Sunday, December 26, 2021

Wise Words


Thoughts on writing from authors born December 27:


from British poet Mina Loy (Lunar Baedeker, Insel, Stories and Essays) (1882-1966):

Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.


from German novelist and screenwriter Thea von Harbou (Das indische Grabmal, Dr. Mabuse films, Die Nibelungen films, Metropolis, M) (1888-1954):

This book is not of today or of the future.

It tells of no place.

It serves no cause, party or class.

It has a moral which grows on the pillar of understanding:

The mediator between brain and muscle must be the Heart.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Louis Bromfield (Early Autumn) (1896-1956):

There is a rhythm in life, a certain beauty which operates by a variation of lights and shadows, happiness alternating with sorrow, content with discontent, distilling in this process of contrast a sense of satisfaction, of richness that can be captured and pinned down only by those who possess the gift of awareness.


from American poet Charles Olson (Projective Verse, The Distances, The Maximus Poems) (1910-1970):

of rhythm is image / of image is knowing / of knowing there is / a construct

The poem, for me, is simply the first sound realized in the modality of being.

A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader.

You can read everybody. It's not even interesting to tell the truth because to some extent it's false.

I defer to all these other American poets who, for some reason, I both envy and admire.


from British-born American novelist and essayist Wilfrid Sheed (A Middle Class Education, Frank and Maisie, Office Politics, The House that George Built) (1930-2011):

I picked up the writing on the very day he died. It was the only consolation I could find.

One reason the human race has such a low opinion of itself is that it gets so much of its wisdom from writers.

It's the old case against symbols: if you get them, they seem obvious and artificial, and if you don't, you miss the whole point.

Every writer is a writer of the generation before.

You noodle around with tempo and sound until you get the perfect fit for that particular song, and then, so long as you can sustain it, God is on your side and everything comes easily and even the waiters smile.

The only reason I didn't kill myself after I read the reviews of my first book was because we have two rivers in New York and I couldn't decide which one to jump into.

I rail against writers who talk about the loneliness of it all—what do they want, a crowd looking over their typewriters? Or those who talk about having to stare at a blank page—do they want someone to write on it?

Books about suicide make lousy gifts.


from Australian novelist Alex Miller (The Ancestor Game, Journey to the Stone Country, Lovesong, Autumn Laing) (born 1936):

Story is the greatest human mystery.


from New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate Bill Manhire (How to Take Off Your Clothes at the Picnic, Zoetropes, Milky Way Bar, Lifted, Wow) (born 1946):

I suppose what I really like is to set up a system which looks wonderfully secure when you first encounter it on the page, but within the framework there are crazy things which tip the reader off-balance.


from Nigerian-American novelist, poet, and essayist Chris Abani (Graceland, Becoming Abigail, The Virgin of Flames, The Secret History of Las Vegas) (born 1966):

... it's the agents of our imagination who really shape who we are.

Story is powerful. Story is fluid and it belongs to nobody.

Every successful artist comes from a family—parents or siblings or both—who, although equally gifted, chose not to pursue the treacherous and difficult path of the artist.

The question is, how do I balance narratives that are wonderful with narratives of wounds and self-loathing? And this is the difficulty that I face. I am trying to move beyond political rhetoric to a place of ethical questioning. I am asking us to balance the idea of our complete vulnerability with the complete notion of transformation or what is possible.

The privilege of being a writer is that you have this opportunity to slow down and to consider things.

The art is never about what you write about. The art is about how you write about what you write about.

In this time of the Internet and nonfiction, to be on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore is exciting in itself.


from American history and culture author Sarah Vowell (Assassination Vacation, The Wordy Shipmates, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States) (born 1969):

History is full of really good stories. That's the main reason I got into this racket: I want to make the argument that history is interesting.

I have a similar affection for the parenthesis (but I always take most of my parentheses out, so as not to call undue attention to the glaring fact that I cannot think in complete sentences, that I think only in short fragments or long, run-on thought relays that the literati call stream of consciousness but I still like to think of as disdain for the finality of the period).

I'm a big fan of editing and keeping only the interesting bits in.

No one I know actually reads what I write, so thank heavens for you strangers.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Wise Words

Thoughts on Art from people born December 20:


from American philosopher Susanne K. Langer (Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art, Feeling and Form, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling) (1895-1985):

Art is the objectification of feeling, and the subjectification of nature.

A signal is comprehended if it serves to make us notice the object or situation it bespeaks. A symbol is understood when we conceive the idea it presents.

Music is the tonal analogue of emotive life.

Language is, without a doubt, the most momentous and at the same time the most mysterious product of the human mind.

It is significant that people who refuse to tell their children fairytales do not fear that the children will believe in princes and princesses, but that they will believe in witches and bogeys.

The high intellectual value of images, however, lies in the fact that they usually, and perhaps always, fit more than one actual experience.

... the image of feeling created by artists, in every kind of art—plastic, musical, poetic, balletic—serves to hold the reality itself for our labile and volatile memory, as a touchstone to test the scope of our intellectual constructions.


from American author Hortense Calisher (In the Absence of Angels, Queenie, The Bobby-Soxer, Sunday Jews) (1911-2009):

The words! I collected them in all shapes and sizes and hung them like bangles in my mind.

I get up and I have coffee and I speak to no man and I go to my desk.

It has always seemed to me that if you could talk about your work in fully-formed phrases, you wouldn't write it. The writing is the statement, you see, and it seems to me that the poem or the story or the novel you write is the kind of metaphor you cast on life.

The novel is rescued life.

Every art is a church without communicants, presided over by a parish of the respectable. An artist is born kneeling; he fights to stand. A critic, by nature of the judgment seat, is born sitting.

I always say that one's poetry is a solace to oneself and a nuisance to one's friends.

This is my answer to the gap between ideas and action—I will write it out.


from Romanian-born Peabody Award- and Ovid Prize-winning American author Andrei Codrescu (Road Scholar, The Blood Countess, No Time Like Now) (born 1946):

The real technology—behind all our other technologies—is language. It actually creates the world our consciousness lives in.

These are the poems of a traveler and a lover who feels both the terror of time passing and the consolation of eternity. From such tension spring lovely poetic objects, ready for intelligent use.

The time has come for writers to become inaccessible again. The reason is not some kind of 'mystique' that makes people curious (though it helps), but the fact that no real writers ever lay down anything real in public—they work in solitude, they think hard, and their thoughts are rarely nice or 'friendly.'

Only the poor can create art.


from American writer Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street, Women Hollering Creek and Other Stories) (b. 1954):

I tell people to write the stories that you're afraid to talk about, the stories you wish you'd forget, because those have the most power. Those are the ones that have the most strength when you give them as a testimony.

Writing is like sewing together what I call these 'buttons,' these bits and pieces.

We need to write because so many of our stories are not being heard. Where could they be heard in this era of fear and media monopolies? Writing allows us to transform what has happened to us and to fight back against what's hurting us. While not everyone is an author, everyone is a writer and I think that the process of writing is deeply spiritual and liberatory.

There are two things you need to ask for, to open up that channel, so you get the light. One is humility, because our ego is always going to block that guidance, and so you ask for humility. And the second thing you're going to ask for is courage, because what you're going to be asked to do is bigger than what you think you can do

The beauty of literature is you allow readers to see things through other people’s eyes. All good books do this.

I'm a witch woman—high on tobacco and holy water. I'm a woman delighted with her disasters. They give me something to do. A profession of sorts...I have the magic of words. The power to charm and kill at will.


from Swiss-born philosopher and author Alain de Botton (Essays in Love, How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Architecture of Happiness) (born 1969):

Most of what makes a book 'good' is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.

It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.

The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.

It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver—because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly. Literature is the greatest reality simulator—a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you can ever directly witness.

One kind of good book should leave you asking: how did the author know that about me?

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Wise Words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born December 13:

from Canadian painter and writer Emily Carr (The Indian Church, Big Raven, Klee Wyck) (1871-1945)

I think that one's art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows.

...real art is religion, a search for the beauty of God deep in all things.

It's all the unwordable things one wants to write about, just as it's all the unformable things one wants to paint—essence.

I am always watching for fear of getting feeble and passé in my work. I don't want to trickle out. I want to pour till the pail is empty, the last bit going out in a gush, not in drops.

There is no right and wrong way to paint except honestly or dishonestly. Honestly is trying for the bigger thing. Dishonestly is bluffing and getting through a smattering of surface representation with no meaning.

Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don't know in your own soul.


from American experimental poet and novelist Kenneth Patchen (Before the Brave, Journal of Albion Moonlight, Collected Poems) (1911-1972):

Art is not to throw light but to be light.

I don't consider myself to be a painter. I think of myself as someone who has used the medium of painting in an attempt to extend—give an extra dimension to—the medium of words. It happens very often my writing with a pen is interrupted with my writing with a brush—but I think of both as writing.

Dogs with broken legs are shot; men with broken souls write through the night.


from American writer Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer novels) (1915-1983):

We writers, as we work our way deeper into our craft, learn to drop more and more personal clues. Like burglars who secretly wish to be caught, we leave our fingerprints on broken locks, our voiceprints in bugged rooms, our footprints in the wet concrete.

I wanted to write as well as I possibly could to deal with life-and-death problems in contemporary society. And the form of Wilkie Collins and Graham Greene, of Hammett and Chandler, seemed to offer me all the rope I would ever need.

The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure.

The walls of books around him, dense with the past, formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters.


from Canadian Tony-, Oscar-, and Emmy-winning actor Christopher Plummer (Cyrano, Barrymore, Beginners, Arthur Halley’s The Moneychangers, The New Adventures of Madeline) (1919-2021):

Try and stay sober. Until the curtain call. And for God's sake, have fun. Don't suffer for your art. Just have fun.


from American Tony-, Grammy-, and Emmy-winning actor-singer Dick Van Dyke (Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Company) (born 1925):

You need someone to love, and something to do that you enjoy, and something to hope for, and that's enough for me.

Somebody asked what I wanted on my gravestone. I'm just going to put: 'Glad I Could Help.'

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Wise Words

Thoughts on creativity from artistic people born on December 6:

from Italian courier, diplomat, and writer Baldassare Castiglione (Il libro del cortegiano) (1478-1529):

Practise in everything a certain nonchalance that shall conceal design and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without thought.


from English mystical poet and author Evelyn Underhill (Mysticism, The Mystic Way, Theophanies, Worship) (1875-1941):

Art is the link between appearance and reality.


from American poet Joyce Kilmer (Trees and other Poems) (1886-1918):

At present, I am a poet trying to be a soldier. To tell the truth, I am not interested in writing nowadays, except in so far as writing is the expression of something beautiful ... The only sort of book I care to write about the war is the sort people will read after the war is over—a century after it is over.


from English writer Sir Osbert Sitwell (Before the Bombardment, Left Hand! Right Hand!) (1892-1969):

For Poetry is the wisdom of the blood,/ That scarlet tree within, which has the power/ To make dull words bud forth and burst in flower.

The artist, like the idiot or clown, sits on the edge of the world, and a push may send him over it.

Poetry is like fish: if it's fresh, it's good; if it's stale, it's bad; and if you're not certain, try it on the cat.

The only difference between an artist and a lunatic is, perhaps, that the artist has the restraint or courtesy to conceal the intensity of his obsession from all except those similarly afflicted.


from German-born American photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt (Life, Witness to Our Time, The Eye of Eisenstaedt) (1898-1995):

I enjoy traveling and recording far-away places and people with my camera. But I also find it wonderfully rewarding to see what I can discover outside my own window. You only need to study the scene with the eyes of a photographer.

I don’t use an exposure meter. My personal advice is: Spend the money you would put into such an instrument for film. Buy yards of film, miles of it. Buy all the film you can get your hands on. And then experiment with it. That is the only way to be successful in photography. Test, try, experiment, feel your way along. It is the experience, not technique, which counts in camera work first of all. If you get the feel of photography, you can take fifteen pictures while one of your opponents is trying out his exposure meter.

All photographers have to do, is find and catch the story-telling moment.

People will never understand the patience a photographer requires to make a great photograph, all they see is the end result. I can stand in front of a leaf with a dew drop, or a rain drop, and stay there for ages just waiting for the right moment. Sure, people think I'm crazy, but who cares? I see more than they do!

I dream that someday the step between my mind and my finger will no longer be needed. And that simply by blinking my eyes, I shall make pictures. Then, I think, I shall really have become a photographer.

We are only beginning to learn what to say in a photograph. The world we live in is a succession of fleeting moments, any one of which might say something significant.


from English poet and editor Michael Roberts (These Our Matins, The Faber Book of Modern Verse) (1902-1948):

The poet is always concerned with achieving a balance between the inner and the outer world; it is his business to hold in a single thought reality and justice.

A good work of art reveals something that is in reality. A new metaphor, a new myth, a new type of character, all these reveal a feature of reality for which we previously had no name.


from American Grammy-winning jazz great Dave Brubeck (Songs of Joy & Peace, Lifetime Achievement) (1920-2012):

Art may not have the power to change the course of history, but it can provide a perspective on historical events that needs to be heard, even if it's seldom heeded. After all the temporary influences that once directed the course of history have vanished, great art survives and continues to speak to each generation.

There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play which is dangerously where you're going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven't created before.

And there is a time where you can be beyond yourself. You can be better than your technique. You can be better than most of your usual ideas. And this is a whole other category that you can get into.

When things are going well, I hate to quit.

When you hear Bach or Mozart, you hear perfection. Remember that Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were great improvisers. I can hear that in their music.

I'm always hoping for the nights that are inspired where you almost have an out of body experience.


from American minister Nicky Cruz (Run Baby Run, One Holy Fire, Soul Obsession, The Devil Has No Mother) (born 1938):

You can argue with someone's opinion, but you can't argue with their story.


from Austrian Nobel Prize-winning novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist Peter Handke (Publikumsbeschimpfung, Kaspar, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter, Wunschloses Unglück, Der Himmel über Berlin) (born 1942):

I am a writer. I am rooted in Tolstoy, I am rooted in Homer, I am rooted in Cervantes.

You can't be silent and create silence in being silent. So you have to create silence or, rather, the effect of silence, through words.

If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.

The biggest achievement is to create silence. I think every real writer who has a passion to do justice to the world thinks this way.


from American Young Adult novelist Jason Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest, Track series, Long Way Down, Look Both Ways) (born 1983):

I just want young people to read my books and feel cared for, feel safe, feel like there's someone else in the world who understands—or at least acknowledges—your existence.

Writing is like any other sort of sport. In order for you to get better at it, you have to exercise the muscle.

Dreams don’t have timelines, deadlines, and aren’t always in straight lines.

Little. Don’t ever let someone call your life, your dreams, little. Hear me?

You, my dear, should spend more time in a library. It’s not just a hiding place, but also the place where the chases happen.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Thoughts on creativity

Wise words from writers and artists born on November 29:


from American novelist Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, Little Men) (1832-1888):

I like good strong words that mean something...

Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again.

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.


from English writer and scholar C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity) (1898-1963):

Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Writing is like a 'lust,' or like 'scratching when you itch.' Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I, for one, must get it out.

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.

I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.


from American author Madeleine L'Engle (The Small Rain, A Wrinkle in Time, A Circle of Quiet) (1918-2007):

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.


from Lithuanian writer, playwright, stage actor, and director Antanas Škėma (White Shroud [Balta drobulė]) (1910-1961):

In literature, everything is beautiful. Even nasty things. Suicide is disgusting. But I need to.

It's disgusting to die, so I drink. I'm afraid to die, so I'm writing. I'm afraid to die, I'm swallowing pills. It's all for the sake of dying.


from painter James Rosenquist (Astor Victoria, 1947-1948-1950, Zone, F-111) (1933-2017):

When things become peculiar, frustrating and strange, I think it's a good time to start painting.

I'm interested in contemporary vision—the flicker of chrome, reflections, rapid associations, quick flashes of light. Bing! Bang!

I stick the collages on the wall and, if I still like them after a month or two, I make a painting.

To be creative is to be accepting, but it's also to be harsh on one's self. You just don't paint colors for the silliness of it all.


from American actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman (42, Get on Up, Avengers franchise, Marshall, Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Hieroglyphic Graffiti, Deep Azure) (1976-2020):

I'm an artist. Artists don't need permission to work. Regardless of whether I'm acting or not, I write. I write when I'm tired in fact, because I believe your most pure thoughts surface.

There's nothing more stressful than your stomach growling. But interestingly enough, some of my best writing came when I was poor and hungry—living off water and oatmeal, mind clear.

Nobody has to give me permission to write.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Literary bits for 22 November


Thoughts on art and expression from creative people born on November 22:


from American first lady and writer Abigail Adams (1744-1818):

My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.


from British novelist, poet, journalist, editor, and translator George Eliot (Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, The Spanish Gypsy, The Legend of Juba, Middlemarch) (1819-1880):

Our words have wings, but fly not where we would.

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.


from French Nobel Prize-winning writer André Gide (L'immoraliste, La porte étroite, Les caves du Vatican, La Symphonie Pastorale, Les faux-monnayeurs, Les nourritures terrestres) (1869-1951):

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it; what another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself-and thus make yourself indispensable.

Art begins with resistance—at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.

Art is the collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.

Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.

To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.

What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told.

There is no prejudice that the work of art does not finally overcome.

Great authors are admirable in this respect: in every generation they make for disagreement. Through them we become aware of our differences.


from British composer Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, The Rape of Lucretia, War Requiem) (1914-1976):

Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house. Slowly you see more details of the house—the color of the slates and bricks, the shape of the windows. The notes are the bricks and the mortar of the house.

The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.

One day I'll be able to relax a bit, and try and become a good composer.


from Russian novelist Victor Pelevin (Omon Ra, Chapayev and Void, Generation P) (born 1962):

Reading is human contact, and the range of our human contacts is what makes us what we are. Just imagine you live the life of a long-distance truck driver. The books that you read are like the travelers you take into your cab. If you give lifts to people who are cultured and profound, you'll learn a lot from them. If you pick up fools, you'll turn into a fool yourself.


Iranian-French graphic novelist, screenwriter, and director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, Embroideries, Chicken with Plums, Radioactive) (born 1969):

You have to be narcissistic to be an artist. You have to think you are the centre of the whole thing; otherwise, why do you create? The only thing is to recognise it, and then you make the best of it.

Writing is not for me. I completely lose my sense of humor when I write. I become extremely pathetic, very sensational. Images give me possibilities that I don't have with words.

I don't like the word 'autobiography.' I rather like the term 'autofiction.' The second you make a script out of the story of your life, it becomes fictional. Of course, the truth is never far. But the story is created out of it.

All big changes of the world come from words.


from British novelist and screenwriter Stel Pavlou (Decipher, The 51st State) (born 1970):

Even if mankind had any desire to rid itself of the Seven Deadly Sins, Greed had been assured of a place in our hearts by virtue of time. By writing it down on a piece of paper and parading it as law and belief, Greed could be resurrected at a moment's notice.

That was the beauty of the written word. It was invariably taken at face value and granted permit to be spoken as the truth. It lived longer than the man.

And wreaked havoc in the process.


from Canadian poet Suhaib Rumi (@suhaib.rumi) (born 1988):

If you're observant, you'll find extraordinary lessons in the most ordinary moments. Reminders for the soul of what it once knew, but forgot.

A pen went scribbling along. When it tried to write love, it broke.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Thoughts on creativity

Wise words from authors and artists born on November 15:


from Nobel Prize-winning dramatist and novelist Gerhart Hauptmann (Die Weber, Der Biberpelz, Hanneles Himmelfahrt, Die Ratten) (1862-1946):

Writing poetry consists in letting the Word be heard behind words.

Experience is the basis of poetry.

Art is a language, therefore, a social function.


from columnist, radio panelist, and poet Franklin Pierce Adams ("The Conning Tower," Information Please, The Melancholy Lute) (1881-1960):

Having imagination it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that if you were unimaginative would take you only a minute.


from Pulitzer Prize-winning Modernist poet and editor Marianne Moore (Poems, Observations, Collected Poems, The Dial) (1887-1972):

Poetry is all nouns and verbs.

Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.

If technique is of no interest to a writer, I doubt that the writer is an artist.

A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.

Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.

One writes because one has a burning desire to objectify what it is indispensable to one's happiness to express.

When we think we don't like art it is because it is artificial art.

Life is energy, and energy is creativity. And even when individuals pass on, the energy is retained in the work of art, locked in it and awaiting release if only someone will take the time and the care to unlock it.

In a poem the words should be as pleasing to the ear as the meaning is to the mind.

Originality is... a by-product of sincerity.

Conscious writing can be the death of poetry.

I believe verbal felicity is the fruit of ardor, of diligence, and of refusing to be false.

I never 'plan' a stanza. Words cluster like chromosomes, determining the procedure.

Everything I have written is the result of reading or of interest in people.

I see no reason for calling my work poetry except that there is no other category in which to put it.


from Modernist painter Georgia O'Keeffe (Blue, Black Iris, Oriental Poppies, Radiator Building—Night New York, Jimson Weed, Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills) (1887-1986):

To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.

I can't live where I want to, I can't go where I want to go, I can't do what I want to, I can't even say what I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.

It's not enough to be nice in life. You've got to have nerve.

I decided to accept as true my own thinking.

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone taught me— shapes and ideas so near to me, so natural to my way of being and thinking.

I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

I hate flowers—I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.


from children's and YA author Daniel Pinkwater (Lizard Music, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Fat Men from Space, Borgel, The Big Orange Splot) (born 1941):

I believe it is impossible to make sense of life in this world except through art.

I went to college, but I learned to write by reading and writing.

I sort of always like to write starting with when I learned how.

I imagine a child. That child is me. I can reconstruct and vividly remember portions of my own childhood. I can see, taste, smell, feel, and hear them. Then what I do is, not write about that kid or about his world, but start to think of a book that would have pleased him.

I'd always liked to write, but I never wanted to be a writer, because it seemed a sissy occupation. It is. To this day, I find it terribly easy. And so, rather than trying to hunt up a text, I just wrote one.

Writing and telling are almost the same, the way I do it.

Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.

All my books were easy to write—doesn't it show?


from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historical writer Rick Atkinson (The Liberation Trilogy, The Revolution Trilogy) (born 1952):

If I've vividly laid out the narrative, the reader will come to his own conclusions.


from fiction author Tibor Fischer (Under the Frog, The Thought Gang, The Collector Collector, Voyage to the End of the Room) (born 1959):

I always consider every place worth exploring once--just in case there's a thirty foot flaming sign divulging the secret of life, that no one has told me about.

Ultimately, it's about the quality of the writing whatever style you are writing.

As an author, I realise, you're on your own. You have to do everything you can to help The Book. If I make sure people know it's out there, they can make up their own minds whether they want to read it.

Criticism is part of being in the marketplace. If you can't take a bit of criticism, you shouldn't bother publishing a book.

I went to a British Council event a while back and there were lots of German professors of literature. About half of them were convinced I had a German sense of humour and the other half were sure it was British. They are probably still arguing about it now.

You've got to try everything once, except those things you don't like, or that involve a lot of effort and getting up early.

Most books reviews aren't very well-written. They tend to be more about the reviewer than the book.

The way British publishing works is that you go from not being published no matter how good you are, to being published no matter how bad you are.

The impossible lives next door to the possible; people ring its door bell by accident all the time.

Few pleasures are greater than knowing you can close your door, ignore the world and create your own.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Literary bits for 01 November


Thoughts on creativity from creative spirits born on November 1:

from novelist and playwright Sholem Asch (Dos Shtetl, Got fun nekome, Farn Mabul, Der man fun Netseres) (1880-1957):

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

I love the place; the magnificent books; I require books as I require air.


painter L. S. Lowry (Going to the Match, Coming from the Mill, Industrial Landscape, Portrait of Ann) (1887-1976):

You don't need brains to be a painter, just feelings.


from poet Edmund Blunden (Poems 1913 and 1914, An Elegy and Other Poems, Cricket Country, Poems on Japan) (1896-1974):

Mastery in poetry consists largely in the instinct for not ruining or smothering or tinkering with moments of vision.


from poet Hagiwara Sakutarō, father of Japanese free verse (Tsuki ni hoeru, Aoneko, Hyōtō) (1886-1942):

All philosophers must, therefore, doff their hats to the poets when they discover that the path of reason takes them only so far.

Poetry is the intellect's product of one second. A certain type of sentiment that one ordinarily has touches something like electricity and for the first time discovers a rhythm. This electricity is, for the poet, a miracle. Poetry is not something anticipated and made.


from songwriter John W. Peterson ("It Took a Miracle," "Over the Sunset Mountains") (1921-2006):

A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine.


from science fiction writer Gordon R. Dickson (Childe Cycle, Dragon Knight series) (1923-2001):

Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage among his books.

John Le Carre said that authenticity is less important than plausibility.


from playwright A.R. Gurney (The Dining Room, Sweet Sue, The Cocktail Hour, Love Letters) (1930-2017):

This is just me, me the way I write, the way my writing is, the way I want to be to you, giving myself to you across a distance not keeping or retaining any part of it for myself, giving this piece of myself to you totally, and you can tear me up and throw me out, or keep me, and read me today.


from country singer-songwriter Bill Anderson ("City Lights," "Once A Day," "Cold Hard Facts of Life," "Two Teardrops," "Give It Away") (born 1937):

Sometimes the best songs almost write themselves.

In Nashville, as in every other city, there's no substitute for hard work.


from 16-time Grammy-winning composer-arranger-producer David Foster (born 1949):

Don't do what you're taught to do, do what you love to do.

Don't be too precious about your craft... there's only 26 letters and 12 notes, and Shakespeare and Beethoven said it all better than any of us ever will.

It seems like the big difference between good art and so-so art lies somewhere in the art's heart's purpose, the agenda of the consciousness behind the text. It's got something to do with love, with having the discipline to talk out of the part of yourself that can love instead of the part that just wants to be loved.


from psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry (Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy, How to Stay Sane, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read [and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did]) (born 1957):

A novel, or a book on philosophy, is going to use both sides of the brain: not only will you have feelings about what you read, but your mind will also get more of a work-out because you will make connections between what you are learning and what you already recognize.


from screenwriter Kim Krizan (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset) (born 1961):

Creation comes out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration.

I write so the endangered thoughts roaming naked and vulnerable through the misty jungles of my mind aren't slain by the guns of practical living.


from synth-pop rocker Mags Furuholmen (A-ha) (born 1962):

All music that’s meaningful is pain-condensed and made into something you can relate to... People find consolation in the way that someone can articulate conflicting feelings and turn them into some sort of beauty.

I like that idea of tripping yourself and forcing yourself to do stuff that you’re not good at. It’s quite important as a way of progressing.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Two artists on creativity

Thoughts from painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer Pablo Picasso, born 25 October 1881 (d. 1973), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century:

Everything you can imagine is real.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.

I do not seek, I find.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

I paint objects as I think them not as I see them.

Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.

Good artists copy, great artists steal.

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.

He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

It takes a very long time to become young.

More thoughts on creativity from poet and scholar John Berryman (Homage to Mistress Broadstreet, The Dream Songs), born October 25, 1914 (d. 1972):

So if I were talking to a young writer, I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.

I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing.

You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you're merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that's always easiest.

One must be ruthless with one's own writing or someone else will be.

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.

We must travel in the direction of our fear.