“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
– Mary Oliver, American poet, b. 1935, in an essay titled “Of Power and Time”
(Mixed media piece by Leslie)
Get started. Get going. Pick up the pen or brush, the guitar or camera. Who cares if your first effort or your first hundred stink? Sentence by sentence, line by note by image, you’ll get better. You’ll connect with your tools and your subject, and most importantly, your heart and creative spirit.
The rest of this month, the quotes will focus on getting started.
“You’re going to write a lot fewer songs, fewer poems, fewer books if you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning. I think you should put a pencil in your hand, put the guitar on your lap and get to work.”
— Musician and songwriter Jeff Tweedy, on NPR, Nov 11, 2018
Lilypad photo by my friend Brooke
“In a way, regaining the joy in writing is nothing more complicated than getting out of your own life and taking a vacation in the world of your story. That’s not so hard. It only takes ten deep breaths. It’s as simple as a walk down to the harbor. It may not seem that there is time for that. If you feel so, let me ask you this: Is there anything more important to do with the next two minutes than to nurture your soul and dream your story’s dream?”
— Don Maass, literary agent, teacher, and writer, on Writer Unboxed, 9/5/18
I’ll end this month of focusing on the sense of hope inherent in any act of creativity with a line from one of today’s most inventive artists.
“To engender empathy and create a world using only words is the closest thing we have to magic.”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda
I wish you much magic in the year to come, in your studio and beyond.
Set perfection and all other external measures of success and validation aside. What matters is doing the work, as you define it.
“Never underestimate the value to the Universe of the fully-realized life.”
— Joseph Campbell
Creative work — no matter what the medium — challenges us to dig deeply into life, into our experiences both our own and not our own. To think and feel deeply, and share our findings through our work.
“People are primarily motivated by a sense of meaning. We want to lead a good life. How do you live a good life if you haven’t thought deeply about life?”
– David Brooks, columnist and speaker, speaking at the University of Montana, 9/10/18, quoted in The Missoulian
(Photo by Rebecca Bauder)
I’m continuing to focus this month, traditionally a season of hope, on the importance of our creative work to the world.
“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and play and dance and live as only you can.”
The world has been a difficult place lately, you’ve noticed. And while the holiday season is traditionally a time of hope, the plagues of fire, flood, anger, hatred, divisiveness, and inequality can challenge even the perkiest of cozy-mystery protagonists and their authors and readers. So, for this month of December, I’m sharing a few quotes about the importance of our voices, our creative work, to the world.
“You are the magic for which the world hungers. … [T]he world needs your voice! Stories send ripples across continents and through cultures. Stories shape minds. And most importantly, particularly in times like these, stories change hearts. Your writings contribute to a tapestry that captures what it means to be human, at our best and at our very worst. It doesn’t matter if you write comedies or mysteries or dramas set in our own world, past or present, or ones set in alien galaxies a billion light years away. It doesn’t matter if your tales are as vast as a global war or as small as a single household. Your protagonist may be an aging matriarch or an orphaned youth. They may be timid, kind, brave or cruel (and maybe all of those and more). What matters is your devotion to getting it right, to conveying what is real in your world, aligning with your unique perspective. For when writing hits upon truth, eyes are opened. Maybe millions will eventually see your story. But even if it only reaches a dozen, you will have built a bridge where a wall once stood.
So do your duty.”
John J. Kelley, on Writer Unboxed, 10/29/18
If I were to summarize the message of Stephen King’s On Writing (2000) in a single sentence — and why would I do that, but here goes anyway — it’s a message he repeats over and over: “Write the first draft with the door closed, the second with the door open.”
By that he means write quickly, passionately, focusing on getting the story inside you down on paper. Then, he says, you can start to think about your Ideal Reader, your use of adverbs, and whether you’ve over-described a minor setting.
And because we all have busy lives that force that door open when we’d rather it stay shut, I’ll end my month of quotes from King with this:
“In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.” (P. 232)
I’m continuing my month of quotes from one of the perennial favorite craft books, Stephen King’s On Writing (2000).
“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” (P 147)