Our Teacher's Favorite Quotes

Session 2 classes are starting up at Life in 10 Minutes this week! Meet our amazing, vibrant teachers and get inspired with their favorite quotes about writing.

Cindy Cunningham

When I think about writing or teaching writing, many quotes and enlightened tidbits of writing advice creep into my brain, but I almost always hear a poem by Robert Penn Warren in which he proclaims:

“In this century, and moment, of mania,/Tell me a story./Make it a story of great distances, and starlight..../Tell me a story of deep delight.”
— Robert Penn Warren

I hear the call to tell a story of deep delight whenever I take up a pen or begin typing on a computer. His issues were vital and vibrant; he did not hide from tough subjects; and he strove to make even the ugliest aspects of life into beautiful moments of story. We exist through stories, so let's make them ones of deep delight.

 
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Elizabeth Ferris

It's so hard to pick just one, but this quote from the poet Richard Hugo has stuck with me over the years. I actually first came across it because it is the tagline on the blog of another favorite poet, Ada Limon. This quote reminds me of the way writing and books are vital and lifesaving. You know, sometimes life is great--everything is going well and you're just swimming along feeling pretty damn lucky and high. But when it comes to the times when everything seems to go to hell all at once, writing (and reading) has been, for me, that one reliable life-raft to grab onto.

Writing is a way of saying you and the world have a chance.
— Richard Hugo
 
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Valley Haggard

My life feels right when I’m writing. I write to process, heal, vent, grow. When I don’t write a pressure cooker builds inside of me. The choice is to pick up a pen or implode.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
— Maya Angelou
A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka
 
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Sadeqa Johnson

I like the quote because when I start writing a new book, I'm usually just trying to get the story that's floating around in my head down on the page so that I have something to mold and shape. If I spend too much time trying to perfect the story then I lose it. Drafting is what makes the story stand up and say something.

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.

That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
— Octavia E. Butler
 
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Erin Mahone

This quote says it all for me. Being engaged with ourselves, with other people, and with the world is essential for not only my work but my life. I love that Oliver chose the word astonished because there is no judgement in that word. We can be astonished by the magnificent complexities of nature, the simple yet ineffable wonder of sniffing the top of a baby’s head, the beautiful release of a deep, satisfying belly laugh, and the unrelenting pain and degradation that humans cause one another, animals, and the planet at large. I believe we have a responsibility to notice all of these things and to share our observations in whatever way we are called to share. 

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
— Mary Oliver
 
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Cheryl Pallant

Among my favorite quotes about writing is by Helene Cixous, a French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, and literary critic. I appreciate what she says because she invites us to step out of critical mind into a more authentic state of being and let writing do its magic. She encourages us to liberate ourselves from those who might want to inhibit expression. Those oppressors may be others, the status quo, or ourself. These quotes are reminders of the importance of connecting with the wisdom of the body and the enlivening of flow.

 

Let yourself go, let the writing flow, let yourself steep; bathe, relax, become the river, let everything go, open up, unwind, open the floodgates...A practice of greatest passivity....This  mode of passivity is our way- really an active way- of getting to know things by letting ourselves be known by them.” in Coming to Writing and Other Essays“We should write as we dream....Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time.
— Helene Cixous in Laugh of the Medussa
 

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