Stephen King Writing Quotes

Stephen King is one of the most popular writers of our generations. He is frequently described as the ‘King of Horror’. In this article, we will explore his advice on writing gathered from his various interviews as well as his autobiography, On Writing. The quotes cover topics such as:

  • Why writers write
  • Importance of reading for a writer
  • Challenges of evolving as a writer
  • His writing routine and philosophy

If you want to learn more about Stephen King, check out his quick biography.

Quotes on Why Writers Write

1. Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. On Writing, 2000

2. If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it? On Writing, 2000

3. What else am I going to do? …you’ve got to do something to fill up your day. And I can only play so much guitar and watch so many TV shows. It fulfills me. There are two things about it I like: It makes me happy, and it makes other people happy. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

4. Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. On Writing, 2000

5. When I’m working and it’s going really well, time and the real world kind of disappear– The Guardian Interview, 2019

6. I think you find out about yourself a little bit with every book you write, at least the ones that really matter to you. You discover what you believe, and those things come out in the books. – Esquire Interview, 2021

7. It’s a way to use your imagination as a force for good, where you can actually – by making believe, you can increase your serenity. You can take a little vacation from everything that’s going on. That’s the purpose of art. – NPR Interview, 2020

8. You’re able to go into a world that you know is not real. But if the artist is good – the filmmaker or the novelist, maybe even the painter – for a little while, you’re able to believe that world because the picture of it and the depiction of it is so real that you can go in there.– NPR Interview, 2020

9. It took me back to the beginning, and to the sense of freedom I felt when I discovered that I could actually drive the story. That’s an intoxicating feeling—the sense that you can actually tell a story, and that you can reveal a little bit about yourself. – Esquire Interview, 2021

10. Creative life is absurdly short. I want to cram in as much as I can. – The Guardian Interview, 2019

Quotes on Success and Legacy

11. I’ve reached a point in my career where I can have it any goddamn way I want to, if I want to. If you get popular enough, they give you all the rope you want. You can hang yourself in Times Square if you want to, and I’ve done it. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

12. I can afford to lose fans. That sounds totally conceited, but I don’t mean it that way: I can lose half of my fan base and still have enough to live on very comfortably. I’ve had the freedom to follow my own course, which is great. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

13. Only two things happen to writers when they die: Either their work survives, or it becomes forgotten. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

14. Ask kids in high school, “Who is Somerset Maugham?” They’re not going to know. He wrote books that were bestsellers in their time. But he’s well-forgotten now, whereas Agatha Christie has never been more popular…She’s not as good a writer as Maugham, and she certainly didn’t try to do anything other than entertain people. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

Quotes on How to Write Well

15. I care about anything that goes out with my name on it. If you’re going to do the work and if someone is going to pay you for it, I think you ought to do the best job that you can. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

16. If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. On Writing, 2000

17. I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. On Writing, 2000

18. It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged. On Writing, 2000

19. All novels are really letters aimed at one person. On Writing, 2000

20. When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. On Writing, 2000

21. To write is human, to edit is divine.On Writing, 2000

22. Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. On Writing, 2000

Quotes on Talent

23. Anyone can see the difference between someone who’s talented and someone that’s not. The main character in Revival, Jamie, just has natural talent. What he can do on the guitar, I can do when I write. It just pours out. Nobody taught me. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

24. In all the years that I’ve been doing this since I discovered the talent when I was 7 or 8 years old, I still feel much the same as I did in the early days, which is – I’m going to leave the ordinary world for my own world. And it’s a wonderful, exhilarating experience. I’m very grateful to be able to have it. – NPR Interview, 2020

Quotes on Reading

25. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. On Writing, 2000

26. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written. On Writing, 2000

27. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. On Writing, 2000

28. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing. On Writing, 2000

29. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. On Writing, 2000

30. I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, most fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. On Writing, 2000

Quotes on Money and Charity

31. I don’t even think about money. I have two amazing things in my life: I’m pain-free and I’m debt-free. Money means I can support my family and still do what I love. Not very many people can say that in this world, and not many writers can say that. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

32. We were raised firmly to believe that if you give away money and you make a big deal of it so that everybody sees it, that’s hubris. You do it for yourself, and you’re not supposed to make a big deal about it. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

33. We have publicly acknowledged certain contributions, but the idea behind that is to say to other people, “This is the example we’re trying to make, so we wish that you would do the same thing.” – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

Quotes for Getting Ideas in Writing

34. I don’t really remember very much about where the ideas came from. In the process of writing a book like Billy Summers, I can’t remember the day-to-day. It’s like when you wake up from a very vivid dream. Six or seven hours later, you say, “I know I had a dream, but I can’t remember what it was about.” – Esquire Interview, 2021

35. Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up. On Writing, 2000

36. For me, novels come in pieces. I just collect pieces in my mind, and little by little, they start to connect. – Esquire Interview, 2021

37. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.On Writing, 2000

38. That’s the heart of the mystery. Something inside you calls out and says, “This is for me -this is what I want. I have to get at it.” – Esquire Interview, 2021

39. Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. On Writing, 2000

40. Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam. On Writing, 2000

41. The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better. On Writing, 2000

Quotes on Challenges of Writing

42. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction can be difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. On Writing, 2000

43. I got to a point in The Stand where I just put it aside, and I said, “I don’t think I can finish this.” It killed me, because I had like 450 single-spaced pages. You don’t want to think of all that work just going to waste -a busted book. – Esquire Interview, 2021

44. Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position. On Writing, 2000

45. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position. On Writing, 2000

46. The longer the book, the heavier it gets at some point. You always have doubts. It’s a little bit like sailing in a little boat across a broad ocean. There are big waves, and you’re always in danger of being swamped, particularly if you work like I do. – Esquire Interview, 2021

47. I just depend on the story to keep on rolling ahead of me. I’ve had times when the boat sank. I’ve got a couple of unfinished books in my drawers that I just didn’t know how to go on with. – Esquire Interview, 2021

48. By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went On Writing, 2000. On Writing, 2000

Quotes on Evolving as a Writer

49. I also think that I have changed as a writer over the years, in the sense that I’m not providing exactly the same level of escape that ’Salem’s Lot, The Shining, or even The Stand does. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

50. There are people out there who would have been perfectly happy had I died in 1978, the people who come to me and say, Oh, you never wrote a book as good as The Stand. I usually tell them how depressing it is to hear them say that something you wrote twenty-eight years ago was your best book. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

51. I lost some readers at various points. It was just a natural process of attrition, that’s all. People go on, they find other things. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

52. You try to grow as a writer and not just do the same thing over and over again, because there’s absolutely no point to that. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

Quotes on Criticism and Feedback

53. It feels good to be at least semi-respectable. I have outlived most of my most virulent critics. It gives me great pleasure to say that. Does that make me a bad person? – The Guardian Interview, 2019

54. I don’t think it’s me, I don’t think it’s a best-seller thing, I think it’s a writer thing, and it goes across the board -it never changes -but my first thought was, She can’t tell me that. She doesn’t know. She’s not a writer. She doesn’t understand my genius! – Paris Review Interview, 2006

55. Early in my career, The Village Voice did a caricature of me that hurts even today when I think about it. It was a picture of me eating money. I had this big, bloated face. It was this assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. If something is accessible to a lot of people, it’s got to be dumb because most people are dumb. And that’s elitist. I don’t buy it. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

56. Particularly in the days when I was doping and drinking all the time, I did what I wanted. And that included telling editors to go screw themselves. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

Quotes on Authenticity

57. I have a drive to succeed. I have a drive to want to please people, as many people as possible. But that ends at a certain point where you say, “I’m not going to sell out and write this one particular kind of thing.” – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

58. I had to sit down and have a discussion with myself and say, “Do you want to do what your heart is telling you you should do, or do you want to do what people expect? Because if you only want to write what people expect, what…did you do all this for? Why don’t you write what you want to write?” – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

59. I’m always interested in what my readers think, and I’m aware that many of them want to participate in the story. I don’t have a problem with that, just so long as they understand that what they think isn’t necessarily going to change what I do. That is, I’m never going to say, I’ve got this story, here it is. Now here’s a poll. How do you think I should end it? – Paris Review Interview, 2006

Quotes on Stephen King’s Writing Routine and Process

60. I wake up. I eat breakfast. I walk about three and a half miles. I come back, I go out to my little office, where I’ve got a manuscript, and the last page that I was happy with is on top. I read that, and it’s like getting on a taxiway. I’m able to go through and revise it and put myself…back into that world. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

61. I work on a book every day. It’s like a religion to me. – Esquire Interview, 2021

62. I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book. On Writing, 2000

63. I used to write two thousand words a day and sometimes even more. But now it’s just a paltry thousand words a day. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

64. I used to write more and I used to write faster – it’s just aging. It slows you down a little bit. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

65. I’ll write every day for maybe six months and get a draft of something – and then I make myself stop completely for 10 days or 12 days in order to let everything settle. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

67. I don’t spend the day writing. I’ll maybe write fresh copy for two hours, and then I’ll go back and revise some of it and print what I like and then turn it off. – Rolling Stones Interview, 2014

68. After I finished the first draft of Lisey, I gave myself six weeks. When you return to a novel after that amount of time, it seems almost as if a different person wrote it. You’re not quite as wedded to it. You find all sorts of horrible errors, but you also find passages that make you say, Jesus, that’s good! – Paris Review Interview, 2006

69. It’s good to give the thing at least six weeks to sit and breathe. But I don’t always have that luxury. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

70. With “Duma Key”- the novel I’m working on now -I’ve actually codified the notes to make sure I remember the different plot strands. I write down birth dates to figure out how old characters are at certain times. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

71. One of the ways the computer has changed the way I work is that I have a much greater tendency to edit “in the camera” -to make changes on the screen. With Cell that’s what I did. I read it over, I had editorial corrections, I was able to make my own corrections, and to me that’s like ice skating. It’s an OK way to do the work, but it isn’t optimal. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

72. With Lisey I had the copy beside the computer and I created blank documents and retyped the whole thing. To me that’s like swimming, and that’s preferable. It’s like you’re writing the book over again. It is literally a rewriting. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

Quotes on Stephen King’s Writing Environment

73. Wherever you write is supposed to be a little bit of a refuge, a place where you can get away from the world. The more closed in you are, the more you’re forced back on your own imagination. I mean, if I were near a window, I’d be OK for a while, but then I’d be checking out the girls on the street and who’s getting in and out of the cars. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

74. It’s nice to have a desk, a comfortable chair so you’re not shifting around all the time, and enough light. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

75. My study is basically just a room where I work. I have a filing system. It’s very complex, very orderly. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

76. If people read me because they’re getting a story that’s paced a certain way, it’s because they sense I want to get to where I’m going. I don’t want to dawdle around and look at the scenery. To achieve that pace I used to listen to music. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

77. The music I happen to be listening to can sometimes affect word choice, or cause a new line, but never affects style. – The Guardian Interview, 2019

78. I’ll only listen to music at the end of a day’s work, when I roll back to the beginning of what I did that day and go over it on the screen. A lot of times the music will drive my wife crazy because it will be the same thing over and over and over again… I’m not really listening to the music -it’s just something there in the background. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

Quotes on Stephen King’s Writing Philosophy

79. I can remember thinking that I wanted the book to feel like a brick that was heaved through your window at you. I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do…should be a kind of personal assault…It should get in your face. It should upset you, disturb you. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

80. Every book is different each time you revise it. Because when you finish the book, you say to yourself, This isn’t what I meant to write at all. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

81. Deliberately go slower? No, never. I’ve written longhand [Dreamcatcher], but poke along and obsessively polish? No. You keep picking a scab, you’re gonna make it bleed instead of heal. – The Guardian Interview, 2019

82. As the science-fiction writer Alfred Bester used to say, The book is the boss. You’ve got to let the book go where it wants to go, and you just follow along. If it doesn’t do that, it’s a bad book. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

83. What I’m really interested in as a writer that I come back to time and time again is the intrusion of the unexpected and the strange into our everyday life…I like to explore that world where something strange happens to ordinary people. – NPR Interview, 2020

84. You can never bend reality to serve the fiction. You have to bend the fiction to serve reality when you find those things out. – Paris Review Interview, 2006

85. Some writers take years; James Patterson takes a weekend. Every writer is different. I feel that a first draft should take about four months, but that’s me. And I go over my work obsessively. – The Guardian Interview, 2019

Further Reading

If you loved the quotes by Stephen King, check out the huge collection of writing quotes below. The collection features the best quotes by some of the most famous writers such as James Patterson, R.L Stine, Dan Brown, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman 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.