Advice for writers from Madeleine L’Engle

a wrinkle in timeBy Kirsti Call

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of my all-time favorites. I remember reading the book when I was eight years old and marveling over the mystery of our bodies and our minds and the universe. Of course, once I had discovered Madeleine L’Engle, I couldn’t stop reading her works. I scoured the library and requested all 29 of her other books.

So when I stumbled upon Madeleine’s advice for writers recently, I took it seriously.

“I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.”

Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve written a lot this month. I started the new year with resolutions and writing challenges. Right now I’m participating in Start the Year off Write, ReviMo, and the 12×12. But what will I do when the momentum of super-motivated, ready-to-take-the-year-by-storm me is replaced by normal me? I’ll sit down and write, write, write.

How is your writing or illustrating going in the new year? What writerly quotes inspire you? Tell us in the Comments section.


  1. Just stumbled across another great quote from Madeleine L’Engle that I had tucked away for myself: “Yes, it is risky. We may not hear the story well. We may be like faulty radios, transmitting only static and words out of context. But I believe that is a risk we have to take. And it is worth it, because the story knows more than the artist knows.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been spending more time writing, thanks to the Start the Year Write challenge. Now I just have to figure out how to keep it up without sacrificing my time for illustrating. My favorite quote (today anyway) is from Tomie dePaola:

    “Whenever an idea or character is ready to jump out, I’d better be ready to grab it. Then it’s just good, old-fashioned hard work to take the idea and make it work.”


  3. I love Madeleine’s advice and agree with it 100%! My writing is going great this year! ReviMo, Start the Year Off Write, 12 x 12, critiquing maniac in critique groups, for my fabulous crit partner *winks* and my first grade classroom :), and trying to take enough time to soak up life! I am not sure who said this, or if I just made it up, but I live by this quote: Small steps, taken consistently, add up in a big way!!!


  4. I only hope you can touch lives as Madeleine L’Engle touched yours. Here’s a writerly quote I can relate to:
    “I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.”
    – Gustave Flaubert


  5. Thanks for this, Kirsti. This morning I have re-started journal-keeping because of your post; I’d let that lapse, somewhere along the way.

    One of my favorite quotes is from Marianne Williamson, the one that starts: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”


  6. I discovered one last night while reading *Nonfiction Writing from the Inside Out*. It sounds like Anais and Madeleine would have been friends. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.” –Anais Nin


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