To All the Writing Teachers I’ve Never Met

This week we’re sharing advice from writing teachers who’ve inspired us. The truth is, I don’t have much of a formal writing education. I took an introductory creative writing class in college, but that’s about it. So almost everything I know about the craft and business of writing, I learned from reading about it.

Next week I’ll give a full run-down of my favorite writing books (I have a whole shelf, and it’s always growing), but this week I figured I’d just share a few favorite quotes from the books I return to again and again whenever I need inspiration or a good sharp kick in the pants. I consider all these authors my teachers, even though I haven’t met them and maybe never will. Hope you find them inspiring, too!

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later…There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or so wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird


“I held on to my day jobs for so long because I wanted to keep my creativity free and safe. I maintained alternative streams of income so that, when my inspiration wasn’t flowing, I could say to it reassuringly, ’No worries, mate. Just take your time. I’m here whenever you’re ready.’ I was always willing to work hard so that my creativity could play lightly. In so doing, I became my own patron. I became my own studio wife.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


“Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond…Overtapping the well, like overfishing a pond, leaves us with diminished resources. We fish in vain for the images we require. Our work dries up and we wonder why, ‘just when it was going so well.’ The truth is that work can dry up because it is going so well. As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them—to restock the trout pond, so to speak.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way


“Your writing is your companion for life. You came into the world with it, and it will be with you until the end. So rise up and meet it. Create a sustainable relationship with your writing that’s based on mutual respect, trust, and commitment. You are not your writing, and your writing is not you. Both of you are sovereign beings. Your writing, however, needs you to carry what it has to offer into the world. It cannot pick up a pen or type on a computer and share a story. It needs you for that.”

Laraine Herring, On Being Stuck


“Have you ever dreamed of being a real artist? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to call yourself a real painter, or a real writer, or a real actress, or a real musician? Have you ever described yourself as someone who does something amazing and magical and wonderful and life affirming and then added ‘on the side’? Well, you might not like what I have to say. Because I have come here today to deliver the unfortunate truth that you are lying to yourself. You are not going to become a real artist one day. You are a real artist right now.”

Sara Benincasa, Real Artists Have Day Jobs

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Layne Fargo

Layne Fargo is a thriller author with a background in theater and library science. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, a member of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Layne lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

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