The Saturday Writing Quote — Joseph Campbell

03_Flowers1_Watercolor_WEB“Just as anyone who listens to the muse will hear, you can write out of your own intention or out of inspiration. There is such a thing. It comes up and talks. And those who have heard deeply the rhythms and hymns of the gods, the words of the gods, can recite those hymns in such a way that the gods will be attracted.”

— Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, teacher, writer (1904-1987)

The Saturday Writing Quote

Today’s quote calls to mind a poster that hung on the office door of one of my favorite  lit teachers at Seattle University, Dr. Hamida Bosmajian, who’d been a child in Germany during WW II. You’ve seen it — the pile of books in flames and the reminder “The first thing they do is burn the books.”

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

— Joseph Brodsky, poet and essayist, expelled from his native Russia in 1972, lived and died in America (1940-96)

The Saturday Writing Quote — Turow on why write mystery

“The decision to succumb to plot and to the tenacious emotional grip I felt in contemplating crime led me naturally to the mystery whose power as a storytelling form persisted despite its long-term residence in the low-rent precincts of critical esteem….”

— Scott Turow, American lawyer and mystery writer, in the New York Times “Writers on Writing” interview, 11/22/99

The Saturday Writing Quote — on courage

“The journey towards clarity is speckled with all of the psychic junk we try to discard—the chunks of self we reject, the fears we try to conquer…Our backs bowed with this weight, we often find ourselves led not by the call of Love but by the high-pitched whine of our inner critic.

Oh, it takes courage to really look closely at what blocks the flow. This is a thorny place—impossible to explore deeply without getting poked and scraped. But all we have to do is to clear a small way and surrender.”

Roderick MacIver, American painter, in Art as a Way of Life 

(Thanks to Nancy Rose for the quote.)

The Saturday Writing Quote — measuring success

“[Remember t]hat the sale of a book, or an Amazon review is not the measure of success. That the value of your work is not measured in stars. But instead, value is measured in moments you will never know about; moments in the lives of your readers that are so private, they could never consider sharing it with anyone.”

Dan Blank, writing and publishing consultant, on Writer Unboxed

The Saturday Writing Quote — on naming

“Names generate meaning in a short amount of space – they provoke thoughts, questions. That’s something I like doing. Of course, you have to be careful. Sometimes it can alienate the reader, it can be another level of mediation, to make a character carry the great burden of a metaphoric name. The character can be a device before he or she becomes a person, and that can be a bad thing for a writer who wants to offer up a kind of emotional proximity in the work. It’s a constant struggle, the desire to be playful and the desire to communicate on some very stark emotional level.”

— Joshua Ferris, American novelist (b. 1974) in The Paris Review, quoted on National Public Radio

The Saturday Writing Quote — the right word

“The right word is as important to the writer as the right note to the composer or the right line to the painter. . . . A writer needs an ‘ear’ as much as a musician does. And without this ear, he is lost and groping in a forest of words, where all the trees look much alike.”

— Sydney J. Harris, Last Things First 266 (1961). (Quote via Bryan Garner’s daily blog on Modern American Usage) Harris’s weekly column in the newspaper was required reading in my household in the 1960s!