10 Scary Quotes About the Writing Life


Here are ten quotes that reveal a number of scary things that a writer might encounter while traveling down Writing Life Lane. Beware: It is not safe, according to these authors, so take care (and take a few friends) if you decide to make the turn …

(The links take you to the author and book pages on Goodreads.com. Originally posted on my Darla Writes blog in 2012)

  1. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”
    Stephen King, On Writing
  2. “Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.” Ray Bradbury , Zen in the Art of Writing  (See *Update below from a reader’s comment. He says this quote is often listed by people, but it is taken out of context.)
  3. “What do you want? What are you willing to give up to get it? Writing requires you make sacrifices. Be prepared to work hard to be a writer.”
    Sandra Brown
  4. “I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this. [Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction, New York Times, April 19, 1992]”
    Cormac McCarthy
  5. “The first thing you have to learn when you go into the arts is to learn to cope with rejection. If you can’t, you’re dead.”
    Warren Adler
  6. “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.”
    E.B. White, One Man’s Meat
  7. “…nearly everything seems a letdown after a writer has finished writing something.”
    John Irving, The World According to Garp
  8. “If you can’t stand your own company alone in a room for long hours, or, when it gets tough, the feeling of being in a locked cell, or, when it gets tougher still, the vague feeling of being buried alive–then don’t be a writer.”
    Graham Swift
  9. “Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.”
    Logan Pearsall Smith
  10. “Coming up with ideas is the easiest thing on earth. Putting them down is the hardest.”
    Rod Serling
  11. “Literature is the ditch I’m going to die in. It’s still the thing I care most about.”
    Thomas McGuane
  12. “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
    Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
  13. “There are three certainties in a writer’s life: death, taxes, and rejection letters.”
    T.L. Rese
  14. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.― Ernest Hemingway

How’s that for scary?

*Special Thanks to George “Bradbury Fan” for pointing out that the Bradbury quote is taken out of context. What’s stated is actually the opposite of what Bradbury believed about writing. Here is what George wrote in his comment (from my original post, 2012):

Hi Darla I am a long time fan and reader of Ray Bradbury who just passed away not too long ago. I have also read a lot of his nonfiction essays and many books about his life. I wanted to bring your attention to #2 “Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.” –Ray Bradbury


Number 2 is a quote out of context from what Bradbury was saying (or believed). This quote comes from page 54 of his Zen and the Art of Writing. In that section he talks about how writing is *NOT* dreadful, terrible etc but to be pursued as a fun adventure and a lark! As a matter of fact that whole section reprints a letter from the famous art historian Berenson sent to Ray. Bereson says he agrees with Bradbury and contrasts this view of writing as fun with what many people have come to think of it. later down in page 54 Bradbury is stating how OTHER writers, other intellectuals around you believe that,“Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.”


So it wasn’t his belief that is quoted but other people (and a belief that is directly opposite of what Bradbury believes).


Bradbury believed writing was to be extremely fun. He said: “…if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is – excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms.”


You said that writing is a joy filled activity for you, that is the Bradbury way. In my opinion it is the touch of the divine.

Thanks for the clarification, George!


Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

4 Comments Write a comment

  1. When I write in journals, everything flows. But when I write knowing I’m going to put it on my blog, I change it about 20 times! It’s not easy to write for the public, but the writing turns out more interesting. My journal entries are so boring even I have no interest in reading them.


    • I remember when I first clicked on the “Publish” button. I was terrified. I still have a bit of anxiety when I do it even now, but it’s mixed with excitement. Keep it up, Meredith. I love your stories!


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