Metaphors About Writing

We use metaphors in writing all the time, but what about metaphors about writing? We need metaphors that explain the writing process and experience, and as a result, reveal something about it.

Metaphors About Writing

Some of the most famous writing metaphors involve blood as the prime imagery. Here’s my favorite writing metaphor quotation:

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”  -Gene Fowler

And another quote, rather like it:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  -Ernest Hemmingway

Beyond blood, there are a lot of writing metaphors that could be used. Below is a list of metaphors about writing. If I’ve written a full blog post about the metaphor, it is listed as a link and you can click to read the full, extended metaphor. (Please note: some of these metaphors can also be defined as similes because they use the word “like,” but a simile is really a subset or type of metaphor.)

LipsWriting is like kissing, and can be just as engaging…at least if you know your audience.



Windowpane“Good writing is like a windowpane.” –George Orwell





ExerciseWriting is like exercise. Ideally we’d all do it at least 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week.



E L Doctorow

Metaphors about writing from author E. L. Doctorow:

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” –E. L. Doctorow

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



NestWriting is like building a bird’s nest: you’re assembling the best materials in the best way possible.



Rabbit“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” –John Steinbeck



Neil Gaiman

Writing is a battle:

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” -Neil Gaiman



Plate spinning

Writing is like plate spinning. There’s a lot to focus on and try to keep up all at once.




“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



“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” -William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts



Additional Metaphors About Writing

  • “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” –Pablo Picasso
  • “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” –Auguste Rodin
  • “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things—thoughts, ideas, opinions.” –Paulo Coelho
  • “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” –E. B. White
  • Writing is like walking on a bed of coals, and then finding oneself on a tropical beach.
  • Writing is like taking care of sick kids. It takes a lot of work, can keep you up all night, and can involve some gross messes…
Image credits (all Creative Commons licenses): Typewriter by zen. Lips by Jannie-Jan. Windowpane by hjl. Running by Ed Yourdon. E. L. Doctorow image from Mark Sobzcak. Bird’s nest by Luc De Leeuw. Rabbit by Bill Gracey. Neil Gaiman image by Kyle Cassidy. Plate spinning by  lissalou66. Violin by Jason Hollinger. Gold pendant by Wessex Archaeology