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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Got the Writing Blahs? Get Inspired


By Leslie Gordon, BASF Bulletin Contributor


Writing is tough and exhilarating work — legal writing is no exception. To motivate through the writing doldrums and kick-start inspiration, I keep a notebook of quotations about writing. Here are some of my favorites.

“I hate writing; I love having written.”

-Dorothy Parker

“Personally, I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty... I find there is nothing more beautiful, for example, than the very basic components of language, nouns and verbs. When you’ve grasped this, you’ve grasped the core of any statement. It’s magnificent, don’t you think? Nouns, verbs…”

-The Elegance of the Hedgehog

“Inspiration comes with the writing and seldom precedes it.”

-Origin unknown

“[My first draft] would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I’d obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft. I’d worry that people would read what I had written and believe that the accident had really been a suicide….The next day, though, I’d sit down, go through it all with a colored pen, take out everything I possibly could, find a new lead somewhere on the second page, figure out a kicky place to end it, and then write a second draft. It always turned out fine…”

-Bird by Bird

“Set up your life so you write your first drafts under deadline pressure, but have infinite amounts of time to revise.”

-Origin unknown

“Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

-E.L. Doctorow

“The first draft of anything is s!@*.”


“The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning. Punctuation herds words together, keeps others apart. Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play.”

-Eats, Shoots & Leaves

“[Writing is] nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.”

-Shirley Hazzard


If you have a grammar or writing question you’d like addressed here, contact

A former lawyer, Leslie A. Gordon is a freelance journalist living in San Francisco.

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