“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… . Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”
Anne Lamott’s timeless wisdom on writing and how perfectionism kills creativity:
"When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling."
Hemingway’s timeless advice to aspiring writers:
"To allow ourselves to spend afternoons watching dancers rehearse, or sit on a stone wall and watch the sunset, or spend the whole weekend rereading Chekhov stories—to know that we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing — is the deepest form of permission in our creative lives. The British author and psychologist Adam Phillips has noted, “When we are inspired, rather like when we are in love, we can feel both unintelligible to ourselves and most truly ourselves.” This is the feeling I think we all yearn for, a kind of hyperreal dream state. We read Emily Dickinson. We watch the dancers. We research a little known piece of history obsessively. We fall in love. We don’t know why, and yet these moments form the source from which all our words will spring."
Dani Shapiro on the pleasures and perils of the creative life – absolutely exquisite meditation:
"Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding, and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy. As in the sexual experience, there are never more than two persons present in the act of reading — the writer, who is the impregnator, and the reader, who is the respondent. This gives the experience of reading a sublimity and power unequalled by any other form of communication."
E. B. White on the future of reading – timeless, strikingly timely meditation from 1951:
"Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours.
Who would we be if we could not sympathize with those who are not us or ours? Who would we be if we could not forget ourselves, at least some of the time? Who would we be if we could not learn? Forgive? Become something other than we are?”
Susan Sontag on literature and freedom – timelessly fantastic read:
Ray Bradbury oh how to use lists as creative prompts that open “the trapdoor on the top of your skull”:
“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”
The art of “creative sleep” – Stephen King on writing and wakeful dreaming:
“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
John Updike on writing and death – fantastic read:
"It is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately."
Anais Nin on writing, the future of the novel, and how keeping a diary enhances creativity – wisdom from a rare 1947 chapbook
"A writer’s work is the product of laziness, you see. A writer’s work essentially consists of taking his mind off things, of thinking about something else, of daydreaming, of not being in any hurry to go to sleep but to imagine something … And then comes the actual writing, and that’s his trade. That is, I don’t think the two things are incompatible. Besides, I think that when one is writing something that’s more or less good, one doesn’t feel it to be a chore; one feels it to be a form of amusement. A form of amusement that doesn’t exclude the use of intelligence."
Borges on writing – collected wisdom from his most candid interviews:
“Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”
Bukowski on writing, plus his insane daily routine.
“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”
Michael Lewis on writing, idea-integrity vs. commercial success, and the necessary self-delusions of creativity:
"If it sounds like writing … rewrite it."
Remembering the great Elmore Leonard (October 11, 1925–August 20, 2013) with his 10 timeless rules of writing
“At 8:00 p.m. I am contemplating the numbing predinner delight of a dry gin martini.”
Gay Talese’s daily routine, plus a money-saving tip from the godfather of literary journalism:
“To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being just as Proust, Radiguet and Fitzgerald did: what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”
Italo Calvino on writing – timeless wisdom culled from 40+ years of his freshly published letters