5 Writing Tips Straight from Famous Writers Themselves

Some days, I sit down to write a paper and all of my thoughts come pouring out together.  Things seem to flow and click, kind of like the grace of a speedy cashier at the grocery store who scans and stacks the food perfectly.

Other days, I don’t even want to sit down because I know I have to tackle the daunting task of writing.  What should I write?  How should I write it?  Have I watched the latest episode of “New Girl” yet?  Maybe I should do that first…

Either way, the writing gets done.  Sometimes the process is grueling and I feel like I’m dragging myself along; we’ve all felt this way.  Writing has its positive vibes, too.  If we give ourselves a chance to write and keep writing, eventually we see how gratifying the process – and the end product – can be.

Famous writers are no exception.  They have their ups and downs with writing as well.  Some of the greatest writers we know have given us some valuable tips on how to approach writing.  These tips have helped them through their writing mishaps and triumphs, and they are here to help us too.

So, here are tips of writing wisdom coming straight from some of the greats we know today.

  1. “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

~ William Faulkner

  • Reading expands your knowledge of writing. The more you read, the more you experience different styles, voices, and approaches.  You get to discover what you like, what you dislike, and maybe even what you’d like to adopt for your own writing style.  Read, read, read!


2. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

~ Jack London

  • Plain and simple. You can’t wait for inspiration to come to you.  It’s kind of like waiting for a train at an airport – it will never arrive.  Instead, search for your inspiration.  Tackle it.  Finding inspiration to write leads to inspiring others to read what you’ve written.  Discover what makes you put pen to paper.
  1. “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen.  Come in here.  You want to know about this.”

~ Stephen King

  • Grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning. How will you draw them in?  A crazy statistic?  A question?  An interesting quote?  Maybe a compelling statement?  It’s your choice; you get to make it enticing.  Like the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven… Oh so good.
  1. “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

~ Flannery O’Connor

  • This signals the importance of writing your thoughts and ideas down onto paper. If you don’t write them down, they’ll remain floating around in your mind and you’ll risk the possibility of losing them.  You don’t know what you want to say until you say it… So write it!
  1. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

~ Sylvia Plath

  • Trust yourself. Nobody is a bad writer; we all begin at different stages, and we all progress at different rates.  Writing is a struggle and everybody experiences it.  Never doubt yourself – it will only hinder the abilities you have to show.  To quote Mulan: “Believe you can, and you will.”


Kelsey Shewbridge is a graduate assistant for the JCU English department, and is a new consultant in the Writing Center. She majored in English at the University of Mount Union and is working towards her Masters here at JCU.


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