10 entirely invented motivational quotations for writers

I try very hard not to be a moaner. I mean we all love a good moan now and then: about the government, the football, the shockingly poor selection of cheese available from the corner shop but no one actually LIKES a moaner do they? No one wants to be sitting on the bus, or in the tea room or astride a ski-lift next to someone who is letting rip about the veins in their legs or the price of lawnmowers these days or the shocking state of post-structuralist teaching in some of our second-tier universities. We all moan about moaners. And with good reason. So I do try to avoid the overly-negative in these “blog’ posts; I try to look towards the light and not the dark, celebrate rather than denigrate, be silly rather than cynical. Sometimes I succeed (I bought some new boots this weekend; they are brilliant! – see, just like that), but at other times I fail (Peanut butter is disgusting and anyone who says otherwise is on the devil’s payroll – yep, like that) and I am sad to say that this is one of those times.

So here goes. Existence: feel my wrath!

You know what really annoys me? Quotes. And not just the fact that the noun is “quotation” which EVERYBODY GETS WRONG ALL OF THE BLOODY TIME (although this does make me cross and repulsively self-righteous, so much so that at times I do want to punch myself in the face) but also the fact that they get plastered up everywhere as if somehow such gobbets of wisdom could be of actual use to ANYBODY when in reality they’re just further examples of the reductive and under-baked nonsense that passes for thought in this so-called “Twenty First” century of ours. (Gosh, I am grumpy this evening).

Bruce Robinson, author of “Withnail and I” reportedly had a sign on his typewriter which read “Write damn you; it’s the only thing you’re good for”. I like that. That one can stay, that one is allowed but all other quotATIONS that are plastered around the walls of student flats and schools and pubs (those ones particularly grate – I don’t need Samuel Johnson’s reassurance that drinking a pint of ale is like kissing a princess or something – I KNOW IT IS) should be made illegal from tomorrow. No, earlier than that. They should be made illegal from this very moment. From now. That’s it. I’ve passed the law. They are now illegal and the punishment for displaying even the most likeable aphorism in a public space will be punitive and entirely unfair. And if you post one on Facebook then the keys on your keyboard will secrete superglue before becoming electrified. And that is for your first offence.

I am sounding entirely unlikeable aren’t I? I do try not to be wherever possible. Perhaps I should be a little less misanthropic; after all, if a well-chosen quotation gets you through your day then what the hell does it matter what I think? It doesn’t matter a jot, of course it doesn’t. But do a quick google search for “inspirational quotations” and be prepared to vomit all over your pyjamas – even if you have to cross the sitting room, go up the stairs, past the bathroom and into your bedroom where you open the second drawer on your chest just to find your pyjamas in order to vomit over them. Listen up world, you don’t need the blessing of someone most likely dead (and certainly as flawed and farty as you are) to kickstart your chosen career. Writers seem particularly needy in this respect and whilst I know only too well the challenges involved in sitting down and ACTUALLY WRITING SOMETHING I don’t see how a phrase ripped entirely from its context and then rendered in a twee typeface gets you closer to finishing your masterpiece. Did James Joyce have a little sign blue-tacked up in his garret as he wrote Ulysses which said “Words are like rain. Just put out a jar beneath a piece of guttering and assuming that it is a rainy night then after a bit you’ll have lots of them“? Well if he did, it would certainly weaken my point so let’s just agree that he didn’t.

If you are the type of a writer who needs an aphoristic jump-start to get you going in the morning then at least let me help you; let me save you the searching and the sifting through thousands of trite and largely useless scrapings from the barrel of human thought by providing you a list of handy phrases to set you on your way. For this there shall be NO CHARGE. Yes, the following is absolutely free. It will cost you neither pound nor dollar, neither Yen nor Euro, as I present:


Bill Murray quotation

1. “Even Bill Murray has days when he is not Bill Murray”. – C14th Estonian Proverb

2. “Good writing is like good jam: sweet, fruity and sealed with a floral lid”
– Sarah Basterds – “The Impish Sentiment” (1932)

3. “Film is the distance between onanism and quantum theory” –
Prof F.J. Ruislip – “Once upon a time in the Western Avenue” (1998)

4. “The perfect screenplay is like the footprints of a deer across a Scottish hillside. I don’t need to sodding explain why.”
Alice Childress – usherette at the Alexandra Cinema, Newton Abbot, 1985

5. “Working hard is almost always relatively useful”.
Edgar Sirmadam, (19th philanthropist and sausage pioneer

working hard quotation

6. “Love yourself. Frequently”.
Sir Francis Walsingham

7. “Take doubt out to dinner. Give good chat to doubt. Let doubt linger over dessert and coffee then stab doubt repeatedly in the taxi on the way home”.
Mary Quite, “Fish and Chaps” – The birth of seaside homo-eroiticism: (1974) 

8. “Choosing the right words is less important than order them the putting in right”
Geoffrey Chaucer -“The Screenwriter’s Tale” (1378)

9. “Belief is the fart that warms the duvet of talent”.
King Christian VII of Norway addressing the Oslo branch of the WI (1802).

10.  “When people ask me why I write, I tell them it is to nourish my soul. When people ask me how I write I tell them that I use my fingers on a computer keyboard and press letters in a pre-determined sequence, that I began to learn around four years old and really haven’t stopped working on since, which in turn creates words that are understood by speakers of the English language and then I repeat this process until I have created something that is maybe just a shopping list or maybe the libretto for an opera it just depends on how sexy I’m feeling”
Hadrian Patel – Winner of the Branston Prize in 2005 for his novel “Balls”

belief quoteFeel free to pin any of these up by your desk and reap the creative and inspirational benefits.

You are welcome. I do it because I care.


149 thoughts on “10 entirely invented motivational quotations for writers

  1. There are 4 types of quotations:
    1. Pick-me-up quotations – they are so patronizing that you feel worse after you read them
    2. Wannabe-wise quotations – just a lot of rubbish, talking about something they know nothing about, using ‘sophisticated’ language to sound important but basically don’t say a thing.
    3. clever quotations – that you don’t understand because you’re too stupid
    4. brilliant quotations – the rarest kind, the only ones actually worth using

  2. This is amazing. I have a quote on my wall at home (don’t shoot me!) which says ‘a true gentleman knows how to play an accordion, but does not’. I like it because I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Now I’m starting to suspect that you have a side line in posters.

  3. 10 entirely invented motivational quotations for writers | Fealte & Rosebud

  4. Did you know Alice Childress??

    I want to be a grammar slut – but the problem is they didn’t teach us in the 1980’s – they scrapped it for about ten years as they thought it obsolete for Native English speakers – bloody fools.



  5. I love the cranky version of you! One quoTATION I do like is paraphrased as such… “A really good comedian takes the ordinary and points out the absurdity of it.” George Carlin I believe. I love a good giggle in the morning and you delivered. Thank you! (Its funny because it is true – guilty as charged.)

  6. They certainly infest Facebook nowadays, don’t they? I keep Epictetus on the fridge door:-
    If you wish to be a writer, write.
    If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked.
    It is impossible to learn what one thinks one already knows.
    You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.

    That last one is lovely, don’t you think? Quite the sweetest way of affirming an afterlife: your body is the least alive thing about you (sort of thing).

    • That’s actually very good advice. I particularly like the advice to just get on and write if you want to be a writer. It seems many people just spend their time talking rather than actually doing. And yes, it is lovely to think that the soul is the interesting bit and everything else is just skin and bones. Thanks for taking time to write!

  7. I truely do love a good quote. One of my favorites is: “Placeing anyone on a pedistal can be quite dangerous buisness. When they fall off, its you that gets hurt.” Keep up the good work!

  8. Yes! Someone is finally taking a stand against the “quote” epidemic. I believe I am one of the few lucky folk who know that the entire word is quotATION and know that this little thing here> ” is called a quotATION mark. Good luck against the non-believers, we’ll soon have ’em on our side. Great post, I’m looking forward to reading some more of your writing.

  9. 7 through 10 are genius! Well done!! I am guilty of having various quotes and other inspirational “stuff” on my wall at work. One of my favourites is a quotation attributed to Pablo Picasso – “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

    I actually use it, not as motivation, but as a kind of explanation to others of how I got to where I am at this point of my career – to show them that I’m not really all that special, and that if they just try new things once in a while, they might learn something new.

  10. Reblogged this on Yarn, Words & Food. and commented:
    It seems like the new thing to do is “be a hater,” and I’m against all forms of the “too cool for school” mentality. But, this post hits close to home with me. As a writer, and throughout life in general, I am always looking for inspiration. The overuse of a scenic picture with a profound quote to express a person’s thoughts on life or serve as their inspiration has me contemplating the sentence for assault for first-time offenders. I’d rather hear it from the horse’s mouth, rather than the pretty picture. So, well done, James. Your entirely made up quotes are better than most of the real ones I’ve read plastered on a waterfall or sunset.

    “Even Bill Murray has days when he is not Bill Murray.” So true, and yet, not.

      • No! That came off wrong. I wasn’t saying you’re too cool for school. You are very cool and a great writer. I meant that I try not to be a “hater” or too cool for school. I try not to hate on what others like because I think it’s silly. (Basically what you wrote in your post.) But the picture quotes are getting a tad ridiculous. Anyway … great post! 🙂

  11. So right now Im searching for a quote, err.. quotation, to counter your viewpoint, but i would be lying then cos I just cant stand the bombardment I face everyday of my life now from people quoting other dead people. In restaurants, facebook, hell even in Government offices! Thanks for an awesome post:)

  12. This is the greatest thing.

    I’ve never given much thought into the dark art of quatations but you certainly have shed some light on the subject. I’ll be sure to taze the next person I see putting up motivational quote posters in my old school. There are some terrible offenders there.

    Also, the price of lawnmowers these days ARE ridiculous.

  13. That. Is. Awesome! I love these. I do have a great love for quotes (which I shall now call by their correct name, quotations, thank you for that interesting tidbit) but they really aren’t any good unless they make you laugh, I suppose.

  14. Well, I just laughed so loud that I scared the cat off my lap (one hopes for good – he’s needy, that one). Thanks!! (And it IS an issue with writers, isn’t it? I believe we’re so addicted to words, reading a quotATION that has already been formed for us is a welcome respite from the wordy chaos in our own heads. Or…something. Pretend I just said something terribly profound.) kmkinsleybooks.wordpress.com

  15. This is where it ends. This is where it begins. – James Gillingham - Long Arm Films

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s