It may be a week into spring, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. The temperature occasionally rises above freezing, but then plummets back down in a way that almost proves Mother Nature is toying with us, trying to break our spirits’ spines on this long, cold, dark winter. It’s enough to drive us back to our apartments or keep us frozen in our cubicles, surviving on Seamless orders and surfing Facebook until the end of time. It’s enough to make you want to give up on everything.
Fear not; we’ve collected a list of 20 quotes on productivity from your favorite writers, and they are guaranteed to get you back on track. Even if you’re not a writer, these nuggets of advice can be applied to just about anything you’re working on, hopefully giving you enough fuel to push through the last leg of this awful season. Godspeed.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” ― Stephen King
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London
"Don't be a writer; be writing." — William Faulkner
“Sometimes you want to have a very productive Saturday to feel that you are in control of your life, which of course you are not.” ― Tina Fey
"I try to write every day. I start around ten in the morning and write until dinnertime, most days. Sometimes it’s not productive, and there’s a lot of downtime. Sometimes I fall asleep in my chair, but I feel that if I’m in the room all day, something’s going to get done. I treat it like a desk job." ― Jeffrey Eugenides
“Hanging out does not make one an artist. A second-hand wardrobe does not make one an artist. Neither do a hair-trigger temper, melancholic nature, propensity for tears, hating your parents, nor even HIV — I hate to say it — none of these make one an artist. They can help, but just as being gay does not make one witty (you can suck a mile of cock, as my friend Sarah Thyre puts it, it still won't make you Oscar Wilde, believe me), the only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.” ― David Rakoff
"Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised." — John Steinbeck
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” — E. B. White
“I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.” ― Madeleine L’Engle
"It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." — Jonathan Franzen
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through." — Ernest Hemingway
“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." — Zadie Smith
“Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write. A lot of the time (and this is fully goofy to admit), I’ll write with earplugs in — even if it’s dead silent at home.” — Nathan Englander
“You have to write whether you feel like it or not.” — Khaled Hosseini
“I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento is to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.” — Joan Didion
“A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?” — Susan Sontag
"Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards." — Henry Miller
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” — Anne Lamott
“As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.” ― Paul Rudnick
“Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live — that productive work is the process by which man's consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one's purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one's values — that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others — that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human — that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind's full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay — that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live — that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road — that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust, that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrapheap, and the man who makes another man his goal is a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up — that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction.” ― Ayn Rand
Which of the above quotes do you find the most motivating? Did we fail to include your favorite get-shit-done quote? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
Michelle King grew up in South Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. Her contributions have appeared on BULLETT, Refinery29, xoJane and The Huffington Post. Harriet M. Welsch is still her role model and probably always will be.
(Image credits, from top: Flickr; Josh Mosey; Pencil Revolution; Dysonology; Fanpop!; Celebrities When They were Young; Denver Public Library; pglibrary; WhadUSay; NPR Books; GalleyCat; CampusRenewalMinistries; North Country Public Radio; Nathan Englander; PRWeb; All the Best; Vol. 1 Brooklyn; The Eloquent Madness; NPR Books; Claire Holt; WBUR)
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