Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Seuss Geigel (1904–1991), was one of our most beloved children’s book authors.
Here are four of his quotes to inspire your writing!
1. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? For many of us he’s our introduction to reading, after all! He’s the beginning of our life-long love of books and stories. He definitely was for me. When I was a kid I had an entire bookshelf dedicated to Dr. Seuss books, and on a recent visit to my parents’ house, I discovered my mom had kept all those books and had put them on a shelf in one of her closets for my own kids to read one day. How cool is that?
This is one of his most famous quotes, of course, and it’s one that works for all aspects of your life but definitely for your writing life. You can’t write well without reading. Filling your life with books and finding some time every day to read will allow you to learn more things and give you the tools you need to write richer material. You’ll be able to go to more places, both physically and emotionally. You’ll be able to grow as a writer and not feel stuck in the same place all the time.
2. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
If you don’t care an awful lot about your writing, it won’t ever get better, and it won’t ever get done. Never forget that your latest writing project is all on you. Nobody is looking over your shoulder. Nobody is watching you work. If you don’t finish that latest short story or novel, the world will keep spinning. If you have an idea and a vision you want to put into the world, it’s all on you. It’s like that line Annette Bening says in American Beauty: “You can not count on anyone except yourself.” Sure, there will be mentors and friends who help you along the way, but in the writing life, you’re in charge of your latest work of fiction, and it’s up to you to get it done.
This is why I never start a new writing project, particularly a novel, that I don’t have great passion for. It’s not enough to have an idea that sort of amuses you. It’s not enough to say to yourself, I have six pretty empty weeks ahead of me, let’s start writing a novel and see where it takes me! I’ve done that before, and those novels are easily the worst I’ve ever written. When you have an idea you care about, that you’ll be excited to stick with for months or possibly years, only then will you be able to write a novel of true quality you’ll want to make better and better.
3. You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.
It seems almost too simple to be true, but it is: the best way you learn how to write is to sit alone in a room and write. It’s not reading a dozen craft books. It’s not talking about writing with your friends. And it’s certainly not sitting through countless lectures from your teachers. Yes, you can learn a lot from your teachers, and the best of them will inspire you to do great work. I spent three years in an MFA in Creative Writing program, and I can’t tell you how often I was inspired in those seminars and lectures. I would often leave a class excited to get home and start writing. I would take all the wisdom from my gifted professors and try to write something new that would be my greatest accomplishment yet.
The problem is so many people think teachers will give you everything you need to be a good writer, but you know what? They can only do so much. They can teach you what has worked well for them. They can give you a hundred writing exercises in class. They can spend hours discussing the work of amazing authors. But at the end of the day, what really makes your writing improve is practice. Not in the classroom. Not under your teacher’s supervision. But by yourself, with the door closed, an intriguing new idea forming in your mind.
4. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Writing a work of fiction, particularly a novel, takes a long, long time. You might spend six months or a year or even longer on a single project. I’ve spent as long as four years on one novel, and that manuscript was only about 40,000 words. Between 2015 and 2019 I went through almost twenty revisions of a middle grade horror novel called Monster Movie, more than half of those revisions I spent working with a literary agent. I took a book that was a 7 out of 10 and brought it to a solid 11. I improved so much as a writer during that time, and I had a hard time letting go in late 2019 when my relationship with that agent came to an end, which essentially meant that novel I’d put my heart and soul into for four years had come to an end, too. Outside of self publishing, I don’t know if that novel will ever see the light of day, and that does make me want to cry sometimes.
But Dr. Seuss was right in that instead of moping over a writing project that didn’t quite work out the way you hoped, you should smile… because it happened. You should smile because that experience made you a better writer. You should smile because you learned so much and can bring new skills to a different project that might be able to find a home. Especially in the writing world, you learn from every single failure. You understand what didn’t work last time so you can make something work at least a little bit better the next time.
Don’t cry when you reach the end of something. Smile because you did it, you accomplished it, and now you can start something new that will be even better. So keep going. Keep trying. Don’t dwell on the past. The future is yours!
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