What are we waiting for?

When in the depths of first draft hell, sometimes I reach for some favorite quotes to keep me slogging. But not the usual motivational stuff. Later, I will appreciate words like Eleanor Roosevelt’s: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” But when I’m at this stage, I want gritty realism and black humor.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not drive on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. – Winston Churchill

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

There’s only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that’s a writer sitting down to write. – Mignon McLaughlin

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad. – Lord Byron

Easy reading is damn hard writing. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

The first draft of anything is sh*t. – Ernest Hemingway

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best. – W. Somerset Maugham

Here’s another one I love, though not specific to writing:

Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?
– Gimli, in the cinematic version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King

So do any of you have favorite quotes, writing-related or otherwise, that help you get through the day?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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7 Responses to What are we waiting for?

  1. Kalen Hughes says:

    Easy reading is damn hard writing. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

    This is my new favorite quote!!! It sums up pretty much everything I want to say to people who ask when I’m going to write a “real” book, or denigrate what I have written as “only a romance novel”.


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

    I’ve seen this before, and keep it in my head while writing.

    I’m in first draft hell, too, Elena. Speaking of which, I need to go make myself some tea.

  3. Cara King says:

    LOL, Elena! I love those.

    Here are some more I like:

    The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. Robert Cormier

    I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. Peter De Vries

    I have more — which used to be taped to my computer — but they’ve temporarily gone missing. If I find them, I’ll share them too!


  4. Lois says:

    Well, I’m not a writer, so I don’t have any wisdom on any of that, but I have a book that certainly has many words of wisdom from Albert Einstein. 🙂


  5. I made up these pithy sayings one day with a lot of help from Ms. Mead (as in the honey-wine variety).

    Writers Write! At every opportunity. Under all circumstances.

    Writing is your job, your life’s purpose.

    You can lose the writer within by your death but not by his.
    (This last one is really a modification of one by George Bernard Shaw about a person.)

  6. Todd says:

    There’s a line in Neil Simon’s BROADWAY BOUND:

    I love being a writer. I just hate writing.


  7. I don’t know where this comes from, but it’s one of my favorites:

    Writing is the hardest work that doesn’t require heavy lifting.

    Also, from the poet Frank O’Hara:

    As for measure and other technical apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re going to buy a of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you.

    When I manage good enough flow and rhythm in my writing, my husband’s favorite compliment is “TIGHT pants.” Right now, though, since I’m also in first draft hell, my writing’s wearing ratty, saggy sweats.

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