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.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Literary Bits for October 18

Thoughts on writing from authors born October 18:


from poet and satirical novelist Thomas Love Peacock (The Monks of St. Mark, Nightmare Abbey, Crotchet Castle) (1785-1866)

I like the immaterial world. I like to live among thoughts and images of the past and the possible, and even of the impossible, now and then.

I never failed to convince an audience that the best thing they could do was to go away.

A book that furnishes no quotations, is me judice, no book, — it is a plaything.


essayist and critic Logan Pearsall Smith (Words and Idioms) (1865-1946):

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.

What I like in a good author is not what he says but what he whispers.

There is one thing that matters, to set a chime of words tinkling in the minds of a few fastidious people.

The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work, is the most familiar of all the devil's traps for artists.

The newest books are those that never grow old.

Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.

This nice and subtle happiness of reading, this joy not chilled by age, this polite and unpunished vice, this selfish, serene life-long intoxication.


from short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter Fannie Hurst (Just Around the Corner, Back Street, Imitation of Life) (1885-1968):

Any writer worth the name is always getting into one thing or getting out of another thing.

Any work of art ... is great when it makes you feel that its creator has dipped into your very heart for his sensation.

The grand canyon which yawns between the writer's concept of what he wants to capture in words and what comes through is a cruel abyss.

Writing is the loneliest job in the world. There's always that frustrating chasm to bridge between the concept and the writing of it. We're a harassed tribe, we writers.

There is no adequate definition for creative writing, any more than it is possible to describe pain or flavor or color.

I'm not happy when I'm writing, but I'm more unhappy when I'm not.

But suppose, asks the student of the professor, we follow all your structural rules for writing, what about that something else that brings the book alive? What is the formula for that? The formula for that is not included in the curriculum.

Some authors have what amounts to a metaphysical approach. They admit to inspiration. Sudden and unaccountable urgencies to catapult them out of sleep and bed. For myself, I have never awakened to jot down an idea that was acceptable the following morning.

Crushed to earth and rising again is an author's gymnastic. Once he fails to struggle to his feet and grab his pen, he will contemplate a fact he should never permit himself to face: that in all probability books have been written, are being written, will be written, better than anything he has done, is doing, or will do.


from children’s author Colin Thomson (How to Live Forever, The Staircase Cat, The Floods series) (b. 1942):

I have always believed in the magic of childhood and think that if you get your life right that magic should never end. I feel that if adults cannot enjoy a children’s book properly there is something wrong with either the book or the adult reading it. This of course, is just a smart way of saying I don't want to grow up.


from noir novelist and screenwriter Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Perdita Durango) (b. 1946):

The only words worth repeating are from the Old Testament or Oscar Wilde.


from playwright, poet, and novelist Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf) (1948-2018)

I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive. I can only change how they live, not how they think.

I am gonna write poems til i die and when i have gotten outta this body i am gonna hang round in the wind and knock over everybody who got their feet on the ground.

Novels allow me to create a whole world.

I think art is a healing force, and if we give in to the joy that can be found in art, then we are able to sustain ourselves in spite of ourselves.

I've still got my characters in my head, and I can still hear them. When I go to the grocery store, I hear them.


from novelist Terry McMillan (Disappearing Acts, Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back) (b. 1951):

Let me put it this way: when I read, I learned the world was not as small as my house. And that everybody in my home town was not representative of the way people in the world were raised. And that was what saved me.

Few writers are willing to admit writing is autobiographical.

I try to create characters that I am fascinated by on some level or intrigued by or can't stand.

Write from your heart, and God will take care of the rest.

I just believe that young people need to be able to learn how to write in their own voice. Just like a musician, you pride yourself on having your own distinct sound.


from screenwriter-director David Twohy (Warlock, The Fugitive, Terminal Velocity, Waterworld, G. I. Jane, Riddick franchise, Below) (b. 1955):

You do a drama, and you are limited by the rules of reality, and in science fiction, you create your own reality. Some people find that daunting; I find it challenging.

To come up short when you reach too far is not such a bad thing rather than not to reach at all, right?


from novelist Rick Moody (Garden State, The Ice Storm, Purple America, The Diviners, Right Livelihoods) (b. 1961):

Nonfiction that uses novelistic devices and strategies to shape the work. That's material that I really like.

Writing the book was itself a process of concealing and revealing.

So while it is true that I find really dark stuff funny sometimes, it's also true that as a writer of books I want to have the whole range of human emotions.

The point is to balance on the edge between musicality and content.

Genre is a bookstore problem, not a literary problem.


from novelist Amish Tripathi (Shiva Trilogy, Ram Chandra series, Indic Chronicles) (b. 1974):

As a writer, it's important to stay true to your story without giving a hoot about publishers, critics and readers. You should do your karma as an author the way you want to, and rest is up to God.

I believe if you want to convey a complex philosophy, it's advisable to keep it simple: day-to-day lingo.


from novelist and screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto (Galveston, True Detective) (b. 1975):

We come here to tell stories so that we can manage the past without being swallowed by it.

We're all born storytellers. It's part of the species. But, more specifically, I suppose a particular combination of sensitivity and trauma made me a writer: an essential disquiet with reality, which required exploration through portrayal.

I don't think you can create effectively toward expectation. I'm not in the service business.

For me as a storyteller, I want to follow the characters and the story through what they organically demand.


from screenwriter Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live, Insecure) (b. 1980):

When you're a writer, there is a selflessness that has to happen; you have to have equity with how you treat each of the characters and the information you bring into the room.

One of the biggest things I learned was not to tell myself 'no' before someone else. As someone who's creative, I know the inner critic can be really loud. Early on in my career, I would just listen to it and tell myself 'no.'

Monday, October 11, 2021

Literary Bits for October 11


Thoughts about writing from authors born October 11:


from Nobel Prize-winning novelist, dramatist, poet, and essayist Francois Mauriac (Thérèse Desqueyroux, Le Noeud de vipères) (1885-1970):

If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.

I write whenever it suits me. During a creative period I write every day; a novel should not be interrupted.

I believe that only poetry counts ... A great novelist is first of all a great poet.


from short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter Elmore Leonard (“Three-Ten to Yuma,” Hombre, Joe Kidd, Fifty-two Pickup, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Justified) (1925-2013):

My purpose is to entertain and please myself. I feel that if I am entertained, then there will be enough other readers who will be entertained, too.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.

If I just sit here, what am I going to do? I don't have a trade. I don't teach or anything. I just love to make up characters and gradually build a story around them.

I try to leave out the parts readers skip.


from novelist and environmentalist Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, Beyond Civilization) (1935-2018):

Don't wait. Where do you expect to get by waiting? Doing is what teaches you. Doing is what leads to inspiration. Doing is what generates ideas. Nothing else, and nothing less.


from screenwriter-director Charles Shyer (Baby Boom, Father of the Bride) (1941-   ):

Like Billy Wilder said, 'You want to make them laugh and you want to make them cry,' and it's very hard to do so. If you ground it in reality, you get a more honest comedy. You don't have to reach for jokes to manufacture situations as much.


from short story writer, novelist, and non-fiction author Anne Enright (The Portable Virgin, What Are You Like?, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, The Gathering, The Forgotten Waltz, The Green Road) (1962-   ):

Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

People do not change, they are merely revealed.


from pop rock singer-songwriter Daryl Hall (Daryl Hall & John Oates) (1946-   ):

Reject what you don't want. Get rid of dead wood.

When you have that first flash of what you think is going to be a great ideafrom the mouth, from the hands—that's an amazing feeling. I don't think anything's quite as good as that.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Literary Bits for October 4

Thoughts about creativity from artists and writers born on October 4:


from Western artist and sculptor Frederic Remington (A Dash for the Timber, Aiding a Comrade, The Fall of the Cowboy, The Bronco Buster, The Scout, Fight for the Waterhole) (1861-1909):

Art is a she-devil of a mistress, and if at times in earlier days she would not even stoop to my way of thinking, I have persevered and will so continue.


from children's book author and illustrator Robert Lawson (They Were Strong and Good, Rabbit Hill, The Great Wheel) (1892-1957):

I have never, as far as I can remember, given one moment's thought as to whether any drawing that I was doing was for adults or children. I have never changed one conception or line or detail to suit the supposed age of the reader. And I have never, in what writing I have done, changed one word or phrase of text because I felt it might be over the heads of children. I have never, I hope, Insulted the intelligence of any child. And with God and my publishers willing, I promise them that I never will.


from novelist Jackie Collins (The World is Full of Married Men, The Stud, Sinners, The Bitch, Hollywood series, Santangelo series) (1937-2015):

The biggest critics of my books are people who never read them.

If you want to be a writer-stop talking about it and sit down and write!


from novelist Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles) (1941-   ):

To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.

You do have a story inside you; it lies articulate and waiting to be written—behind your silence and your suffering.

And books, they offer one hope—that a whole universe might open up from between the covers, and falling into that universe, one is saved.

The world doesn't need any more mediocrity or hedged bets.


from humorist Roy Blount Jr. (Sports Illustrated, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load) (1941-   ):

Studying literature at Harvard is like learning about women at the Mayo clinic.

An author is a person who can never take innocent pleasure in visiting a bookstore again.

A good heavy book holds you down. It's an anchor that keeps you from getting up and having another gin and tonic.

English is an outrageous tangle of those derivations and other multifarious linguistic influences, from Yiddish to Shoshone, which has grown up around a gnarly core of chewy, clangorous yawps derived from ancestors who painted themselves blue to frighten their enemies.

I think a writer is not an ideal husband... Writers tend to get off into their own heads and not notice the people that they're living with, or they get irritable with the people that they're living with when the people insist on being noticed.

Anyone who undertakes the literary grind had better like playing around with words.


from Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey S. Fletcher (Precious) (1970-   ):

I often think about the many remarkable things that my personal computer can do which I never ask it to do. I probably use a small fraction of its capabilities. I often wonder if the same dynamic occurs with our capacity for creativity.

It may take hundreds of pages before you begin to get a handle on the craft of writing, and your first scripts may not work. The next five to twenty may not either. However, the ones that do work owe everything to the ones that didn't.

From stoplights to skyscrapers, turn anywhere in civilization and you will see imagination at work. It's in our inventions, advances and remedies and how a single parent masterminds each day. Imagination is boundless, surrounds us and resides in us all.


from poet Rupi Kaur (Milk and Honey, The Sun and Her Flowers, Home Body) (1992-   ):

i am a museum full of art/but you had your eyes shut.

why is it/that when the story ends/we begin to feel all of it.

my heart woke me crying last night/how can i help i begged/my heart said/write the book.

The thing about writing is I can't tell if it's healing or destroying.