When We Feel Alone, We Do Have Good Company

This fall has been a bit rough, salvaged by lots of walks with my dog Raven and visits with divine grandchildren. When I feel very alone with the writing process, or too much time spent with people who only talk about themselves (what happened to curiosity, anyway?) I turn to these trusted voices/quotes for hope, inspiration, energy, a good laugh, and sometimes …  just some gruff, angry energy. Enjoy!


“Since we cannot expect truth from our institutions, we must expect it from our writers.” Edward Abbey

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” George Eliot

“Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.” Agatha Christie

“The oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.” Aldo Leopold

“I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.” Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird

“It is quite possible that an animal has spoken to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention.” E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“We could have saved the Earth, but we were too damned cheap.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt.


“No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” Louis Sabin

“Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end. Revision is where fine art begins. It’s thrilling to take an ending and pull it backward like a shiny thread through the whole fabric of a manuscript, letting little glints shine through here and there. To plant resolution, like a seed, into chapter one. To create new scenes, investing a character with the necessary damage, the right kind of longing. To pitch out boldly and try again. To work every metaphor across the whole, back and forth, like weaving. I love that.” Barbara Kingsolver

“I thought, I just want it to be real. Like when I was writing Olive Kitteridge and she would do and say these awful things, and I would say, ‘Ouch! Ouch!’ And then I would say to myself, ‘Oh, come on, just let her rip, no point in being careful. You know that people say these things or you know that they think these—so just try to do this as truthfully as possible.’ ” Elizabeth Strout


“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If women could sleep their way to the top, there’d be a lot more women at the top.” Gloria Steinhem

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver

“One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don’t take it personally, but listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn’t serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you — whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.”— Nora Ephron (‘96 Wellesley commencement address)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” James Baldwin

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds…” Aldo Leopold

“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.” Edward Abbey

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.” Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake …   Wendell Berry, https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/peace-wild-things-0/

I can’t quote the entire poem that has always given me grit. One that I print out and send to friends who need both a hug and a shove, but it starts, “One day you finally knew what you had to do/and began …”. (Find the rest of Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Journey” here: https://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html#anchor_1478

(And for anyone trying to wrestle slowpokes or toddlers into the car to make an appointment …)






Sandy’s novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and she’s been a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novel at all Shermans Books and on Amazon. Find more info on the video trailer and Sandy’s website. The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” will be published in 2019.



















About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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4 Responses to When We Feel Alone, We Do Have Good Company

  1. Absolutely just what I needed today! 🙂

  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    I write thoughtful quotes on my office walls. Several of yours will dwell there with them. Thanks so much for sharing these.
    Just a few…
    No kindness is ever wasted.
    Facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored.
    We need to do our best today because we can not take for granted we can put it off till tomorrow. “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us is of little importance compared to what lies within us.” O. W. Holmes
    “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, but others judge us by what we have already done.” H. W. Longfellow
    “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, it sometimes helps to be a little deaf.” R. B. Ginsburg

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