Sunday, May 22, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on writing from authors born May 23:

from American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate Margaret Fuller (Woman in the Nineteenth Century) (1810-1850):

Art can only be truly art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life.

Essays, entitled critical, are epistles addressed to the public, through which the mind of the recluse relieves itself of its impressions.


from American children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown (Noisy Book series, The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, The Color Kittens) (1910-1952):

In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child's need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.

A good picture book can almost be whistled. ... All have their own melodies behind the storytelling.

There is a loving way with words and an unloving way. And it is only with the loving way that the simplicity of language becomes beautiful.

A child's own story is a dream, but a good story is a dream that is true for more than one child.

We speak naturally but spend all our lives trying to write naturally.

I don't think I'm essentially interested in children's books. I'm interested in writing, and in pictures. I'm interested in people and in children because they are people.

I wish I didn't have ever to sign my long name on the cover of a book, and I wish I could write a story that would seem absolutely true to the child who hears it and to myself.


from English children's book author Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series, The Boggart, King of Shadows) (b. 1935):

The truth is that every book we read, like every person we meet, has the capacity to change our lives. And though we can be sure our children will meet people, we must, must create, these days, their chance to meet books.

Poets find truth by writing about what they love.

Any great gift of power or talent is a burden ... But there is nothing to be done. If you were born with the gift, then you must serve it, and nothing in this world or out of it may stand in the way of that service, because that is why you were born and that is the Law.


from German-born American writer Ursula Hegi (Floating in My Mother's Palm, Stones from the River) (b. 1946):

I don't write for an audience. I write for myself. And if I imagine an audience at all, it's the characters, but I know that I would keep writing even if no one ever published me again, even if no one ever read me again.

"Now the purpose of her stories had changed. She spun them to discover their meaning. In the telling, she found, you reached a point where you could not go back, where-as the stories changed—it transformed you, too.”


from American poet, translator, and essayist Jane Kenyon (From Room to Room, Constance, The Boat of Quiet Hours, Let Evening Come, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, A Hundred White Daffodils) (1947-1995):

A poet's job is to find a name for everything; to be a fearless finder of the names of things.

The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

My ear is not working, my poetry ear. I can't write a line that doesn't sound like pots and pans falling out of the cupboard.


from Israeli religious author Yehuda Berg (The 72 Names of God: Technology for the Soul, The Power of Kabbalah) (b. 1972):

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. What counts is completion. Look at your life and all the half-finished projects sitting on your shelf. Commit to taking on one of these ideas and finishing what you started.


from American non-fiction writer Nicolas Cole (Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, The Art and Business of Online Writing) (b. 1990):

Give away 99% of your best writing for free. Monetize the last 1%.

In the game of Online Writing, volume wins.

The Golden Intersection of great writing is: Answering The Reader’s Question by Telling Them An Entertaining Story

You are not the main character in your story. The reader is.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on reading and writing from authors born May 16:

from English novelist and short-story writer H. E. Bates CBE (Love for Lydia, The Darling Buds of May, My Uncle Silas) (1905-1974):

The basis of almost every argument or conclusion I can make is the axiom that the short story can be anything the author decides it shall be;...In that infinite flexibility, indeed lies the reason why the short story has never been adequately defined.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Studs Terkel ("The Good War": An Oral History of World War II) (1912-2008):

People are hungry for stories. It's part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.


from American poet, essayist, and feminist Adrienne Rich (A Change of World, The Diamond Cutters, and Other Poems, Diving into the Wreck, On Lies, Secrets and Silence, Atlas of the Difficult World) (1929-2012):

The moment of change is the only poem.

Art, whose honesty must work through artifice, cannot avoid cheating truth.

Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

[Poetry] is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.

When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.

To write as if your life depended on it; to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public the words you have dredged; sieved up in dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence—words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist.

Poetry can open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.

Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.

The words are purposes./The words are maps./I came to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail.

I believe that words can help us move or keep us paralyzed, and that our choices of language and verbal tone have something—a great deal—to do with how we live our lives.


from American young adult fiction author Bruce Coville (The Magic Shop series, My Teacher Is an Alien series, I Was a Sixth Grade Alien series, The Unicorn Chronicles, Shakespeare Retellings) (b. 1950):

But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a...a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one.

Every book is like starting over again. I've written books every way possible—from using tight outlines to writing from the seat of my pants. Both ways work.


from American self-help author Richard Carlson (Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff... and it’s all Small Stuff series) (1961-2006):

Reading is a gift. It's something you can do almost anytime and anywhere. It can be a tremendous way to learn, relax, and even escape. So, enough about the virtues of reading. Time to read on.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born May 9:

from Spanish philosopher and essayist José Ortega y Gasset (“I am I, and my circumstance”) (España invertebrada, La rebelión de las masas) (1883-1955):

The metaphor is perhaps the most fruitful power of man. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.

Poetry is adolescence fermented, and thus preserved.

The poet begins where the man ends. / The man's lot is to live his human life, / the poet's to invent what is nonexistent.


from American author and illustrator of children’s books William Pène du Bois (The Twenty-One Balloons, Bear Party, Lion); co-founded The Paris Review (1916-1993):

Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.


from English Tony-winning dramatist Alan Bennett (Beyond the Fringe, The History Boys); also noted for A Private Function, Prick Up Your Ears, Single Spies, The Madness of George III, Talking Heads, The Lady in the Van (b. 1934):

Books are not about passing time. They're about other lives. Other worlds.

Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic.

Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met within the pages of their novels, and were as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done one the kindness by writing them.

I write plays about things that I can't resolve in my mind. I try to root things out.

I'm all in favour of free expression provided it's kept rigidly under control.

You don't put your life into your books, you find it there.


from Serbian American Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Laureate Charles Simic (The World Doesn't End); also noted for Selected Poems 1963-1983, Unending Blues (b. 1938):

The secret wish of poetry is to stop time.

Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.

Poetry: three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley.

The highest levels of consciousness are wordless.

One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.

Poems are other people's snapshots in which we see our own lives.

At least since Emerson and Whitman, there's a cult of experience in American poetry. Our poets, when one comes right down to it, are always saying: This is what happened to me. This is what I saw and felt. Truth, they never get tired of reiterating, is not something that already exists in the world, but something that needs to be rediscovered almost daily.

The religion of the short poem, in every age and in every literature, has a single commandment: Less is always more. The short poem rejects preamble and summary. It's about all and everything, the metaphysics of a few words surrounded by much silence. …The short poem is a match flaring up in a dark universe.

There's no preparation for poetry.

A poem is an instant of lucidity in which / the entire organism participates.

Only poetry can measure the distance between ourselves and the Other.

Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is only the bemused spectator.

The world is beautiful but not sayable. That's why we need art.

The poem I want to write is impossible. A stone that floats.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham (The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994); also noted for The End of Beauty, Sea Change, P L A C E, From the New World: Selected Poems 1976-2014, Fast, Runaway (b. 1950):

What poetry can, must, and always will do for us: it complicates us, it doesn't soothe.

The primary function of the creative use of language—in our age—is to try to constantly restore words to their meanings, to keep the living tissue of responsibility alive.

A poem is a private story, after all, no matter how apparently public. The reader is always overhearing a confession.

If there is anything I love most, in the poems I love, it is the audible braiding of that bravery, that essential empty-handedness, and that willingness to be taken by surprise, all in one voice.

I think I am probably in love with silence, that other world. And that I write, in some way, to negotiate seriously with it. Because there is, of course, always the desire, the hope, that they are not two separate worlds, sound and silence, but that they become each other, that only our hearing fails.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born May 2:

from German poet Novalis (Hymns to the Night, Spiritual Songs) (1772-1801):

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.

To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.

In a work of art, chaos must shimmer through the veil of order.

Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.

Genius in general is poetic. Where genius has been active it has been poetically active. The truly moral person is a poet.


from American detective fiction writer Martha Grimes (Richard Jury series, Emma Graham series) (b. 1931):

You can't be blocked if you just keep on writing words. Any words. People who get “blocked” make the mistake of thinking they have to write good words.

“Polly was a writer of many deadlines. There were the ignorable deadlines, the not-to-be-taken-too-seriously deadlines: the deadlines-before-the-deadlines deadlines, and finally, the no-kidding-around deadlines. She set these various dates, she'd told him, to fool herself." (Rainbow's End)

I read somewhere that we never completely forget a thing, that there are the imprints of everything we’ve ever seen or done, all of these tiny details at the bottoms of our minds, like pebbles and weeds that never surface from a river bottom.

I love stories. I just enjoy telling stories and watching what these characters do—although writing continues to be just as hard as it always was.

There are people who read Tolstoy or Dostoevski who do not insist that their endings be happy or pleasant or, at least, not be depressing. But if you're writing mysteries—oh, no, you can't have an ending like that. It must be tidy.

I'm constantly battling writer's block; it usually takes me two hours to write anything.

Writing is an antisocial act.


from American romance novelist Anne Stuart (Ice series, The House of Rohan series, Banish Misfortune, Falling Angel, Winter's Edge, 100 + more); received Romance Writers of American Lifetime Achievement Award (b. 1948):

The beginning of a story can come from absolutely anywhere. A line in a song. A dog food commercial. A painting. A bad movie (bad movies are quite often good inspiration – you watch them and start thinking about how they could do it right).

I day dream. I scribble notes and ideas in a notebook, so that I have a general form for what I’m going to be writing. And then I jump into it, feet first. Definitely no details, no outlines, just vague scenes. Scenes do come into my head like a movie, but the weird thing is, I’m such a writer I tend to fantasize in words. I’m not kidding.

Characters always take on a life of their own, god bless them. Since I don’t plan too much ahead I’d be royally screwed if they didn’t. Sometimes they go in the wrong direction, and then I have to rein them in, but usually they go places that are fascinating and unexpected and move the story along in exciting ways.

... in order to survive that childhood, I took refuge in fantasy – in reading, and in telling myself stories. And not for a moment would I trade it in for a peaceful, serene life.

If we don't risk it all, we may as well not write at all.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born April 25:

from British poet, fiction writer, playwright, and editor Walter de la Mare (Songs of Childhood, Poems, Memoirs of a Midget, Crossings, Come Hither, Collected Stories for Children) (1873-1956):

That is one of the pleasures of reading—you may make any picture out of words you can and will; and a poem may have as many different meanings as there are different minds.

All day long the door of the sub-conscious remains just ajar; we slip through to the other side, and return again, as easily and secretly as a cat.


from American author Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy-Tacey novel series) (1892-1980):

Betsy returned to her chair, took off her coat and hat, opened her book and forgot the world again.

Isn't it mysterious to begin a new journal like this? I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be.

I cannot remember back to a year in which I did not consider myself to be a writer, and the younger I was the bigger that capital "W."


from Spanish novelist Corín Tellado ((Boda clandestina, Incomprensión, Lucha Oculta, La Novia viuda, Desde el Corazon, El Testamento); wrote more than 4,000 books (1927-2009):

I'm not a romantic or write romance novels. I am positive and sensitive, and I write novels of feelings, which is not the same. For me, the novel can be sentimental, it does not bother me that I am pigeonholed in the pink novel, but it is evident that many ignore that the pink denomination comes from when the covers of the novel were of that color. Love never goes out of style and although my novels may resemble each other, they are all different. Heartbreak is what is most present in them.

To insinuate he taught me censorship, because he said things clearly and that was rejected. There were months that I was rejected up to 4 novels. Some novels came with so many underlines that there was hardly any black handwriting left. I was taught to insinuate, to suggest rather than to show. I learned to tell the same thing but with subtlety, so I never left anything to say.

I have sacrificed my life to literature. I hurt myself. But I will stop writing, when my head falls on the machine. I don't give up.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author J. Anthony Lukas (“The Two Worlds of Linda Fitzpatrick,” Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families) (1933-1997):

All writers, I think, are to one extent or another, damaged people. Writing is our way of repairing ourselves.

I firmly believe that any good journalist must essentially be temperamentally an outsider. I don't think full sense of belonging and security is conducive to creativity.

If the noun is good and the verb is strong, you almost never need an adjective.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Laureate Ted Kooser (Delights & Shadows); also noted for Sure Signs, One World at a Time, Weather Central, Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry, House Held Up By Trees) (b. 1939):

The poem is the device through which the ordinary world is seen in a new way—engaging, compelling, even beautiful.

There are mornings when everything brims with promise, even my empty cup.

There's nothing wrong with delighting in what you do. In fact, most of the fun you'll have as a poet will come about during the process of writing.

a happy birthday this evening, I sat by an open window and read till the light was gone and the book was no more than a part of the darkness. I could easily have switched on a lamp, but I wanted to ride the day down into night, to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page with the pale gray ghost of my hand

If I don't take the risk, I'll wind up with a bloodless poem. I have to be out there on the edge.


from English poet and journalist James Martin Fenton (Terminal Moraine, A Vacant Possession, The Memory of War, Children in Exile: Poems 1968-1984, All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim, Manilla Envelope, Out of Danger) (b. 1949):

The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.

Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.

My feeling is that poetry will wither on the vine if you don't regularly come back to the simplest fundamentals of the poem: rhythm, rhyme, simple subjects—love, death, war.

A poem with grandly conceived and executed stanzas, such as one of Keats's odes, should be like an enfilade of rooms in a palace: one proceeds, with eager anticipation, from room to room.

I don't see that a single line can constitute a stanza, although it can constitute a whole poem.

For poets today or in any age, the choice is not between freedom on the one hand and abstruse French forms on the other. The choice is between the nullity and vanity of our first efforts, and the developing of a sense of idiom, form, structure, metre, rhythm, line—all the fundamental characteristics of this verbal art.

An aria in an opera—Handel's 'Ombra mai fu,' for example—gets along with an incredibly small number of words and ideas and a large amount of variation and repetition. That's the beauty of it. It's not taxing to the listener's intelligence because if you haven't heard it the first time round, it'll come around again.


from American novelist and memoirist Darcey Steinke (Up Through the Water, Suicide Blonde, Jesus Saves, Milk, Sister Golden Hair, Easter Everywhere) (b. 1962):

When you write you have to reside in the unknown for as long as possible.


from American novelist Seth King (The Summer Remains, All We Ever Wanted) (b. 1989):

If eyes are windows into the soul, books are rabbit holes into the imagination.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born April 18:

from English philosopher, writer, critic, editor, actor, and scientist George Henry Lewes (The Biographical History of Philosophy, The Leader, The Life and Works of Goethe, Actors and Acting, Problems of Life and Mind) (1817-1878):

Personal experience is the basis of all real Literature.

Insight is the first condition of Art.

Philosophy and Art both render the invisible visible by imagination.

The object of Literature is to instruct, to animate, or to amuse.

All great authors are seers.

No man was ever eloquent by trying to be eloquent, but only by being so.

Endeavour to be faithful, and if there is any beauty in your thought, your style will be beautiful; if there is any real emotion to express, the expression will be moving.

All bad Literature rests upon imperfect insight, or upon imitation, which may be defined as seeing at second-hand.

Imagination is not the exclusive appanage of artists, but belongs in varying degrees to all men.

The public can only be really moved by what is genuine.

Good writers are of necessity rare.

Speak for yourself and from yourself, or be silent.


from American journalist, novelist, and playwright Richard Harding Davis (Harper's Weekly, Gallegher and Other Stories, Soldier of Fortune, Ransom's Folly) (1864-1916):

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or a new thing in an old way.


from English-born American conductor Leopold Stokowski (Philadelphia Orchestra) (1882-1977):

Music comes from the heart and returns to the heart... music is spontaneous, impulsive expression... its range is without limit... music is forever growing... music can be one element to help us build a new conception of life in which the madness and cruelty of wars will be replaced by a simple understanding of the brotherhood of man.

The highest reaches of music come thrillingly close to the central core and essence of life itself.

I believe in a passionately strong feeling for the poetry of life—for the beautiful, the mysterious, the romantic, the ecstatic—the loveliness of Nature, the lovability of people, everything that excites us, everything that starts our imagination working, LAUGHTER, gaiety, strength, heroism, love, tenderness, every time we see—however dimly—the godlike that is in everyone and want to kneel in reverence.

As a boy I remember how terribly real the statues of the saints would seem at 7 o'clock Mass—before I'd had breakfast. From that I learned always to conduct hungry.

It's hard to put into words the impact of the perfect lyric, melody or contagious beat that moves you in an unexpected way. Authors, composers and artists have tried—and here we've rounded up our favorite quotes that help to begin forming structure around such an unspoken universal force. Which are most meaningful to you? If you had to sum up the power of music and sound in one sentence, what would you say? "A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."


from Hungarian-American Oscar-winning composer Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound, A Double Life, Ben-Hur); also noted for Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Killers, The Red House, The Asphalt Jungle, Lust for Life, The Power, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1907-1995):

Emotions in a film come from elements that may be completely asymmetrical, like a kaleidoscope. Music is the element that keeps the different elements together, because it has continuity and rhythm. Music is the most abstract element in a film, full of impressionistic effects, but it usually has the most symmetry. That is why music should underline drama, not create it. It may be even worse today, the use of what in Hollywood is called wall-to-wall music, but even then many producers and directors did not understand the importance of silence.

I believe in music as a form of communication; for me it is more an expression of emotion than an intellectual or cerebral crossword puzzle... I am a traditionalist, but I believe tradition can be so recreated as to express the artist’s own epoch while preserving its relationship with the past.


from American experimental writer Kathy Acker (Great Expectations, Blood and Guts in High School, Empire of the Senseless) (1944-1997):

Women need to become literary "criminals," break the literary laws and reinvent their own, because the established laws prevent women from presenting the reality of their lives.

Well, I think writing is basically about time and rhythm. Like with jazz. You have your basic melody and then you just riff off of it. And the riffs are about timing.

The only reaction against an unbearable society is equally unbearable nonsense.

Literature is that which denounces and slashes apart the repressing machine at the level of the signified.

There must be a secret hidden in this book or else you wouldn't bother to read it.

Everytime you read, you are walking among the dead, and, if you are listening, you just might hear prophecies.

First of all, writing at best—certainly fiction writing—more and more I think is magic.

A novel is a book with a lot of pages.


from Ukrainian-Russian-Jewish-American poet and critic Ilya Kaminsky (Dancing in Odessa, Deaf Republic) (b. 1977):

I believe that no great lyric poet ever speaks in the so-called “proper” language of his or her time. Emily Dickinson didn’t write in “proper” English grammar but in slant music of fragmentary perception. Half a world and half a century away, Cesar Vallejo placed three dots in the middle of the line, as if language itself were not enough, as if the poet’s voice needed to leap from one image to another, to make—to use Eliot’s phrase—a raid on the inarticulate. Paul Celan wrote to his wife from Germany, where he briefly visited from his voluntary exile in France: “The language with which I make my poems has nothing to do with one spoken here, or anywhere.”

Erase everything you have written, Mandelstam says, but keep the notes in the margin.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born April 11:

from English essayist and poet Christopher Smart (The Student, The Midwife, The Hilliad, A Song to David, Jubilate Agno) (1722-1771):

For I bless God in the libraries of the learned and for all the booksellers in the world.

Awake before the sun is risen, I call for my pen and papers and desk.


from Polish-born American journalist, humorist, screenwriter, and social scientist Leo Rosten (The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, The Joys of Yiddish, Captain Newman, M.D., The Power of Positive Nonsense) (1908-1997):

A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood. The writer wants to be understood much more than he wants to be respected or praised or even loved.

Words must surely be counted among the most powerful drugs man ever invented.

Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.

Humor is, I think, the subtlest and chanciest of literary forms. It is surely not accidental that there are a thousand novelists, essayists, poets or journalists for each humorist. It is a long, long time between James Thurbers.

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it.


from Canadian-born American Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Poet Laureate, essayist, critic, and translator Mark Strand (Blizzard of One); also known for Sleeping with One Eye Open, The Monument, Hopper (1934-2014):

From the reader's view, a poem is more demanding than prose.

Usually a life turned into a poem is misrepresented.

Pain is filtered in a poem so that it becomes finally, in the end, pleasure.

I am not concerned with truth, nor with conventional notions of what is beautiful.

I tend to like poems that engage me—that is to say, which do not bore me.

Poetry is, first and last, language—the rest is filler.


from American screenwriter-director John Milius (Magnum Force, Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn, Rome) (b. 1944):

I may not be the strongest guy or the most well armed, but you can put me in a room with a pencil and a piece of paper and I can kill anybody.

Writing requires a great deal of skill, just like painting does. People don't want to learn those skills.

Most artists think they're frauds anyway.

Also, they don't understand—writing is language. The use of language. The language to create image, the language to create drama. It requires a skill of learning how to use language.

Films are always pretentious. There's nothing more pretentious than a filmmaker.

I was never conscious of my screenplays having any acts. It's all bullshit.

No, you're either born a writer, a storyteller, or you're not.


from English journalist, broadcaster, and author Mark Lawson (Front Row, Mark Lawson Talks to…, The Guardian, Bloody Margaret: Three Political Fantasises, The Battle for Room Service, Idlewild) (b. 1962):

Critics are giving marks for originality, acting, photography and scripting, while mass audiences are more drawn to familiarity of genre, stars they would like to have sex with or plots that are more likely to make their dates have sex with them. Reviewers are doing their day's work, cinema-goers are escaping from theirs: this leads to an inevitable difference of response. It is, though, wrong to conclude that reviewers are completely useless. Books, movies and shows may be critic-proof, but the egos and psyches of the people who make them very rarely are.


from English singer-songwriter Lisa Stansfield (Blue Zone, Affection, "All Around the World," Real Love, So Natural, Lisa Stansfield, Face Up) (b. 1966):

You have to say no to a lot of people and when a lot of people are telling you what you're doing is a bit rubbish you just have to have the courage to say “no it isn't” and believe in it.

I did work incredibly hard but I think there's a certain element of luck.

People say to me about my music “it got me through college, it saved my marriage, it helped me to come out.” It's wonderful to be part of someone's life in a big way.

The power of music is a wonderful thing. It can make us happy, make us cry. It can make us forget and make us remember.

Business people want things to be safe but that's rubbish to me. In music nothing should be safe.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts about Art from creative people born April 4:

from French Fauvist painter Maurice de Vlaminck (Sur le zinc, L'homme a la pipe, La danseuse du Rat-Mort, La Seine a Chatou) (1876-1958):

Good painting is like good cooking; it can be tasted, but not explained.

I try to paint with my heart and my loins, not bothering about style.

I heightened all the tones, I transposed in an orchestration of pure colors all the feelings I could grasp. I was a tender barbarian filled with violence.

In art, theories are as useful as a doctor's prescription; one must be sick to believe them.

I wanted to burn down Ecole de Beaux Arts with my cobalts and vermilions and I wanted to express my feelings with my brushes without troubling what painting was like before me... Life and me, me and life.

Painting was an abscess which drained off an evil in me. Without a gift for painting I would have gone to the bad... what I could only have achieved in a social context by throwing a bomb... I have tried to express in art.

When I get my hands on painting materials I don't give a damn about other people's painting... every generation must start again afresh.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and biographer Robert E. Sherwood (Idiot’s Delight, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, There Shall Be No Night, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History); also known for the Oscar-winning The Best Years of Our Lives (1896-1955):

To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool.

He must be independent and brave, and sure of himself and of the importance of his work, because if he isn't he will never survive the scorching blasts of derision that will probably greet his first efforts.


from English-born American dancer, teacher, and choreographer Antony Tudor (1908-1987):

I would like to tell all dancers to forget themselves and the desire for self display. They must become completely absorbed in the dance. Even in a classical variation there should never be any thought of a dancer doing a variation—he should become identified with it.

Sometimes I feel as if sections of my ballets were done for me—that I didn't do them myself.


from French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker Marguerite Duras (Hiroshima mon amour, India Song, L’Amant) (1914-1996):

When it's in a book I don't think it'll hurt any more ...exist any more. One of the things writing does is wipe things out. Replace them.

A book consists of two layers: on top, the readable layer ... and underneath, a layer that was inaccessible. You only sense its existence in a moment of distraction from the literal reading, the way you see childhood through a child. It would take forever to tell what you see, and it would be pointless.

Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you. To be without the slightest subject for a book, the slightest idea for a book, is to find yourself, once again, before a book. A vast emptiness. A possible book. Before nothing. Before something like living, naked writing, like something terrible, terrible to overcome.

When the past is recaptured by the imagination, breath is put back into life.

Men like women who write. Even though they don't say so. A writer is a foreign country.


from American Tony-winning actor Elizabeth W. Wilson (Sticks and Bones); also noted for Patterns, The Threepenny Opera, Morning's at Seven, Salonika, Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder (1921-2015):

When I was about 8, I used to go into one of the rooms in the mansion, and I would open a magazine like the ‘Ladies Home Journal,’ and I would see these characters on the pages and then become them, talking back and forth.

I always felt the play came first. If it didn’t touch me, I’d say forget the part.

I had no desire to be a star. I wanted to be a character actress and be able to do all kinds of parts and work on a lot of things. That was my unconscious choice. I wanted to be an undercover actress.


from American Grammy-winning poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou (On the Pulse of Morning, Phenomenal Woman, A Song Flung Up to Heaven); also known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1918-2014):

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.


from South African jazz trumpeter and composer Hugh Masekela ("Grazing in the Grass," Sarafina! The Music of Liberation, Jabulani); also noted for "Soweta Blues," "Bring Him Back Home" (1939-2018):

I don't think any musician ever thinks about making a statement. I think everybody goes into music loving it.

Whatever you go into, you have to go in there to be the best. There's no formulas. It's all about passion and honesty and hard work. It might look glamorous, but it takes a lot of hard work. The blessing with the arts is that you can do it forever.


from Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore (Skid Row, Thin Lizzie, "Parisienne Walkways," Still Got the Blues, After Hours) (1952-2011):

If you are an expressive player, people can feel that. It is an emotional thing and becomes an extension of yourself.

Lots of kids when they get their first instrument hammer away at it but they don't realise there are so many levels of dynamics with a guitar. You can play one note on a guitar and it really gets to people if it is the right note in the right place played by the right person.

I wasn't really worrying too much about what anybody thought: if you do that you shut yourself down.

I think that a lot of people are going so wrong by analysing music too much and learning from a totally different perspective from the way I learned. I mean, I just learned by listening to people. People I learned from learned by listening to people.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born March 28:

from Russian writer and political activist Maxim Gorky (Na dne, Mat', Destvo, V lyudyakh, Moi univeritety, Rasskazy 1922–1924, Delo Artamonovykh, Zhizn' Klima Samgina) (1868-1936):

The good qualities in our soul are most successfully and forcefully awakened by the power of art. Just as science is the intellect of the world, art is its soul.

You must write for children the same way you write for adults, only better.

Many contemporary authors drink more than they write.

In recalling my childhood I like to picture myself as a beehive to which various simple obscure people brought the honey of their knowledge and thoughts on life, generously enriching my character with their own experience. Often this honey was dirty and bitter, but every scrap of knowledge was honey all the same.

Writers build castles in the air, the reader lives inside, and the publisher inns the rent.


from American fiction writer and essayist Nelson Algren (The Neon Wilderness, The Man with the Golden Arm, A Walk on the Wild Side, Chicago: City on the Make) (1909-1981):

You don't write a novel out of sheer pity any more than you blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.

Any writer who knows what he's doing isn't doing very much.

Thinking of Poe, thinking of Mark Twain and Vachel Lindsay, thinking of Jack London and Tom Wolfe, one begins to feel there is almost no way of becoming a creative writer in America without being a loser.

The hard necessity of bringing the judge on the bench down into the dock has been the peculiar responsibility of the writer in all ages of man.

One of the best things Henry Miller ever said was that art goes all out. It's all out. It goes full length. . . . A big book is an all-out book in which you limit your life to things that pertain directly to the book.

A book, a true book, is the writer's confessional. For, whether he would have it so or not, he is betrayed, directly or indirectly, by his characters, into presenting publicly his innermost feelings.

The only way I could finish a book and get a plot was just to keep making it longer until something happens.


from Peruvian Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa (La ciudad y los perros, La casa verde, Conversación en la catedral, La guerra del fin del mundo, La fiesta del chivo) (b. 1936):

Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life.

Literature is dangerous: it awakens a rebellious attitude in us.

Literature is a form of permanent insurrection. Its mission is to arouse, to disturb, to alarm, to keep men in a constant state of dissatisfaction with themselves.

Good literature is absolutely necessary for a society that wants to be free.

No matter how ephemeral it is, a novel is something, while despair is nothing.

Only if I reach 100 years old will I write a very complete autobiography. Not before.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

There are many things behind a good novel, but in particular there is a lot of work—a lot of patience, a lot of stubbornness, and a critical spirit.

In my case, literature is a kind of revenge. It's something that gives me what real life can't give me—all the adventures, all the suffering. All the experiences I can only live in the imagination, literature completes.

Writers are the exorcists of their own demons.

You cannot teach creativity—how to become a good writer. But you can help a young writer discover within himself what kind of writer he would like to be.


from American novelist Russell Banks (Continental Drift, Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Darling) (b. 1940):

But really, it was reading that led me to writing. And in particular, reading the American classics like Twain who taught me at an early age that ordinary lives of ordinary people can be made into high art.

And out of a desire essentially to imitate what I was reading, I began to write, like a clever monkey.

My major allegiance has been to storytelling, not to history.

If you dedicate your attention to discipline in your life you become smarter while you are writing than while you are hanging out with your pals or in any other line of work.

Through writing, through that process, they realize that they become more intelligent, and more honest and more imaginative than they can be in any other part of their life.

Lists of books we re-read and books we can't finish tell more about us than about the relative worth of the books themselves.

But on the other hand, I don't actively seek out stories or hunt them down.


from American Tony- and Emmy-winning actor Ken Howard (Child’s Play, Grey Gardens); also known for 1776 and The White Shadow (1944-2016):

When television gets in trouble is when it forgets that it all begins with the written word.


from Franco–Belgian playwright, novelist, and short story writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt (Le Visiteur, Enigma Variations, Le Cycle de l'invisible, L'Evangile selon Pilate, Ma Vie avec Mozart) (b. 1960):

When I start a book, it's every day. There is no Saturday, no Sunday. It's every day, because if I stop one day, I'm afraid of losing the book and losing the energy.

I wanted to become a director before I wanted to become a writer. When I was 10, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “Walt Disney.” I wanted to make films. But I wasn't offered a camera. I was offered language. So I started telling stories in the theatre and then in my novels.

I consider a house without books or a piano to be unfurnished.


from American fiction writer Jennifer Weiner (Cannie Shapiro series, In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, The Littlest Bigfoot series) (b. 1970):

When I was five I learned to read. Books were a miracle to me—white pages, black ink, and new worlds and different friends in each one. To this day, I relish the feeling of cracking a binding for the first time, the anticipation of where I'll go and whom I'll meet inside.

Read everything. Read fiction and non-fiction, read hot best sellers and the classics you never got around to in college.

Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.

The difference between people who believe they have books inside of them and those who actually write books is sheer cussed persistence—the ability to make yourself work at your craft, every day—the belief, even in the face of obstacles, that you've got something worth saying.

Tell the story that's been growing in your heart, the characters you can't keep out of your head, the tale story that speaks to you, that pops into your head during your daily commute, that wakes you up in the morning.


from American novelist Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada, Chasing Harry Winston, Revenge Wears Prada) (b. 1977):

So much of my own life inspires what I write. Whether it's work, family, friends, motherhood, I am a writer who tends to write what she knows. In 'Revenge Wears Prada,' a great deal of my own life finds its way into the book.

Naturally, I mine my girlfriends' lives for good anecdotes and stories—so many of their experiences find their way into my books.

So much of writing is done alone in a room in sweatpants, with only the Internet for company.

It's the hardest thing in the world to dedicate to writing, but if you do that even once a week, after six months or a year you'll have something substantial.