Anne Lamott Writing Quotes

Anne Lamott is a bestselling author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books. In this article, we will explore her quotes which a packed full of excellent advice for writers. The quotes are drawn from various sources including her interviews, talks, and her book on writing, Bird by Bird.

The quotes will help you to deal with different challenges that face writers including:

  • How to be consistent in writing
  • How to get ideas for writing
  • How to deal with self-doubt and fear

If you want to learn more about Anne Lamott, check out her quick biography.

Quotes on Why You Should Write

1. You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs -your truth, your version of thing – in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born. – Ted Talk, 2017

2. Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. – Bird by Bird, 1995

3. I’ve written 13 books now. It’s not really important that I write a lot more books, but I do it as a debt of honor. I got one of the five golden tickets to be a writer, and I take that seriously. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

4. I don’t love my own work at all, but I love my own self. I love that I’ve been given the chance to capture the stories that come through me. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

5. Writing taught my father to pay attention; my father in turn taught other people to pay attention and then to write down their thoughts and observations. – Bird by Bird, 1995

6. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. – Bird by Bird, 1995

7. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. – Bird by Bird, 1995

8. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on Success in Writing

9. I love the freedom success has given me, to do and write anything I want. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

10. I try to use my visibility for the most good I can. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

11. I’ve seen celebrity destroy infinitely more people than it’s fulfilled. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

12. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. – Ted Talk, 2017

13. The most degraded and evil people I’ve ever known are male writers who’ve had huge best sellers. – Ted Talk, 2017

14. It’s also a miracle to get your work published, to get your stories read and heard. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, that it will fill the Swiss-cheesy holes inside of you. It can’t. It won’t. But writing can– Ted Talk, 2017

15. My dad was a writer, and his entire life was about trying to get on the New York Times list. When it happened to me, I called my mom and said, “Oh my God, Mom, I hit the list!” And my mom said, “Oh, huh. Anything else?” I just wanted to hang up. That was my entire childhood. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

16. And then I did get on again, and then I went higher on the list, and then I fell off, and I wanted to die. Thereby proving the adage, “Happiness is an inside job.” That’s where I try to keep my attention, such as it is: on the inside. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

Quotes on Books and Reading

17. No matter how people mess with you or let you down, or how you let yourself down, a good book means that when you get in bed that night, you have a good hour. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

18. That’s what books mean to me. I can open this two-dimensional, flat white page with squiggly little black marks on them, and someone has created this world that you’re going to enter into and get lost in Berlin in the ’30s. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

19. For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. – Bird by Bird, 1995

20. When I read these books that I love so much, I am simultaneously filled with joy and gratitude and relief for their existence, and total jealousy that they are so great, these writers capable of creating entire worlds that shimmer with truth and humanity. – Lithub Interview, 2021

21. Becoming a better writer is going to help you become a better reader, and that is the real payoff. – Bird by Bird, 1995

22. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing now how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless. You begin to read with a writer’s eyes. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on Getting Started, Consistency and Persistence in Writing

23. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. – Bird by Bird, 1995

24. The model was my father who was a writer, Kenneth Lamott. And he had a lot of books published and a lot of magazine articles. And I heard him down at his desk at that old Olympia at 5:30, every morning, rain or shine or hangover, he just did it. And that was what he taught me was that you don’t wait for inspiration. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

25. Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That’s the secret of life. That’s probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. – Ted Talk, 2017

26. My brother was in tears because his fourth-grade term paper on birds was due, and he hadn’t started. So my dad put his arm around John and said, “Just take it Bird by Bird, buddy.” He had John read a page in Audubon or Roger Tory Peterson about pelicans, and then write a paragraph in his own words. And then read about chickadees, and put it in his own words. Little by little by little. – Lithub Interview, 2021

27. I teach people to take it really small, Bird by Bird. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

28. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on Getting Ideas and Dealing with Writers Block

29. I’ve always told my writing students that I think writer’s block is a misnomer. I don’t think we get blocked, but rather that we get empty. We need to fill back up. – Lithub Interview, 2021

30. Instead of sitting at my desk in full clench and despair, I go about accumulating snippets and chunks of cool stuff: I do informal interviews with brilliant friends on childhood, soul, the meaning of life, etc; I take my most articulate friends to marshes and museums, and I write down every brilliant observation either of us has; I look through old photo albums; I read more poetry. In other words, I fill back up. – Lithub Interview, 2021

31. If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. – Ted Talk, 2017

32. My dad taught me that to be a writer is a decision and a habit. It’s not anything lofty, and it doesn’t have that much to do with inspiration. You have to develop the habit of being a certain way with yourself. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

33. I heard E.L. Doctorow say that writing was like driving at night with the headlights on. You could only see a little ways in front of you, but you could make the whole journey that way. And I think that is the most profound advice I can offer anyone on any topic. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

Quotes on Authenticity in Writing

34. If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. – Bird by Bird, 1995

35. Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. – Bird by Bird, 1995

36. You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. – Bird by Bird, 1995

37. You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on Self-Doubt and Fear as a Writer

28. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. – Bird by Bird, 1995

39. I can never tell what I’m doing when I’m in the middle of publication because I have no confidence. I have terrible self-esteem, along with boundless narcissism. It’s complicated in here! – Goodreads Interview, 2012

40. I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on Perfectionism in Writing

41. Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. It’s the voice of the enemy. And if you listen to it, it keeps you crazy for your entire life because we all fall short. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

42. 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. – Bird by Bird, 1995

43. I don’t try to teach kids or grownups how to write really, really well. I just teach them to stop not writing. I teach to keep their butt in the chair and to write badly. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

44. I just believe in flinging yourself into it and writing incredibly terrible first drafts. – Goodreads Interview, 2012

45. All first drafts of any book you’ve ever read by the authors you esteem most began as unreadable first drafts. – Tim Ferris Interview, 2021

46. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. – Bird by Bird, 1995

47. Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground— you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. – Bird by Bird, 1995

48. Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper. – Bird by Bird, 1995

49. We need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing. – Bird by Bird, 1995

Quotes on How to Write Well

50. I’ve been over every word in this book a dozen times, and I did notice that I’ve become a pretty decent writer. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

51. At my advanced age, I’ve had to throw a bunch of stuff out of the plane that’s kept me flying too low – including trying to impress New York City editors and writers, which actually made me mentally ill. – Washington Post Interview, 2021

Quotes on Dealing with Challenges in Writing

52. Being a writer guarantees that you will spend too much time alone – and that as a result, your mind will begin to warp. – Bird by Bird, 1995

53. On a bad day you also don’t need a lot of advice. You just need a little empathy and affirmation. You need to feel once again that other people have confidence in you. – Bird by Bird, 1995

54. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better. – Ted Talk, 2017

Further Reading

If you loved the quotes by Anne Lamott, check out the huge collection of writing quotes below. The collection features the best quotes by some of the most famous writers such as Anais Nin, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Anne Frank, and Annie Dillard among many more.

The quotes are full of valuable advice for any aspiring writer.

If you are struggling to create a business around your writing and need some encouragement, read the quotes below.

  • Sources Cited for Anne Lamott’s Quotes

Bird by Bird (1995) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life [see on Amazon]

Goodreads Interview (2012) Interview with Anne Lamott

Lithub Interview (2021) Anne Lamott on Writing a Book for Those Feeling Hopeless

Tim Ferris Interview (2021) Anne Lamott on Taming Your Inner Critic, Finding Grace, and Prayer

Washington Post Interview (2021) Anne Lamott Talks ‘Dusk to Dawn’