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Stumped? Use An Epigraph

An epigraph is a tool that every writer can use when the creative muse refuses to appear.  It’s one of those things that can help us ward off the infamous writer’s block.

What is an epigraph?  It has nothing to do with words you see on a gravestone — that’s an epitaph. An epigraph is a short quotation that is placed at the beginning of an article, a journal entry, or any writing piece.

Why are they such great writing tools?  An epigraph can get the writer to start thinking – akin to a writing prompt. The difference is that the epigraph not only stimulates the writer to write, it also provides direction and insight: It is, after all,  the wise saying of another person.

I first read about epigraphs from the book,”Writing and Being,  Taking Back Our Lives Through the Power of Language,” by G. Lynn Nelson.

“I like using epigraphs in my writing,” Nelson writes. “They give me a feeling of fellowship and support in my writing – and – being work.”

There are no limitations to the use of epigraphs – you can use epigraphs from any source.  The only criteria is that you should feel it “calling” to you.  You will know if a quotation will inspire you and help you allow the words to flow.

So the next time you feel blocked, grab a quote and use it as an epigraph.  Here is a short piece I wrote, inspired by an epigraph.



Writing is an act of hope.

Big, small, black, yellow – I have so many journals in different colors and sizes.  Here I am, about to begin another one.  There have been times during the decades of journaling that I couldn’t seem to stop writing on the pages.  Not stopping, I wrote in a frenzy, so eager to record my insights and impressions on pages that I was not even sure I would read again in the future.

Questions hound me now.  Why write on another notebook?  There are already so many, and I have not even had the desire to read through what I had written.  I had burned many journals in the past because they were deemed useless – by me of course.

“Writing is an act of hope,” writes Jack Heffron in “The Writer’s Idea Book.” Looking at it from this perspective, I see my pile of journals differently.  They cease to become mere pages filled with my scribbling – they are the physical manifestations of the hope that I allowed to flow from my heart.


  1. As a coach, I love the idea of using questions to move forward. The better the question, the better the answer. The challenge is to ask the “better” question. We will usually answer the question that is asked. Great post!


  2. I’ve often used epigraphs in my past blog posts. It really does help with writing because it allows you to share your thoughts and expand on a topic that is used in a quote.


  3. Good tip. I like using quotes when I write – and pictures. It’s not so much that I suffer often from writer’s block, but more that I find myself quite often getting inspired by the things I see. Now, if you have any tips about finding the time to actually write about all of the things that I’m inspired to write, I’d love to hear those. 😉


  4. So many creative writing ideas dance through my head when I’m not at my computer; I make notes and outlines but, by the time I sit back down and work them into a story, I have one more puzzle with missing pieces sitting here on my desk. That dreaded wall strikes again…

    I like the idea of epigraphs. Something that grabs you and tweaks some needed inspiration. Thank you!


  5. Thomas Marlowe says

    Useful tip and well expressed – thank you I’ll give this a try.


  6. Thank you for the short piece you wrote. And thank you for the suggestion of using an epigraph as a jumping off place for writing. For me, writing needs to be a daily exercise to keep my writing muscles toned. The problem is that I become bored with the motivational tools I have collected along the way. Thanks for giving me another tool.


  7. Pingback: Of Anniveraries, Super Typhoons and blogging | Writing on the Pages of Life

  8. Susanne says

    Welcome back, Rosanna! I missed you! I’ve sometimes used epigraphs as titles but never as a writing prompt. Another good idea to try!


    • HI Susanne,
      Actually I just bumped up this article…had to do a lot of soul searching after finding my writing niche…hopefully will be back to blogging soon….



      • Susanne says

        Take care, Rosanna. Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you. Like many things in life, blogging has a time and place. I hope you find what you need.


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