“When you love books and live with them daily, it’s tempting to believe they’re the answer. That whatever the crisis — war, pandemic, social delamination — books will be our lanterns and compasses, our balls of string leading out of the labyrinth. I think all this is true, and moreover that these primitive bundles of ragstock and ink still pulse with curious music, but twenty years on it’s plain that their greatest power is to move us toward each other.”
— Lief Enger, quoted in the Washington Post book newsletter, 9/2/21, in a foreword to the new 20th anniversary edition of his novel, Peace Like a River.
“Instead of writing what you know, find out what you know by writing. … All fiction is political, even if it’s not deliberately so. I don’t write about elections and their consequences, but my characters make choices in their lives, and every choice is a kind of political act.”
– novelist and short story writer Hilma Wolitzer, in an August 2021 Washington Post interview with her daughter, novelist Meg Wolitzer, on publishing at 91 a short story collection with a new story written after the death of her husband from Covid and her own hospitalization
“It has been said that the detective story flourishes best in an age of anxiety and pessimism, simply because we then have the greater need of the solace it offers.”
– P.D. James, British novelist and politician (1920-2044)
Dame Phyllis said that in 1993. She was on to something, wasn’t she?
“Writing is an art. But, like any art, it depends on craft techniques, which can be taught to anyone who is willing to learn them. They are not easy. Like any craft worth mastering, writing calls for hard work. The tools of the craft are the writers hand, brain, heart and senses. They all have to work together to shape up the finished product. Writing thus calls into play the whole personality of the craftsman.”
— Robert Strumpen-Darrie & Charles F. Berlitz, The Berlitz School of Languages (1956)
Being creative is “having the ability to make unexpected connections, either to see commonplace things in new ways — or unusual things that escape the attention of others — and realize their importance,” as Georgetown University psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal describes it in this Washington Post article titled Creativity may be key to healthy aging. Here are ways to stay inspired. It isn’t limited to the arts, of course; there is much creativity in everyday activities, from rearranging the furniture to advising a teenager. And it may be a big boost to healthy aging. I can’t summarize the suggestions here — do read the article; it isn’t long — but what most struck me was the observation that we become truer to our vision as we age, able to solve problems, whether they involve pages, paint, or people, with less dependence on others’ expectations.
So it seems fitting to share a painting by an over-70 artist friend who got serious about painting after retiring from another career, and whose work sometimes turns expectations upside down
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
— John Steinbeck
I’m a big fan of what author Dan Blank, who works directly with writers and other artists to develop their author platforms, launch their books, and create marketing strategies, calls “human-centered marketing.” He challenges those who say they hate marketing or to reframe it as connecting with their audience — and we all want that.
“The more we create, the more we express, the more we connect. Creating is the best marketing, and the foundation for all the other ways your work will get shared.”
– Dan Blank, newsletter 8/20/21
In other words, stop thinking of marketing as an evil separate from your creative work, and apply those key principles — creativity and connection — to all the work you do. Your readers will notice the difference — and just as importantly, so will you.
No doubt you’ve seen this quote before. No matter. It’s still good advice.
“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”
As artists, in whatever medium, we spend a lot of time alone. Maybe sometimes, getting out and about — out amongst them, as my late father liked to say — is just the spark we need.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people that rekindle the human spirit.”
— Albert Schweitzer, French humanitarian, philosopher and more (1875-1965)