Writer Friendly Quotes from Great Minds

If you discover in your reading journey some fabulous inspirational quote, feel free to email Dustin Pickering at publication.worldinkers@gmail.com. Click the name under the quotes to learn more about the author. These quotes concern truth, dignity, freedom, art, creativity and the writing process from influential and deep thinkers.

I’ve never been a very prolific person, so when creativity flows, it flows. I find myself scribbling on little notepads and pieces of loose paper, which results in a very small portion of my writings to ever show up in true form.

Kurt Cobain

Poetry transcends the nation-state. Poetry transcends government. It brings the traditional concept of power to its knees. I have always believed poetry to be an eternal conversation in which the ancient poets remain contemporary, a conversation inviting us into other languages and cultures even as poetry transcends language and culture, returning us again and again to primal rhythms and sounds.

Sam Hamill

To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.

Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is a naked woman, a naked man, and the distance between them.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Freedom is only to be found where there is burden to be shouldered. In creative achievements this burden always represents an imperative and a need that weighs heavily upon man’s mood, so that he comes to be in a mood of melancholy. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, whether we are clearly aware of the fact or not, whether we speak at length about it or not. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, but this is not to say that everyone in a melancholy mood is creative.
Martin Heidegger

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

James Madison

Diamonds are to be found only in the darkness of the earth and truth in the darkness of the mind.
Victor Hugo

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty–the obedient must be slaves.

Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.


All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Marcus Aurelius

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

George Orwell

It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.

Vincent van Gogh

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Vincent van Gogh

As a poet, I had learned much about both the value and the constraints of convention: the reassurance of traditional structures and the necessity to break from them in recognition of new experience. I felt more and more urgently the dynamic between poetry as language and poetry as a kind of action, probing, burning, stripping, placing itself in dialogue with others out beyond the individual self.

Adrienne Rich, “Blood, Bread, and Poetry: The Location of the Poet”

For a poem to coalesce, for a character or an action to take shape, there has to be an imaginative transformation of reality which is in no way passive.

Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”

Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity. But it is a movement into evolution.

Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying”

It is a feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.”

Sylvia Plath, Journals

A single certainty is enough for the seeker. He simply has to derive all the consequences from it.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

The victor whose arms are full and who cannot grasp more is unworthy of the gift that fortune has placed in his hands.”

Michel de Montaigne, Essays

The only good thing for men therefore is to be diverted from thinking of what they are.

Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.

John Steinbeck

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

John Steinbeck

Poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely kin to music.

John Steinbeck

Art is partly communication, but only partly. The rest is discovery.

William Golding

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.

Rabindranath Tagore

Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.

Rabindranath Tagore

Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned? Isn’t it also great when friends visit from distant places? If one remains not annoyed when he is not understood by people around him, isn’t he a sage?


Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure…but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness.

Mario Vargas Llosa

Literature is a form of permanent insurrection. Its mission is to arouse, to disturb, to alarm, to keep men in a constant state of dissatisfaction with themselves.

Mario Vargas Llosa

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

William Faulkner

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.

Octavio Paz

Social criticism begins with grammar and the re-establishing of meanings.

Octavio Paz

Art gives life to what history killed. Art gives voice to what history denied, silenced, or persecuted. Art brings truth to the lies of history.

Carlos Fuentes

The more transparent the writing, the more visible the poetry.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.

Robert Graves

If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.

Ivan Turgenev

Belonging to oneself–the whole essence of life lies in that.

Ivan Turgenev

Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.

Leo Tolstoy

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.

Leo Tolstoy

Art is a human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.

Leo Tolstoy

Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.


Justice means minding one’s own business and not meddling with other men’s concerns.


We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we can describe.

Rene Descartes

The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure….you are above everything distressing.

Baruch Spinoza

Freedom is the power to choose our own chains

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

All false art, all vain wisdom, lasts its time but finally destroys itself, and its highest culture is also the epoch of its decay.

Immanuel Kant

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.

Nelson Mandela

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.

Benjamin Franklin

Art creates I-distantness. Art in a certain direction demands a certain distance, a certain path.

Paul Celan

For a poem is not timeless. Certainly it lays claim to infinity; it seeks to reach through time—through it, not above and beyond it.

Paul Celan

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just towards them.

Rainer Marie Rilke

Absolute rightness exists not in spite of, but because of the relativity of individual perspectives.

Viktor Frankl

An individual’s destiny belongs to him in much the same way as the ground, which fetters him by its gravity, but without which walking would be impossible.

Viktor Frankl

To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.


The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.


A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.


The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

Albert Camus

Spirit is the power a man’s comprehension exerts on his life.

Soren Kierkegaard

The world is God’s language to us. The universe is the Word of God, the Verbum.

Simone Weil

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
Toni Morrison

Freedom is not the right to live as we please, but the right to find how we ought to live in order to fulfill our potential.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.  

Abraham Lincoln

Wisdom leads us back to childhood.

Blaise Pascal

“…truth is only altered when men change.”

Blaise Pascal

The enemy of great art is vanity: is self-hood, self-hood in the most gruesome forms.

Theodore Roethke

The thing conceived; the thing finally said—a vast difference.

Theodore Roethke

Sometimes—and this is a paradox—only wildest imaginings can bridge the abyss of word and thing.

Charles Simic

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.


The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.

Rabindranath Tagore

The object of the superior man is truth.


Objective Reality (Truth) is neither Yin nor Yang. Infinite Truth is Prior to Duality; it is at the Center; it is the One; it is the All….
Leland Lewis

For men in earnest have no time to waste In patching fig-leaves for the naked truth.

James Russell Lowell

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.

Warren W. Wiersbe

Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.

Madame de Stael

The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth.

Carl Jung

Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.

Francis Bacon

Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.

Soren Kierkegaard

All the shrewdness of ‘man’ seeks one thing: to be able to live without responsibility.

Soren Kierkegaard

Never let success hide its emptiness from you, achievement its nothingness, toil its desolation. And so…keep alive the incentive to push on further, that pain in the soul which drives us beyond ourselves…Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward – your destiny – are here and now.

Dag Hammarskjold

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
Ernest Hemingway

Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.
Mark Twain

A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.
Joseph Conrad

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
William Faulkner

We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute – the foundation of the human condition – and should be better. We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.
Mario Vargas Llosa

You cannot teach creativity—how to become a good writer. But you can help a young writer discover within himself what kind of writer he would like to be.
Mario Vargas Llosa

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

William Faulkner

Conquered people tend to be witty.

Saul Bellow

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.


By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.


Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
Henry David Thoreau

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

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
Samuel Johnson

The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.
Andre Gide

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The true artist is not proud: he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal, and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The world is beautiful but not sayable. That’s why we need art.

Charles Simic

One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.

Charles Simic

I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen.

Louise Gluck

We need poetry as living language, the core of every language, something that is still spoken, aloud or in the mind, muttered in secret, subversive, reaching around corners, crumpled into a pocket, performed to a community, read aloud to the dying, recited by heart, scratched or sprayed on a wall.

Adrienne Rich

Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.

Salvador Dali

To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.

Georgia O’Keefe

The days you work are the best days.

Georgia O’Keefe

There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.

Thomas Paine

When a man in a long cause attempts to steer his course by anything else than some polar truth or principle, he is sure to be lost.

Thomas Paine

Any writer who strives to be true to artistic integrity surrenders to the shape the work takes of its own accord.

bell hooks

To be serious we must dare to be critical of our urge to tell our stories, of the ways we tell them.

bell hooks

Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d. 

William Blake

Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.

Virginia Woolf

For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.

Virginia Woolf

I would rather be stricken blind, than to live without expression of mind.

Tupac Shakur

What I needed and actually need is a discipline of tradition, which is lacking in our civilization. Discipline of tradition and the ceremony of humbleness.


Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The human body is that which is able to make something of what makes it; and in this sense its paradigm is language, a given which continually generates the unpredictable.

Terry Eagleton

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Be curious, not judgmental.

Walt Whitman

Consciousnesses are born to learn and teach. If that be the purpose of life, then as long as we swim on the ocean of Unknown, there is a need of consciousness and life!

Sankha Sen

I felt even a mystic companionship, a moral fraternity with all those who in the past had been in the service of art. They had worked for beauty, for a devotion; and what else was I doing?

Henry James

One doesn’t defend one’s god: one’s god is in himself a defense.

Henry James

Sometimes we dream a first draft dream, a dream complete, understandable, exact. And sometimes we dream an incomplete dream, a confused dream as dream of many odd symbols and situations. Thus the poem, at least with me, is similar.

Gregory Corso

The great are strongest when they stand alone,
A God-given might of being is their force.

Sri Aurobindo

Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.

Leonardo da Vinci

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Leonardo da Vinci

True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others.

E. O. Wilson

That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.

Wassily Kandinsky

The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.

Wassily Kandinsky

The artist must be blind to distinction between ‘recognized’ or ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age.

Wassily Kandinsky

You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

Henrik Ibsen

To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.
To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.

Henrik Ibsen

Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality.

James Joyce

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.

James Joyce

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

Saul Bellow

Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.

Saul Bellow

Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone.

John Updike

I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.

Max Planck