Sunday, January 30, 2022

Wise Words


Thoughts on Creativity from artists born January 31:

from Austrian composer Franz Schubert (Symphony No. 9 in C Major [The Great], Symphony in B Minor [Unfinished]), Fantasy in F Minor, Die Winterreise) (1797-1828):

The greatest misfortune of the wise man and the greatest unhappiness of the fool are based upon convention.

No one understands another's grief, no one understands another's joy... My music is the product of my talent and my misery. And that which I have written in my greatest distress is what the world seems to like best.

There are two contrary impulses which govern this man's brain—the one sane, and the other eccentric. They alternate at regular intervals.

I never force myself to be devout except when I feel so inspired, and never compose hymns of prayers unless I feel within me real and true devotion.


from American sagebrush writer Zane Grey (Riders of the Purple Sage, The Lone Star Ranger, Nevada, Western Union, Valley of Wild Horses) (1872-1939):

Every once in a while I feel the tremendous force of the novel. But it does not stay with me.

I can write best in the silence and solitude of the night, when everyone has retired.

I confess that reading proofs is a pleasure. It stimulates and inspires me.

The Indian story has never been written. Maybe I am the man to do it.

What is writing but an expression of my own life?

The difficulty, the ordeal, is to start.

I wrote for nearly six hours. When I stopped, the dark mood, as if by magic, had folded its cloak and gone away.

No one connected intimately with a writer has any appreciation of his temperament, except to think him overdoing everything.

Work is my salvation. It changes my moods.

These critics who crucify me do not guess the littlest part of my sincerity. They must be burned in a blaze. I cannot learn from them.

I love my work but do not know how I write it.

Writing was like digging coal. I sweat blood. The spell is on me.

Today I began the novel that I determined to be great.


from American author John O’Hara (Appointment in Samarra, Ten North Frederick, Butterfield 8, From the Terrace) (1905-1970):

Becoming the reader is the essence of becoming a writer.

Hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm.

They say great themes make great novels. but what these young writers don't understand is that there is no greater theme than men and women.

Much as I like owning a Rolls-Royce, I could do without it. What I could not do without is a typewriter, a supply of yellow second sheets and the time to put them to good use.

An artist is his own fault.


from American Tony-winning actor-singer-dancer Carol Channing (Hello Dolly!, special Tony, Lifetime Achievement) (1921-2019):

Regret leads to negativity, and negativity kills creativity.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Norman Mailer (The Armies of the Night, The Executioner’s Song); also known for The Naked and the Dead (1923-2007):

Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.

When I read it, I don't wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.

I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension.

It's not a good idea to put your wife into a novel; not your latest wife anyway.

The difference between writing a book and being on television is the difference between conceiving a child and having a baby made in a test tube.

Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.

The writer can grow as a person or he can shrink. ... His curiosity, his reaction to life must not diminish. The fatal thing is to shrink, to be interested in less, sympathetic to less, desiccating to the point where life itself loses its flavor, and one’s passion for human understanding changes to weariness and distaste.

The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.

Every one of my books had killed me a little more.


from Scottish comic book writer and playwright Grant Morrison MBE (Batman, All-Star Superman, New X-Men, Depravity) (b. 1960):

Adults...struggle desperately with fiction, demanding constantly that it conform to the rules of everyday life. Adults foolishly demand to know how Superman can possibly fly, or how Batman can possibly run a multibillion-dollar business empire during the day and fight crime at night, when the answer is obvious even to the smallest child: because it's not real.

Writers and artists build by hand little worlds that they hope might effect change in real minds, in the real world where stories are read. A story can make us cry and laugh, break our hearts, or make us angry enough to change the world.

There are dozens of unfinished or aborted projects in my files, but I can only assume they don't get done because they're not robust enough to struggle through the birth process.

Burnout is grist to the mill. I write every day, for most of the day, so it's just about turning into metaphor whatever's going on in my life, in the world, and in my head. Every nightmare, every moment of grief or joy or failure, is a moment I can convert into cash via words.

Sometimes you wonder, in an interconnected universe, who's dreaming who?

Sometimes it’s only madness that makes us what we are.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Wise Words


Thoughts on Art from notable people born January 24:

from Prussian King Frederick the Great (1712-1786):

Books make up no small part of human happiness.


from English dramatist William Congreve (The Old Bachelour, The Double-Dealer, Love for Love, The Mourning Bride, The Way of the World) (1670-1729):

Wit must be foiled by wit: cut a diamond with a diamond.

Words are the weak support of cold indifference; love has no language to be heard.

To find a young fellow that is neither a wit in his own eye, nor a fool in the eye of the world, is a very hard task.

It is the business of a comic poet to paint the vices and follies of human kind.

Turn pimp, flatterer, quack, lawyer, parson, be chaplain to an atheist, or stallion to an old woman, anything but a poet; for a poet is worse, more servile, timorous and fawning than any I have named.


from French polymath Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais (Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro) (1732-1799):

To make a living, craftiness is better than learnedness.

Plays, gentlemen, are to their authors what children are to women: they cost more pain than they give pleasure.

A writer's inspiration is not just to create. He must eat three times a day.


from German writer, composer, and painter E. T. A. Hoffmann (Undine, Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier, Nachtstücke, Nussknacker und Mausekönig) (1776-1822):

Why should not a writer be permitted to make use of the levers of fear, terror and horror because some feeble soul here and there finds it more than it can bear? Shall there be no strong meat at table because there happen to be some guests there whose stomachs are weak, or who have spoiled their own digestions?

Is it not in the most absolute simplicity that real genius plies its pinions the most wonderfully?

None but a poet can understand a poet; none but a romantic spirit transported with poetry and consecrated in the Holy of Holies can comprehend what the ordained utters out of his inspiration.

Perhaps, too, you will then believe that nothing is more wonderful, nothing more fantastic than real life, and that all that a writer can do is to present it as "in a glass, darkly."

Should anyone be audacious enough to think of casting doubt on the sterling worth of this remarkable book, let him reflect that he is dealing with a tomcat possessed of intellect, understanding, and sharp claws.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence); also known for The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome (1862-1937):

True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.

Beware of monotony; it's the mother of all the deadly sins.

To be able to look life in the face: that's worth living in a garret for, isn't it?


from American Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell (Elegies to the Spanish Republic series, Open series) (1915-1991):

Art is an experience, not an object.

Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.

It may be that the deep necessity of art is the examination of self-deception.

What could be more interesting, or in the end, more ecstatic, than in those rare moments when you see another person look at something you've made, and realize that they got it exactly, that your heart jumped to their heart with nothing in between.

The problems of inventing a new language are staggering. But what else can one do if one needs to express one's feeling precisely?

Painting that does not radiate feeling is not worth looking at. The deepest-and rarest-of grown-up pleasures is true feeling.

Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator.

Wherever art appears, life disappears.

Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which everything he paints in both an homage and a critique, and everything he says is a gloss.

If one were to ask a painter what he felt about anything, his just response—though he seldom makes it—would be to paint it, and in painting, to find out.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Wise Words

Thoughts on reading and writing from authors born January 17:

from English novelist Anne Brontë (Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) (1820-1849):

There are great books in this world and great worlds in books.

I am satisfied that if a book is a good one, it is so whatever the sex of the author may be. All novels are or should be, written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man.


from American Poet Laureate and National Book Award winner William Stafford (Traveling Through the Dark); also noted for West of Your City, Allegiances, A Glass Face in the Rain, An Oregon Message (1914-1993):

I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.

Keep a journal, and don't assume that your work has to accomplish anything worthy: artists and peace-workers are in it for the long haul, and not to be judged by immediate results.

A poem is a serious joke, a truth that has learned jujitsu.

The things you do not have to say make you rich. Saying things you do not have to say weakens your talk. Hearing things you do not need to hear dulls your hearing. And things you know before you hear them — those are you, those are why you are in the world.

You don't need many words if you already know what you're talking about.

Anyone who breathes is in the rhythm business.

Language can do what it can’t say.

Writing itself is one of the great, free human activities. There is scope for individuality, and elation, and discovery. In writing, for the person who follows with trust and forgiveness what occurs to him, the world remains always ready and deep, an inexhaustible environment, with the combined vividness of an actuality and flexibility of a dream. Working back and forth between experience and thought, writers have more than space and time can offer. They have the whole unexplored realm of human vision.

What you have to do as a writer is . . . write day in and day out no matter what happens.

A student comes to me with a piece of writing, holds it out, says, 'Is this good?' A whole sequence of emergencies goes off in my mind. That's not a question to ask anyone but yourself.

Everyone is born a poet—a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question is: Why did other people stop?


from Indian award-winning poet, lyricist, screenwriter, and political activist Javed Akhtar (Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Saaz, Refugee, Lagaan) (born 1945):

For an average noun or an average verb, an average mind can quickly create reference. Where did they hear it? See it? What does it remind them of? What is its connection? When was it last used in conversation? What has been my experience with it? A host of memories appear when you hear a word you remember.

Words are a strange thing. You once saw an animal and decided it's a 'cat.' But cat is a sound. This cat has nothing to do with the animal. But I have decided it's a cat. So a cat it is.


from American novelist and short story writer Ronnie Ray Jenkins (The Flowers of Reminiscence, The Flynn City Eggman series, The Twelve Dollar Alligator and Others: A Collection of Short Stories, Boot Camp for Writers) (born 1957):

When reading dies, the imagination soon follows.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Wise Words

Thoughts on writing from creative people born January 10:

from English Modernist sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth CBE, DBE (Mother and Child, Pelagos, Corinthos, Figure for a Landscape, Curved Forms, Squares with two circles) (1903-1975):

I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body.

I found one had to do some work every day, even at midnight, because either you're professional or you're not.

Body experience... is the centre of creation.

Halfway through any work, one is often tempted to go off on a tangent. Once you have yielded, you will be tempted to yield again and again... Finally, you would only produce something hybrid.


from American poet Robinson Jeffers (Tamar and Otber Poems, Cawdor, Thurso's Landing, Be Angry at the Sun) (1887-1962):

Imagination, the traitor of the mind, has taken my solitude and slain it.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate Philip Levine (The Simple Truth); also known for The Names of the Lost, Ashes: Poems New and Old, 7 Years from Somewhere, What Work Is) (1928-2015):

The irony is, going to work every day became the subject of probably my best poetry.

Some things you know all your life. They are so simple and true they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme... they must be naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

I believed even then that if I could transform my experience into poetry I would give it the value and dignity it did not begin to possess on its own.

Oh, yes, let’s bless the imagination. It gives us the myths we live by. Let’s bless the visionary power of the human—the only animal that’s got it—, bless the exact image of your father dead and mine dead, bless the images that stalk the corners of our sight and will not let go.

Don't scorn your life just because it's not dramatic, or it's impoverished, or it looks dull, or it's workaday. Don't scorn it. It is where poetry is taking place if you've got the sensitivity to see it, if your eyes are open.

How weightless/ words are when nothing will do.

Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it's the home of the extraordinary, the only home.


from American poet Dorianne Laux (What We Carry, Facts About the Moon, The Book of Men, Only As the Day is Long) (born 1952):

Good writing works from a simple premise: your experience is not yours alone, but in some sense a metaphor for everyone's.

A poem is like a child; at some point we have to let it go and trust that it will make its own way in the world.

We're all writing out of a wound, and that's where our song comes from. The wound is singing. We're singing back to those who've been wounded.

I write to invite the voices in, to watch the angel wrestle, to feel the devil gather on its haunches and rise. I write to hear myself breathing. I write to be doing something while I wait to be called to my appointment with death. I write to be done writing. I write because writing is fun.

Every poem I write falls short in some important way. But I go on trying to write the one that won’t.

Maybe it's what we don't say/that saves us.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Wise Words

Thoughts on writing from authors born January 3:

from Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (In Catilinam, Ad Atticum, Ad familiares, Ad Brutum, Ad Quintum fratrem, De consulata suo, De oratore, De republica, Tusculanae Disputationes, De natura deorum, De Officiis) (106 B.C.E.-43 B.C.E.):

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

Read at every wait; read at all hours; read within leisure; read in times of labor; read as one goes in; read as one goest out. The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.

For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Gould Fletcher (Selected Poems); also noted for Irradiations: Sand and Spray, Goblins and Pagodas (1886-1950):

Every artist carries upon his shoulders a profound moral responsibility. This responsibility is not, as supposed, the duty of teaching us to conform to the modern official distortion of Christian ethics, by which we are ruled. It is not the duty of upholding a system of negations, of prohibitions, of compromises, striking at the very roots of life. It is a far nobler, far more difficult task. The duty of the artist is to affirm the dignity of life, the value of humanity, despite the morbid prejudices of Puritanism, the timid conventionality of the mob, despite even his own knowledge of the insoluble riddle of suffering, decay and death.

Poetry merely descriptive of nature, however vivid, no longer seems enough for me, there has to be added to it, the human judgement, the human evaluation.

It is time to create something new. It is time to strip poetry of meaningless tatters of form, and to clothe her in new, suitable garments.


from English academic and writer J. R. R. Tolkien CBE (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Tolkien Reader) (1892-1973):

They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited "first chapters." I have indeed written many.

Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginary languages. I have been at it since I could write.

I dislike Allegory—the conscious and intentional allegory—yet any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language.

A friend of mine tells that I talk in shorthand and then smudge it.

A pen is to me as a beak is to a hen.


from American-British poet and scholar Anne Stevenson (Living in America: Poems, Reversals, Travelling Behind Glass, Minute by Glass Minute, Selected Poems, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath) (1933-2020):

A poem might be defined as thinking about feelings—about human feelings and frailties.

I like rhyme because it is memorable, I like form because having to work to a pattern gives me original ideas.

I play with language a great deal in my poems, and I enjoy that. I try to condense language, that is, I try to express complicated but I hope real emotions as simply as possible. But that doesn't mean the poems are simple, just that they are as truthful as I can make them.

There is far too much literary criticism of the wrong kind. That is why I never could have survived as an academic.

I dislike literary jargon and never use it. Criticism has only one function and that is to help readers read and understand literature. It is not a science, it is an aid to art.

Poets should ignore most criticism and get on with making poetry.


from Cuban children's author Alma Flor Ada (Under the Royal Palms, The Gold Coin, Gathering the Sun) (b. 1938):

The topics that keep repeating, whether the characters be animals, people or even geometric shapes are the joy of family, the surprises of discovering friendship among those who apparently are different from us, our capacity to change our environment and thus our life for the better, and the power in not-giving up.


from British children’s author Terry Deary (Horrible Histories series, Master Crook's Crime Academy series) (b. 1946):

I'm not a historian, and I wouldn't want to be. I want to change the world. Attack the elite. Overturn the hierarchy. Look at my stories and you'll notice that the villains are always, always, those in power. The heroes are the little people. I hate the establishment. Always have, always will.