John Waters Quotes to Rock Your Business


John Waters is my favourite person ever!

He inspires me to be my true self, flaws and all! Not only to be myself, but to accept others as well. It is my personal belief that as long as a person is not hurting anyone else than let them be them, without judgement.

John Waters also has an incredible way of not only acknowledging the differences between humans, but celebrating them. Through his books and movies he shows a side of humanity that most people choose to ignore, or turn their nose up to (like “Lady Zorro”, a butch, lesbian stripper from Baltimore that would insult the audience mentioned on page 132 of Role Models, but in a way that doesn’t condemn or shame them, and I love that. His attitude towards life – relationships, art and fashion, and everything else – puts him at the top of my own role models list.

He’s also an incredible entrepreneur. Film director, screenwriter, actor, comedian, writer and visual artist; this guy has lived an amazing life and built an enviable career just by being himself. What could be cooler than that?

Listed below are a few things he has said that I find admirable.

10 John Waters Quotes to Rock Your Business

10 John Waters Quotes to Rock Your Business

“I learned a long time ago only an amateur answers his critics. Read the bad reviews once, the good ones twice, and put them all away and never look at them again.” (The Nervous Breakdown, 2011)

The more popular you get the more hate mail you’ll receive. At least that is what I’ve witnessed this time and time again. The best thing to do is ignore all the bad press and all the mean comments and move on.

At the same time, though, reading the good reviews over and over again isn’t good for you either. I mean, read it a couple times, feel proud of the positive feedback, then get back to work! Because either way both are personal opinions of another and shouldn’t affect what you think about yourself or your work.

“You know, before I was paid to be a writer, people thought I was crazy to just go on these little missions of things that would interest me. But now that I get paid to do it, people say, ‘Oh how interesting.’ So, I think that’s really the difference between being a writer and a crackpot.” (DanteNet, 1986)

I think all creative entrepreneurs can relate! Before we get paid for our artwork or our writing, friends and family (and especially strangers) don’t always see it as an actual job. Even when I started making an income a lot of people still looked at me like I was crazy. Like, when would I grow up and just get a “real” job?

But hey, stick to it! It obviously worked out well for John Waters.

“Remember that a no is free. Ask for what you like, and get used to being turned down. Rejection is hard, but to get acceptance you have to put up with a lot of rejection. If you really like something, don’t ever think, Can I do this? If you think Can I?, you won’t. You have to say, ‘I’m gonna do this, and nobody’s gonna stop me!’ But you have to believe that, you can’t just say it. It might take really a long time, because people never say you’re good at first. Or if they do, you’re a flash in the pan and it’s over.” (Rookie, 2012)

Rejection is a huge part of any business, but you can’t let it stop you. You can’t let being rejected stand in the way of your dreams, and especially don’t stop believing in yourself.

As a freelance writer I have to deal with a lot of rejection. A lot of my pitches don’t get replies and some that do are a friendly no thanks. Still I keep at it and now and then I do get the gig. So it’s all worth it.

This can be applied to any business though. For every success, there’s a ton of rejection first.

Be yourself, fuck rejection and don’t let anything or anyone stop you from achieving your dreams!

(Pssst! Wanna get into freelance writing? Check out this post on how to start freelance wrting and this one for a list of freelance writing job boards!)

“I’d never trust anyone who hadn’t spent at least one night of his youth in the local jail. The more hell you raise as a teenager, the sweeter your memories will be.” (Shock Value, 1981)

When I read this, I don’t really compare it to making memories, but rather getting noticed.

The more hell you raise in your business, the more attention you might get. Raising hell doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. It doesn’t have to mean offending or upsetting people, or breaking the law. It can simply mean standing up for something you believe in, something good, something worth the trouble.

The more hell you raise as an entrepreneur, the sweeter your success will be!

“You have to take some risks when you’re a kid to find out who you are. You just have to learn which risks are safe and which are self-destructive.” (Rookie, 2012)

Apply this to your business. Seriously. In business you have to take some risks.

Taking risks will absolutely help you grow your business, but it really helps to take risks when you’re first starting out. When you’re first starting out there’s a lot less to lose. This is the best time to experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t for you and your business.

Even if you’re already a big deal you still need to take risks to expand your business. Usually by then you should have a better sense of which risks are safe and which are destructive.



“My idea of an interesting person is someone who is quite proud of their seemingly abnormal life and turns their disadvantage into a career.” (Shock Value, 1981)

OMG I love this. How awesome is it to be able to turn your disadvantages into a career?

One example that comes to mind includes Maria from Femtrepreneur, who said that she felt like she could never succeed at a regular job because of her anxiety, so instead she worked on creating her own business, then another, and another. A lot of people view anxiety and depression as a huge disadvantage in the workforce, but Mariah found a way to make it work.

Disadvantages come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have them no matter who we are. We shouldn’t choose to dwell on it, use it as an excuse or even try to hide it, instead we should learn to work with what we have.

“I`d love to sell out completely. It`s just that nobody has been willing to buy.”

As someone who was completely obsessed with punk culture (and still kinda is), I know the phrase “selling out” very well. Selling out basically means compromising your values, integrity and morality for personal gain (money, money, money!). A lot of people hate the idea of it, but many would still sell out if they had the opportunity.

But is it selling out if who you are has changed? Maybe a few years ago you would never consider doing sponsored posts, but maybe now you’re okay with promoting items you enjoy. Maybe your taste in art has transformed into something more mainstream. Maybe you’re just tired of struggling and know you can grow your business better by offering a few trendy items.

I feel as a business owner you just need to be honest with yourself and your audience. Fuck, I’d sell out, too, if someone was willing to buy.

“But feeling down can make you feel up if you’re the creative type. The emotional damage may have already been done to you, but stop whining. Use your insanity to get ahead.” (Role Models, 2011)

Yaaaas! Poverty, abuse, depression, discrimination and more; we’ve all have had shit to deal with in life that is damaging (admittedly some more than others). But I like what John Waters wrote in Role Models. Yeah, it sucks, but stop whining! Use it to get ahead!

Anastasia Amour had an eating disorder when she was younger. Once she started to recover she began to notice how many other women were struggling with body image. Instead of whining about it she decided to use her experience to help others and has since created a really amazing business.

I often pull from my life experiences (more often the bad ones) in my zines and artwork, in the articles I pitch to write about and maybe even one day a book. I don’t dwell on that shit, but I reflect on it and I accept it. All of the things I have gone through in life have helped shape who I am today. They also give me material to work with in my creative business. So it ain’t that bad in the end.

“True success is figuring out your life and your career so you never have to be around jerks.”

Isn’t that why so many of us want to work for ourselves or even work from home? Baha, just kidding. Maybe.

But seriously, when you work for yourself you get to decide who you want to work with. If you have a client you don’t jive with, you ultimately have the final say in whether or not you have to continue that professional relationship.

If a customer is being a nuisance you still have to remain professional, but you don’t have to let people walk all over you like you might in a customer service position.

“Obsession is great if it brings you pleasure and helps you make your living doing something you love. It’s only bad if you make the same mistakes over and over with some obsession that brings you unhappiness.”

This is so true when you run a business. Just like in life, you can get caught up in work tasks that quickly become unhealthy and unsuccessful obsessions that you can’t seem to let go of.

It’s an amazing thing to be able to do what you love for a living. Your obsession with art or social media or whatever might drive you to succeed. Great!

But you might become obsessed with working your business in general. You might work 24/7, neglecting your family, your friends, your health and every other part of you life. This happens to a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners. They get addicted to the hustle. And while it’s sometimes needed to put in the extra hours when starting out or during a major launch, it shouldn’t become a regular thing.

As another example, you might have a project in mind that you are in love with. Even though all of your research points to it being a waste of time, you keep at it, convinced that it will succeed despite all of the evidence against it. You become obsessed which blinds you to the truth.


Who are some entrepreneurial people you look up to? Or do you have a favourite quote that inspires you in your business?

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  1. Love when you write about John Waters! LOVE him and this post. Great advice too! Best thing I’ve read all day!!

    • Reply

      Ha ha! I love him, too! Meeting him back in 2011 was like the highlight of my early 20s.

  2. I think my favorite quote is “But feeling down can make you feel up if you’re the creative type. The emotional damage may have already been done to you, but stop whining. Use your insanity to get ahead.” i find that my unhappiness drives me to create beautiful things in the wake of heartbreak and misery. I really liked what you had to write about his quotes!

    • Reply

      Thank you so much! I agree completely that a lot of beautiful work can come from unhappiness.

  3. This is such a great post – both his quotes and your elaborations on them. You did a great job of extending each quote to apply to entrepreneurship. Super inspiring!

    • Reply

      John Waters’ work is very strange and a lot of people don’t know him unless they’re interested in that kind of thing. But he has done some mainstream work like the film Hairspray 🙂

  4. Your quotes are so fitting! I’ve never heard of John Waters before, but his quotes are so insightful. I love the one about obsession– you have to be obsessed with your life to push your forward. Obsession isn’t as bad as the connotation make it out to be 🙂 & I love his quote about getting paid to write. As soon as you get paid for something, it’s suddenly legitimized. It’s such an odd thing, especially in the blogging world. People always look at me weird when I tell them I blog, but as soon as I mention getting paid to do so everything is suddenly fine. So odd!

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