Sunday, February 27, 2022

Wise Words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born February 28:

from English satirical artist and illustrator and Sir John Tenniel (Punch, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass) (1820-1914):

Well, I get my subject on Wednesday night; I think it out carefully on Thursday, and make my rough sketch; on Friday morning I begin, and stick to it all day, with my nose well down on the block.


from Welsh poet, editor, and critic Arthur William Symons (Days and Nights, London Nights, Amoris Victima, Images of Good and Evil, The Savoy, The Symbolist Movement in Literature) (1865-1945):

All art is a form of artifice. For in art there can be no prejudices.

Art begins when a man wishes to immortalize the most vivid moment he has ever lived.

The making of one's life into art is, after all, the first duty and privilege of every man.

Leave words to them whom words, not doings, move.

Vaguely conscious of that great suspense in which we live, we find our escape from its sterile, annihilating reality in many dreams, in religion, passion, art.


from American newspaperman and playwright Ben Hecht (Chicago Daily News, Twentieth Century, The Front Page) (1894-1964):

The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can't have both.

Criticism can never instruct or benefit you. Its chief effect is that of a telegram with dubious news. Praise leaves no glow behind, for it is a writer's habit to remember nothing good of himself. I have usually forgotten those who have admired my work, and seldom anyone who disliked it. Obviously, this is because praise is never enough and censure always too much.

I have written a raucous valentine to a poet's dream and agony.


from American Oscar-winning director Vincente Minnelli (Gigi); also known for Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, The Bad and the Beautiful, Brigadoon, Lust for Life (1903-1986):

I allow an area for improvisation because the chemical things actors bring to stories make it not work.

I use colors to bring fine points of story and character.

I feel that a picture that stays with you is made up of a hundred or more hidden things. They’re things that the audience is not conscious of, but that accumulate.

It's the story that counts.


from English poet, dramatist, novelist, and essayist Sir Stephen Spender (The Temple, Poems, Trial of a Judge, The God that Failed, Ruins and Visions) (1909-1995):

Great poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.

What we call the freedom of the individual is not just the luxury of one intellectual to write what he likes to write but his being a voice which can speak for those who are silent.

But reading is not idleness. It is the passive, receptive side of civilization without which the active and creative world would be meaningless. It is the immortal spirit of the dead realised within the bodies of the living. It is sacramental.

The greatest poets are those with memories so great that they extend beyond their strongest experiences to their minutest observations of people and things far outside their own self-centeredness.

Memory exercised in a particular way is a natural gift of poetic genius. The poet above all else, is a person who never forgets certain sense impressions which he has experienced and which he can relive again as though with all their original freshness.

There is a certain justice in criticism. The critic is like a midwife—a tyrannical midwife.

All that you can imagine you already know.

An English poet writes, I think, just for people who are interested in poetry. An American poet writes, and feels that everyone ought to appreciate this. Then he has a deep sense of grievance...


from American children's author Megan McDonald (Judy Moody and Stink series) (b. 1959)

If you want to write, find your splinter. Find the thing that pierces you and won't let you go.

If you listen to your own voice, unknown friends will come and seek you.


from English children's author Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines series) (b. 1966):

I'm sure it came as no surprise to my friends and family when I became an illustrator and then a writer because, from about the age of five, I was one of those children who always had his nose in a book.

Even tiny children looking at a picture book are using their imaginations, gleaning clues from the images to understand what is happening, and perhaps using the throwaway details which the illustrator includes to add their own elements to the story.

I still feel, as I did when I was six or seven, that books are simply the best way to experience a story.


from country music singer-songwriter Jason Aldean (My Kinda Party, Night Train, Old Boots, New Dirt) (b. 1977):

If you say, “I'm going to cut this song because I know the teenagers are going to love it,” well, then you're going to alienate everybody else. When I cut my record, I'm just going to cut the things that I like, and whoever likes it, likes it. That's too much work to try to figure out the demographic. That's too much like a business.

No matter what you do, you're going to have people who have something to say about something you do. You can't please anybody.

My goal is that when the last song is over, and you're walking back to the parking lot, you're already on your phone searching to find the next show.

I didn't get into music to become famous and I didn't get into music to become rich either—I got into because I liked it.


from English children's author Chris Wooding (Broken Sky series, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, Poison, The Braided Path trilogy) (b. 1977):

Everything you write makes you better. But if you really need a tip, here's one: a good story begins in opposition to its ending. That means you work out how it finishes first, and then begin the story as far away from that point—in terms of character development—as you can.

We relate comics to the main super-heroes, but it's a great medium through which all sorts of stories are told.

Imagination is as close as we will ever be to godhead… for in imagination, we can create wonders.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Wise Words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born February 21:

from French author Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anais Nin, Cities of the Interior, Under a Glass Bell, Delta of Venus: Erotica) (1903-1977):

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.

I write emotional algebra.

No matter what disintegrating influence I was experiencing, the writing was an act of wholeness.


from English-born American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W. H. Auden (The Age of Anxiety); also noted for "Funeral Blues," "Musee de Beaux-Artes," "September 1, 1939," The Shield of Achilles (1907-1973):

A poet can write about a man slaying a dragon, but not about a man pushing a button that releases a bomb.

Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.

Art is born of humiliation.

In relation to a writer, most readers believe in the Double Standard: they may be unfaithful to him as often as they like, but he must never, never be unfaithful to them.

Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.

Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.

A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.

Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.

Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation.

A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.

There must always be two kinds of art: escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep, and parable-art, that art which shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love.

Let me see what I wrote so I know what I think.


from American Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Nina Simone (Lifetime Achievement); noted for "I Loves You, Porgy" (Grammy Hall of Fame Award), "I Put a Spell on You," Ain’t Got No/I’ve Got Life" "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Feeling Good" (1933-2003):

How do you explain what it feels like to get on the stage and make poetry that you know sinks into the hearts and souls of people who are unable to express it.

Talent is a burden not a joy. I am not of this planet. I do not come from you. I am not like you.

Music is an art and art has its own rules. And one of them is that you must pay more attention to it than anything else in the world, if you are going to be true to yourself. And if you don't do it - and you are an artist - it punishes you.

How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?


from American author David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest, The Pale King, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again) (1962-2008):

The job of the first eight pages is not to have the reader want to throw the book at the wall, during the first eight pages.

Look, man, we'd probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?

The point of books is to combat loneliness.

How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.

Every love story is a ghost story.

If you spend enough time reading or writing, you find a voice, but you also find certain tastes. You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them. And when that happens, reading those writers ... becomes a source of unbelievable joy. It’s like eating candy for the soul. And I sometimes have a hard time understanding how people who don’t have that in their lives make it through the day.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Wise Words

Thoughts on Art from creative people born February 14:

from Italian Renaissance humanist author, architect, artist, and poet Leon Battista Alberti (Palazzo Rucellai, Santa Maria Novello, Piazza Pio II at Pienza, De pictura, De re aedificatoria) (1404-1472):

The Arts are learnt by reason and method; they are mastered by practice.

I would have artists be convinced that the supreme skill and art in painting consists in knowing how to use black and white... because it is light and shade that make objects appear in relief.

No art, however minor, demands less than total dedication if you want to excel in it.

There is no art which has not had its beginnings in things full of errors. Nothing is at the same time both new and perfect.


from American abolitionist Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, My Bondage and My Freedom, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass) (1818-1890):

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.


from Irish-born American journalist Frank Harris (Saturday Review, Pearson's Magazine, My Life and Loves) (1856-1931):

I am, really, a great writer; my only difficulty is in finding great readers.

Memoirs are a well-known form of fiction.


from British novelist, playwright, and Zionist leader Israel Zangwill (Children of the Ghetto, The Big Bow Mystery, The Melting Pot, Merely Mary Ann) (1864-1926):

There never was an age in which so many people were able to write badly.


from American author, editor, and drama critic George Jean Nathan (The Smart Set, The American Mercury, The American Spectator, Theatre Book of the Year) (1882-1958):

Criticism is the art of appraising others at one's own value.

An actor without a playwright is like a hole without a doughnut.

To speak of morals in art is to speak of legislature in sex. Art is the sex of the imagination.

A poet, any real poet, is simply an alchemist who transmutes his cynicism regarding human beings into an optimism regarding the moon, the stars, the heavens, and the flowers, to say nothing of the spring, love, and dogs.

Criticism is the art wherewith a critic tries to guess himself into a share of the artist’s fame.

Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness.


from Welsh-English painter and author Nina Hamnett (Der Sturm, The Landlady, The People's Album of London Statues, The Laughing Torso) (1890-1956):

On February the fourteenth, 1890, I was born. Everybody was furious, especially my Father, who still is. As soon as I became conscious of anything I was furious too...


from German author, philosopher, academic, and film director Alexander Kluge (Abschied von Gestern, Der Angriff der Gegenwart auf die übrige Zeit, Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung, "Geschichte und Eigensinn") (b. 1932):

Phantasy provides a kind of temporary glue, which keeps people from falling apart through the production of illusions which enable them somehow to live with themselves.

Human beings are not interested in reality. They can’t be; it’s the human essence. They have wishes. These wishes are strictly opposed to any ugly form of reality. They prefer to lie than to become divorced from their wishes...[they] forget everything and can give up everything except this principle of misunderstanding reality, the subjective... If this is real, then the media industry is realistic in telling fiction, and the construction of reality founded on this basis can only lie. This is one of the reasons why history isn’t realistic: it’s not documentary, it’s not genuine, and it’s not necessary.

Writing literary texts, you look—if you're going about it correctly—down to yourself, to your head from above. Then you no longer have a relationship with yourself. At the most, you have trust in yourself that a text will emerge from this and that you still have the sovereignty and the strength to throw it away if it amounts to nothing.

Hidden in a long text, there are perhaps three lines that count.


from Canadian playwright Norm Foster (The Melville Boys, The Affections of May, Maggie's Getting Married) (b. 1949):

Acting is great fun, but writing is my first love. A lot of people out there like the “idea” of being a writer. The romance of it. The notion that we all sit around in cafes and talk about our writing with other writers. Personally, I would rather do it than talk about it. The actual process of writing is what excites me. Creating a world from the ground up and populating it with characters I've pulled out of my head.

One of the curses of being a playwright is that you're never ever completely satisfied with your finished product.


from American television writer and producer Moira Kirland (Dark Angel, Medium, Castle, The InBetween) (b. 1978):

Never love your day job. I did love my day job and stayed there for ten years. I think if I had been less happy there, I might have come to the realization that there were other things I wanted to do sooner. Not loving your day job if you want to be a writer keeps you motivated. You’re just paying the rent. That’s really what you’re doing.

So I try to remind myself and others in this, you gotta have that belief in yourself. You’ve got to believe you’ll get another job. You gotta believe you can do the job that you’ve just taken.

You should always be writing. You should have nothing but samples stacked up, because everybody is going to want something different.

I once said something to my mother that she quotes back to me all the time. I was taking a risk and I’m not really a risk taker. She said, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” I told her, “I have to bet on myself. I never lose when I bet on myself. Because win or lose, I’m better for it.”

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Wise Words


Thoughts on creativity from authors born February 7:

from British novelist and social critic Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations) 1812-1870):

An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.

Prowling about the rooms, sitting down, getting up, stirring the fire, looking out the window, teasing my hair, sitting down to write, writing nothing, writing something and tearing it up...

It is no worse, because I write of it. It would be no better, if I stopped my most unwilling hand. Nothing can undo it; nothing can make it otherwise than as it was.

Yet, I had nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still), that no one can ever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I believed it in the writing.


from American children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie series) (1867-1957):

As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good.

We who live in quiet places have the opportunity to become acquainted with ourselves, to think our own thoughts and live our own lives in a way that is not possible for those keeping up with the crowd.

The only stupid thing about words is the spelling of them.


from Scottish-American mathematician and novelist Eric Temple Bell (Algebraic Arithmetic, Men of Mathematics, The Development of Mathematics, The Time Stream, Seeds of Life, The Forbidden Garden) (1883-1960):

The very basis of creative work is irreverence! The very basis of creative work is bold experimentation. There has never been a creator of lasting importance who has not also been an innovator.


from American Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and social critic Sinclair Lewis (Arrowsmith); also noted for Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth) (1885-1951):

Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile.

People read fiction for emotion—not information.

When audiences come to see us authors lecture, it is largely in the hope that we'll be funnier to look at than to read.

It is impossible to discourage the real writers—they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.

Writers kid themselves—about themselves and other people. Take the talk about writing methods. Writing is just work—there's no secret. If you dictate or use a pen or type with your toes—it is just work.

Writers have a rare power not given to anyone else: we can bore people long after we are dead.


from American writer Gay Talese (The New York Times, Esquire, Honor Thy Father, Thy Neighbor's Wife) (b. 1932):

I write and rewrite and rewrite and write and like to turn in what I think is finished work.

Better that you should take the chance of trying something that is close to your heart, you think is what you want to write, and if they do not publish it, put it in your drawer. But maybe another day will come and you will find a place to put that.

I am writing about people who are alive in the city of New York during mid-20th-century America. And these people are like a character in a play or they are figures in a short story or a novel.

I've always had standards about writing well. There is art in this business. There is potentially great art.

I could come up with 50 stories that I am thinking about.


from English editor and poet Brian Patten (The Mersey Sound, Armada, Love Poems, Gargling with Jelly) (b. 1946):

When in public poetry should take off its clothes and wave to the nearest person in sight; it should be seen in the company of thieves and lovers rather than that of journalists and publishers.

On sighting mathematicians poetry should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra.


from American science fiction, fantasy, and literary novelist Karen Joy Fowler (Sarah Canary, Black Glass, What I Didn't See, and Other Stories, The Jane Austen Book Club, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) (b. 1950):

The smart way to build a literary career is you create an identifiable product, then reliably produce that product so people know what they are going to get. That's the smart way to build a career, but not the fun way. Maybe you can think about being less successful and happier. That's an option, too.

I hear so many writers say—and these are writers that I trust completely—'I just started hearing a voice', or, 'The characters came to life'. I am filled with loathing for my own characters when I hear that because they do nothing of the sort. Left to their own devices, they do nothing but drink coffee and complain about their lives.

I read my books to writing workshops and friends, and I'm often focussed just on keeping them entertained. I never think about marketing at all.


from American “New Thought” author Mike Dooley (Thoughts Become Things, Infinite Possibilities) (d. 1961):

When you understand that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.

The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.