Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers

Writers on Writing

Below are a few of many quotes by famous writers on writing found in Learning by Teaching, Selected Articles on Writing and Teaching, by Donald M. Murray. When I volunteered to become a writing facilitator at MIU in the mid-80s, this was our bible. It had a huge transformational effect on me. I used these writing principles when I helped young students write at the Sylvan Learning Center in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. I also learned writing techniques from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, and shared them with my students, and later in other writing workshops with older animation students, and friends.

The whole idea is to facilitate the writing process, to see what it would reveal to the writer, rather than focus on producing a specific piece of writing. I remember reading what Donald Graves had to say about teaching writing, something like: “If you take care of the writer, the writing will take care of itself.” Donald Graves studied with Donald Murray, and went on to conduct research in the classroom on how to teach children to becoming writers. His seminal book, Writing: Teachers & Children at Work, has become a classic and revolutionized the teaching of writing in schools.

Here’s what some famous writers, poets, and playwrights have to say about their writing process.

Edward Albee: Writing has got to be an act of discovery. . . .I write to find out what I’m thinking about.

C. Day Lewis: First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it….we do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

William Faulkner: It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.

E. M. Forster: Think before you speak, is criticism’s motto; speak before you think is creation’s.

Donald Hall: A good writer uses words to discover, and to bring that discovery to other people. He rewrites so that his prose is a pleasure that carries knowledge with it. That pleasure-carrying knowledge comes from self-understanding, and creates understanding in the minds of other people.

William Stafford: I don’t see writing as a communication of something already discovered, as “truths” already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it.

Speaking of William Stafford, you’ll enjoy this poem, William Stafford—A Course in Creative Writing, and others posted on my blog. Also see one of my first poems, Writing—a poem on the writing process.

And you’ll especially enjoy reading New York Times best-selling author (Eat, Pray, Love) Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing, as well as What Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator, mentioned in Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays by Jane Hirshfield. Also check out: Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights.

Here’s a good resource of Writers on writing – an updated reading list of 70 notable meditations by Bradbury, Didion, Sontag, Hemingway & more http://j.mp/1huxG1S posted by Maria Popova@brainpicker. You may also enjoy Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say.


4 Responses to “Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers”

  1. Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Related posts on writing: Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing, Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers, and Writing—a poem on the writing process. Share […]


  2. INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] inspiring posts about writing are: Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers, Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing, and Words of Wisdom on Writing from […]


  3. Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] may also enjoy Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers and the links at the end to other posts on […]


  4. Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin; Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing; Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers; and Words of Wisdom on Writing from […]


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