Robert Louis Stevenson and other Writers’ Quotes to Enjoy and Learn From

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

I know. The title of this post ends with a preposition.

Winston Churchill (nobody quotes him anymore) said: “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

For me, quotes from writers can be insightful, motivating, and fun. They give me a quick boost of energy and inspiration. Too many times, though, shortly after the boost, I go back to my old habits, like a sinner who knows what to do to set things right and decides not to, but keeps trying.

My favorite quote is by Robert Louis Stevenson: “It is not enough that we write to be understood. We must write so we cannot possibly be misunderstood.” I’ve missed doing that too many times.

One definition of success—used without attribution in many writings—is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. I don’t know the original source. The quotes below won’t make you successful. I offer them in the hope you will be inspired to develop your own quest to become more successful, at the best level possible for your purposes.

What better way to start than from the best-selling book of all time? Nonfiction, of course.

Bible  – O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! Job 19:23, 24 NRSV

Annis Cassells  –
Does my behavior match my goal?
Lorna Kelly –
Success isn’t measured in how many books I’ve sold. It’s measured in the delight I got in producing something really wonderful. 

Joe Kita –
99.9 percent of people lead boring lives. But every single one of them is trying to make some sense out of his or her existence, to find some meaning in the world, and therein lies the value and opportunity of memoir.

John Lanchester – The story of our lives is not the same as the story we tell about our lives.

C.S. Lewis – Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please will you do the job for me."

Sharon Lippincott –
My stories have taken a number of forms. Some are primarily documentary in nature, recording various details of life and the times for posterity. Others are quite personal, and may not be finished or shared for decades yet. My favorites, the ones that are the most fun to write, are vignettes of specific times, occasions or topics.

Dinty W. Moore –
I misperceived it with my own eyes.

Carolyn Oravitz –
Using fiction techniques will make your memoir a more interesting read. Your memoir may take on a narrative structure, including many of the usual elements of storytelling such as setting, plot development, imagery, conflict, characterization, and flashback.

Sue William Silverman – Don’t just state your story—reveal your story. If I simply said I once struggled with sex addiction, you wouldn’t feel my words emotionally. But, if I described a seedy hotel room where I met a dangerous man, I would be trying to fully reveal the darkness of the addiction.

Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith –
There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.

Linda Thomas – Invest in your grandchildren’s future now by writing your memoir.

Jerry Waxler – I suspect many siblings have greatly differing views about the family. And there are many other examples of the disagreement of "truth." In fact, I think memoirs turn us into philosophers, because by writing a memoir, we are taking a stand about our version of the truth.

Tobias Wolff – Memory has its own story to tell.

William Zinsser – There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published.

What other writing quotes do you like and how have they influenced your writing? I’ll add them to my collection for another post.

Photo: Knox Series of postcards. Photographer unknown.


  1. "The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it."
    Author: J.M. Barrie,(1860-1937) novelist and playwright

    I probably found this quote here, but in case I didn't, you should add it to the list. I love your blog!

  2. Great list of quotes, Wayne. I'm a compulsive quote-collector so you've given me a few to add to my files. Thanks for the fun read.

    Linda Thomas

  3. Hi, again, I'm using this quote in a blog post in about a week: "Our true places in God's story are as diverse and unique as wildflowers in a field." (John & Stasi Eldredge)


  4. Great post, Wayne.

    As you have probably seen, I use quotes often. I love to post bible scriptures. One that I like a lot is:
    "When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness." Proverbs 31:26
    It reminds me of my conversation with Lori Copeland :-)

    I like C.S. Lewis' quotes as well, they are always insightful and so clever.