Alice Munro Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

alice munro quotes on writing
by CJ McDaniel // June 17 // 0 Comments

Readers and writers acknowledge that any fictitious narrative takes time to finish, whether that means reading or writing it. Canadian writer Alice Munro deems this point valid, especially as a housewife with three young daughters. She recognizes the struggle in devoting time to creating a novel, justifying why she almost exclusively dedicated her literary career to the short story genre. After all, it was the best choice for Munro, looking at the international recognition she gained with her fiction. Alice Munro is now “one of the greatest contemporary writers of fiction,” a master of short stories many can look up to in terms of inspiration or quotes on writing.

Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro, with the original name Alice Ann Laidlaw, was born in Wingham, Ontario, Canada, on July 10, 1931. Munro grew up in a small Canadian town with her father as a fox and mink farmer, while her mother was a teacher. Her passion for writing began during her teenage years. Fueled by her perseverance to establish herself as a writer, she studied journalism and English at the University of Western Ontario after acquiring a two-year scholarship. However, she left to marry fellow student James Munro, moving to Victoria, British Columbia, where they ran a bookshop for several years.

Munro had to bear the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams of becoming a writer. Her efforts paid off eventually, as she’s now a critically well-regarded short-story writer and recipient of many awards and prizes. These literary accolades include the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, making her the second Canadian and 13th woman to receive the award. Her distinguished career provided readers and writers with tremendous inspiration. Hence, apart from her writings, Alice Munro’s quotes about the craft of writing became much sought-after generation after generation.

Alice Munro Quotes About Writing

Growing up in a small Canadian town inspired Munro’s backdrops for her stories, as they usually took place in small-town rural Ontario. Moreover, a frequent theme of her works involves the characters leaving their hometown for intellectual and creative pursuits. Her writings possess precise imagery and narrative style, exploration of everyday people’s emotional lives, and her natural ability to describe the complexity of things. All of these aspects made her the award-winning fiction writer she is today.

Munro has spoken extensively about her writing process and works throughout time. If you’re a short-story writer or an author in the making, Alice Munro’s quotes about writing will give you the motivation to continue pursuing the craft.

I can’t play bridge. I don’t play tennis. All those things that people learn, and I admire, there hasn’t seemed time for. But what there is time for is looking out the window.

– Alice Munro

If I decided to send this to you, where would I send it? When I think of writing the whole address on the envelope I am paralyzed. It’s too painful to think of you in the same place with your life going on in the same way, minus me. And to think of you not there, you somewhere else but I don’t know where that is, is worse.

– Alice Munro

That’s something I think is growing on me as I get older: happy endings.

– Alice Munro

It’s certainly true that when I was young, writing seemed to me so important that I would have sacrificed almost anything to it … Because I thought of the world in which I wrote — the world I created — as somehow much more enormously alive than the world I was actually living in.

– Alice Munro

Anecdotes don’t make good stories. Generally I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about.

– Alice Munro

Writing is hard, but the more you write, and enjoy what you write, the better it gets.

– Alice Munro

It’s not possible to advise a young writer because every young writer is so different. You might say, “Read,” but a writer can read too much and be paralyzed. Or, “Don’t read, don’t think, just write,” and the result could be a mountain of drivel. If you’re going to be a writer you’ll probably take a lot of wrong turns and then one day just end up writing something you have to write, then getting it better and better just because you want it to be better, and even when you get old and think, “There must be something else people do,” you won’t be able to quit.

– Alice Munro

I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.

– Alice Munro

You want in all cases for the story to get through the writing.

– Alice Munro

In twenty years I’ve never had a day when I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs. And this means the writing has to be fitted around it.

– Alice Munro

I knew I would be famous one day. That’s because I lived in a very small town and nobody liked doing the same things I did, like writing.

– Alice Munro

Usually, I have a lot of acquaintance with the story before I start writing it. When I didn’t have regular time to give to writing, stories would just be working in my head for so long that when I started to write I was deep into them. Now, I do that work by filling notebooks.

– Alice Munro

Naturally my stories are about women – I’m a woman. I don’t know what the term is for men who write mostly about men. I’m not always sure what is meant by “feminist.” In the beginning I used to say, well, of course I’m a feminist. But if it means that I follow a kind of feminist theory, or know anything about it, then I’m not. I think I’m a feminist as far as thinking that the experience of women is important. That is really the basis of feminism.

– Alice Munro

There’s a kind of tension that if I’m getting a story right I can feel right away, and I don’t feel that when I try to write a novel. I kind of want a moment that’s explosive, and I want everything gathered into that.

– Alice Munro

Peoples lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, unfathomable-deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum. . . . What I wanted [to write down] was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together-radiant, everlasting.

– Alice Munro

Sometimes I get the start of a story from a memory, an anecdote, but that gets lost and is usually unrecognizable in the final story.

– Alice Munro

The deep, personal material of the latter half of your life is your children. You can write about your parents when they’re gone, but your children are still going to be here, and you’re going to want them to come and visit you in the nursing home.

– Alice Munro

For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel.

– Alice Munro

I was writing desperately all the time I was pregnant because I thought I would never be able to write afterwards. Each pregnancy spurred me to get something big done before the baby was born. Actually I didn’t get anything big done.

– Alice Munro

It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful.

– Alice Munro

I have stacks of notebooks that contain this terribly clumsy writing, which is just getting anything down. I often wonder, when I look at these first drafts, if there was any point in doing this at all. I’m the opposite of a writer with a quick gift, you know, someone who gets it piped in. I don’t grasp it very readily at all, the ‘it’ being whatever I’m trying to do. I often get on the wrong track and have to haul myself back.

– Alice Munro

I write every morning, seven days a week. I write starting about eight o’clock and finish up around eleven. Then I do other things the rest of the day, unless I do my final draft or something that I want to keep working on then I’ll work all day with little breaks.

– Alice Munro

My routine now is to get up in the morning, have some coffee, start to write. And then a little later on, I might take a break and have something to eat and go on writing. The serious writing is done in the morning. I don’t think I can use a lot of time in the beginning; I maybe can only do about three hours. I do rewrite a lot, and I rewrite and then I think it’s all done, and I send it in. And then I want to rewrite it some more. Sometimes it seems to me that a couple of words are so important that I’ll ask for the book back so that I can put them in.

– Alice Munro

Alice Munro Inspirational Quotes

Munro’s successful writing career didn’t come easy. She faced rejection from publishers for years, along with the limits on her career carried by marriage and motherhood. Moreover, writing a story usually takes her at least a month to complete, with her experiencing writer’s block every so often. Despite the struggles throughout her career, Munro still became one of the greatest short-story writers today—a true inspiration for many who want to pursue the same path as hers.

If inspiration is something you’re lacking, look at the quotes from Alice Munro taken from her writings.

In my own work, I tend to cover a lot of time and to jump back and forward in time, and sometimes the way I do this is not very straightforward.

– Alice Munro

That’s something I think is growing on me as I get older: happy endings.

– Alice Munro

Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories — and telling other people a somewhat different version of our stories.

– Alice Munro

The stories are not autobiographical, but they’re personal in that way. I seem to know only the things that I’ve learned. Probably some things through observation, but what I feel I know surely is personal.

– Alice Munro

I don’t show anything in progress to anybody

– Alice Munro

There has to be an agreement between the editor and me about the kind of thing that can happen.

– Alice Munro

I have never kept diaries. I just remember a lot and am more self-centered than most people.

– Alice Munro

Any story that’s going to be any good is usually going to change.

– Alice Munro

I only seem to get a grasp on what I want to write about with the greatest difficulty.

– Alice Munro

I can see the ways a story could go wrong. I see the negative things more easily than the positive things. Some stories don’t work as well as others, and some stories are lighter in conception than others.

– Alice Munro

I never have a problem with finding material. I wait for it to turn up, and it always turns up. It’s dealing with the material I’m inundated with that poses the problem.

– Alice Munro

I am so compulsive that I have a quota of pages. If I know that I am going somewhere on a certain day, I will try to get those extra pages done ahead of time. That’s so compulsive, it’s awful. But I don’t get too far behind, it’s as if I could lose it somehow. This is something about aging. People get compulsive about things like this. I’m also compulsive now about how much I walk every day.

– Alice Munro

You never know what you’re going to be interested in. You don’t decide beforehand. All of a sudden you realize that this is what you want to write.

– Alice Munro

When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the ‘normal’ world.

– Alice Munro

If you’re a writer, you’re sort of spending your life trying to figure things out, and you put your figurings on paper, and other people read them. It’s a very odd thing, really. You do this your whole life, and yet you know that you fail. You don’t fail all the way, or anything, it’s still worth doing—I think it’s worth doing, anyway. But it’s like this coming to grips with things that you can only partially deal with. This sounds very hopeless. I don’t feel hopeless at all.

– Alice Munro

Quotes About Books

Books were influential aspects of Alice Munro’s life and work. Among the book she loved reading were Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, Thornton Burgess’s children’s stories, William Maxwell’s stories, and books from Southern women writers like Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Ann Porter, and Carson McCuller. Moreover, Munro worked as a library clerk while studying at the University of Western Ontario, then opened a bookstore in Victoria with her husband James in 1963. It’s safe to say that most of the time, Alice found herself surrounded by books!

No wonder these quotes about books exist from Alice Munro’s writings and works!

She sits in her usual ample armchair, with piles of books and unopened magazines around her. She sips cautiously from the mug of weak herb tea which is now her substitute for coffee. At one time she thought that she could not live without coffee, but it turned out that it is really the warm large mug she wants in her hands, that is the aid to thought or whatever it is she practices through the procession of hours, or of days.

– Alice Munro

It was at this time that she entirely gave up on reading. The covers of books looked like coffins to her, either shabby or ornate, and what was inside them might as well have been dust.

– Alice Munro

It must have meant something, though, that at this turn of my life I grabbed up a book. Because it was in books that I would find, for the next few years, my lovers. They were men, not boys. They were self-possessed and sardonic, with a ferocious streak in them, reserves of gloom.

– Alice Munro

I read a book called The Art of Loving. A lot of things seemed clear while I was reading it but afterwards I went back to being more or less the same.

– Alice Munro

Alice Munro Quotes About Reading

Most writers spark their interest in writing by becoming avid readers. Although reading wasn’t encouraged in Munro’s family, she eventually became a serious reader. She displayed enthusiasm for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s works, Charles Dickens’s A Child’s History of England, and Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.

If you’re a reader yourself, you’ll love Alice Munro’s quotes on reading, some of which were from her writings.

People are curious. A few people are. … They will put things together, knowing all along that they may be mistaken. You see them going around with notebooks, scraping the dirt off gravestones, reading microfilm, just in the hope of seeing this trickle in time, making a connection, rescuing one thing from the rubbish.

– Alice Munro

It was at this time that she entirely gave up on reading. The covers of books looked like coffins to her, either shabby or ornate, and what was inside them might as well have been dust.

– Alice Munro

I don’t always, or even usually, read stories from beginning to end. I start anywhere and proceed in either direction. A story is not like a road to follow, it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while.

– Alice Munro

Quotes About Short Stories

Alice Munro has written short fiction since 1950, with her first short story published in a student literary magazine called Folio. During the 1950s and 60s, prestigious periodicals would publish her short stories regularly, proving the popularity of her works. Moreover, her first collection of stories published in 1968 achieved great success as it won her the Governor General’s Literary Award.

What made Munro’s short stories stand out was their epic complexity, as they display the power of novels through their emotional and literary depth. Hence, Alice Munro’s quotes about short stories are something you shouldn’t neglect as well, as they’ll become helpful for anyone interested in writing the form.

I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.

– Alice Munro

I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the ‘what happens,’ but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me.

– Alice Munro

I want my stories to be something about life that causes people to say, not, oh, isn’t that the truth, but to feel some kind of reward from the writing, and that doesn’t mean that it has to be a happy ending or anything, but just that everything the story tells moves the reader in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish.

– Alice Munro

With 14 acclaimed collections and various awards to prove her mastery in writing, Alice Munro is undeniably one of the most accomplished writers of short stories and prose fiction. Her exquisitely drawn short stories usually focused on human complexities, captured through the lens of everyday life. Gaining recognition wasn’t easy, as she had to juggle her responsibilities while following her passion. However, Alice Munro’s dedication proves there’s always a way to pursue your dreams. Her body of work and quotes on writing remains as relevant as she is and will continue to do so in the incoming years.

Do you require additional writing motivation beyond Anne Lamott’s quotes? See our collection of writing quotations from other authors here.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!