of my work to magazines, contests, wherever. As far as what I write, I don’t have a specific genre, but I want to write stories where there’s not necessarily a happy ending or where the story is all wrapped up in a little bow.

    I know that as long as I write, I can lay claim to the title of writer, and not use the word “aspiring” haphazardly. I want to be a better writer, a courageous writer. As long as I have that focus, I believe I will be.

    • Dawn Atkin

      Hey George – beautifully written 🙂
      It feels as if we are both at a similar stage.
      I am setting similar goals for 2015. i am going to write them down, add actions and pin them up.
      Best wishes to you!
      Regards Dawn

    • George McNeese

      Thank you, Dawn. For years, I struggled with getting serious about my writing. A part of it was because I didn’t set goals and I was too hard on myself. Thanks to the Internet, I learned ways to share my work. And thanks to the books like “The Courage to Write”, I found the courage to put myself out there and not wait until “the time is right”.

  16. Clara Bates

    When I write I come alive as the person I want to be, a hero on a crazy adventure, a knight slaying a dragon, or the chosen one taming the dragon. Suddenly I have the power to make anything happen, I can live in a world I invented with characters I create, doing things I thought of. I love the feeling. Unfortunately I don’t do it enough, epic ideas are always running through my head, but I rarely write everything down. But I’m trying to change this, lately I’ve become much more serious about my writing. I try to write at least a page of my story everyday. I carry my notebook with me all the time and add stuff whenever I can. I’m determined to finish what I started this time and whenever I feel like quitting I’ll have to look back at this comment or something.

    • George McNeese

      I think you will do well with your writing. I struggled with being serious about my writing. I was too hard on myself if I didn’t write every day. I realized that I was setting myself up for failure and unnecessary depression. Do I want to write every day? Of course. Is it the end of the world if I don’t? No.

  17. Darell Philip

    William Faulkner said, “Don’t be a ‘writer.’ Be writing.” Faulkner had a point when he said this as it poses us all ‘writers’ a fundamental challenge. Often life puts obstacles in the way of us pursuing our dreams; we end up procrastinating too. However, I believe it is possible to both be a writer and be writing, its a matter of sacrificing just a few minutes in an often busy day to put pen to paper or for those more digital minded, fingers to keyboards and actually write something.

    I have always had a passion for reading and writing since childhood. My favourite subject at school was English which subsequently led me to go on and study the subject further along with Media studies, firstly at A-Level (college) and then degree level (university).

    Along ny writing journey I have been fortunate enough to have a few newspaper and magazine articles published. My ultimate goal however, as is for most writers, is to have my very first book published. Sometimes it feels like an imposdible dream but I believe if I keep at it and have the right support mechanisms in place, my seemingly impossible dream will in fact become a reality.

    What writing means to me can be summed up in the very few words below I wrote some months back during a creative writing task set by my local group I attend:

    The Writer Inside of Me:

    Writing is to live is what I say
    Writing is like breathing everyday
    A poem, a story or whatever it may be
    These all make up the writer inside of me

    (c) Copyright 2014, Darell J Philip



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