What you can learn from writers

Jul 21, 2015


Laura Schmidt

Laura Schmidt is a writer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and she currently attends University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, pursuing a degree in English and Journalism-Strategic Communications. She has previously written for the University of Minnesota Women's Center Blog about social justice and women's rights. Her plays and other creative works have been performed across Iowa and Minnesota; you can find out more about

As an English and Journalism double major, I write a lot. I am extremely passionate about my writing and my creative work. And like any other career, I believe that one must look to the “greats” to learn where to start.

Many pieces of advice from authors about the writing process are worth sharing because they are about so much more than just creative writing. These insights have not only made me a better writer, they have made me a stronger and more efficient communicator in the work environment as well.

Below are some of my favorite quotes that have propelled me along during my first few jobs and internships – and they relate to more than just writing.

1. “Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.” - Emma Coates

One of my favorite writing quotes comes from this former Pixar story artist who tweeted “22 Rules of Storytelling” that she had learned working in the creative environment at Pixar. It is a good piece of writing advice, but it is also a great piece of business advice. If you have no goal or end in mind when you begin a project, task or even start a business, you will get lost in the middle. Figure out the hardest parts first, look at where you’re going, and then get started.

2. “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” - George Orwell

Be as brief as possible, whether that is in an email, pitch or at a meeting. Make every word count and don’t take up more time than is necessary to get to the point. A succinct and precise paragraph beats a page and a half of notes.

3. “Quantity produces quality.” - Ray Bradbury

Now, this may seem like a contradiction to the previous quote, but in fact, it goes very well with what Orwell is saying. Bradbury is not talking about the single page you bring to the board meeting, like Orwell. Instead, Bradbury is talking about the 20 pages you don’t bring to the meeting. The unused drafts may not make it to the meeting, but they were an important process of that final draft. In a writing sense, Bradbury is saying to keep writing and eventually, you will become good. The same is true for any job; you will become good at something new by trying it over and over again, not by simply waiting to get good at it.

4. “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” - Neil Gaiman

Take risks, make mistakes, and keep learning in the process.

As a writer, I need to constantly challenge myself. I believe this is also true for the workplace, and my everyday life. Sometimes all it takes to gain new energy in life is to look up a quote. Who knows, it may have the power to inspire me in ways I never thought possible.

But now, I want to know, what advice has inspired you?