Inspirational Writing Quotes From Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and David Mamet

Written by MasterClass

Mar 8, 2019 • 3 min read

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Need motivation to start writing? Don’t be afraid of a blank piece of paper—read these inspirational quotes to inspire you to start writing. Whether you are striving to emulate greats like Ernest Hemingway or Ray Bradbury, or you’ve hit writer’s block on a book, these luminaries remind you that fear is the worst enemy of a good writer.


On starting to write:

“If you really do want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something. What is that fear?”

-Margaret Atwood

On writing:

“If you’re going to write... you have to be willing to do the equivalent of walking down the street naked. You have to be able to show too much of yourself. You have to be just a little bit more honest than you’re comfortable with.”

-Neil Gaiman

On good writing:

“You've got to stand being bad if you wanna be a writer, because if you don't, you're never going to write anything good.”

-David Mamet

On good stories:

“The story in which somebody gets to learn better, somebody gets to change their mind, somebody gets to see the world differently—is a beautiful shape for a story.”

-Neil Gaiman

On writing plots:

“Writing a plot is one of the hardest things I ever learned how to do. It's just hard, because it's like playing with some unclean substance. And it is, because the unclean substance is your own consciousness.”

-David Mamet

On short stories:

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They’re journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”

-Neil Gaiman

On writing the first page:

“What you want on the first page is something that is going to beckon the reader in.”

-Margaret Atwood

On writing good dialogue:

“Don’t forget: human beings talk because they want something. They want to tell you something, they want to get some information, they want to express something. Dialogue is always driven by your character’s agenda.”

-Dan Brown

On writing heroes:

“The difficulties of the hero are the same thing as the difficulties of the writer.”

-David Mamet

On writing villains:

“Create a worthy opponent. The villain will be the catalyst for everything.”

-Dan Brown

On reading your first draft:

“The story is an explosion. And you get to the end of it, and once it’s done, then you get to walk around it and you get to look at the shrapnel and the damage it did. And you get to see who died. And you get to see how it worked.”

-Neil Gaiman

On starting over:

“The wastepaper basket is your friend. It was invented for you, by God.”

-Margaret Atwood

On overcoming self-doubt:

“Writing a novel is an enormous undertaking, and self-doubt will be part of that process. There will be days you just don’t know if you can do it. And on those days what is gonna save you is your process. Your ritual. So if you’re just starting to write a novel, go create that process, go create that ritual.”

-Dan Brown

On rejection:

“People ask me, “How do you cope with rejection?”…And there are only two ways to do it—one of which is you go down. You get sad. You put the thing away. You stop writing. You go and get a real job, go and do something else. And the other is a kind of crazed attitude that actually the most important thing now is to write something so brilliant, so powerful, so good nobody could ever reject it.”

-Neil Gaiman

On becoming a professional writer:

“If you’re really looking to build a career as a writer, you need to surround yourself with the people who can help make it happen.”

-Dan Brown

Learn more from Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and David Mamet in their MasterClasses.