Arts + Design

12 delightful, insightful quotes about reading, writing and storytelling, from TED Talks

Oct 14, 2019

Over the years, many writers and storytellers have given great TED Talks. Here, we’ve assembled 12 of our favorite quotes from them. 

We’ve also created special quote images scattered throughout this post for the occasion — feel free to share them as quote cards (use the hashtag #TEDReads), employ them as wallpaper for your phone or other mobile device, or print them out to use as physical bookmarks.

“How do we diminish the distance between us? Reading is one way to close that distance. It gives us a quiet universe that we can share together, that we can share in equally.”
Michelle Kuo, from the TED Talk: The healing power of reading

“NASA has this phrase that they like: ‘Failure is not an option.’ But failure has to be an option in art and in exploration, because it’s a leap of faith. And no important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk. You have to be willing to take those risks. So, that’s the thought I would leave you with, is that in whatever you’re doing, failure is an option, but fear is not.”
James Cameron, from the TED Talk: Before Avatar, a curious boy

“The moment kids start to lie is the moment storytelling begins. They are talking about things they didn’t see. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful moment. Parents should celebrate. ‘Hurray! My boy finally started to lie!’”
Young-ha Kim, from the TED Talk: Be an artist, right now!

“Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and evil people I’ve ever known are male writers who’ve had huge best sellers. And yet … it’s also a miracle to get your work published, to get your stories read and heard. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, that it will fill the Swiss-cheese-y holes inside of you. It can’t. It won’t. But writing can.”
Anne Lamott, from the TED Talk: 12 truths I learned from life and writing

“We’ve got truth and lies and then there’s this little space, the edge, in the middle. That liminal space, that’s art.”
Mac Barnett, from the TED Talk: Why a good book is a secret door

“Stories cannot demolish frontiers, but they can punch holes in our mental walls. And through those holes, we can get a glimpse of the other, and sometimes even like what we see.”
Elif Shafak, from the TED Talk: The politics of fiction

“The world is changed by our maps of the world. The way that we choose … also shapes the map of our lives, and that in turn shapes our lives. I believe that what we map changes the life we lead. And I don’t mean that in some … you-can-think-your-way-out-of-cancer sense. But I do believe that while maps don’t show you where you will go in your life, they show you where you might go. You very rarely go to a place that isn’t on your personal map.”
John Green, from the TED Talk: The nerd’s guide to learning everything online

“I’m a storyteller. I want to convey something that is truer than truth about our common humanity. All stories interest me, and some haunt me until I end up writing them.”
Isabel Allende, from the TED Talk: Isabel Allende tells tales of passion