I started painting as a hobby when I was little. I didn’t know I had any talent. I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do.
— [The Zen of] Bob Ross
It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
From poet Jeffrey Skinner:
I learned that writing poetry after the age of thirty or forty, depends more on character than talent or luck.
Not to say that I lack talent, but building character seems to be part of my life’s work, so the fact that that activity dovetails in a positive way with writing poetry…well, that’s at least some luck.
“I think of writers as sitting down and starting from scratch every time—at least that is how it is for me.”
“Writing is more a habit, but a soulful one like smoking, which compulsively connects the head to the hand: from there one tries to make art of it.”
Lorrie Moore, The Art of Fiction No. 167
Interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney
“There’s a great line in a Destroyer song: ‘Formative years wasted / In love with our peers, we tasted / life with the stars.’ I couldn’t have found language that was more clear about that whole idea of what we were doing. The twenty people who understand what you’re talking about are the twenty most important people in the world. Maybe that’s the difference between professional culture and outsider culture. Our antennae were tuned very specifically for like minds, as opposed to sending out a signal to convert people. There are some kinds of art that are trying to find their peers, and there are other kinds that are trying to make peers.”
—Jenny Toomey, musician, arts activist, and co-founder of Simple Machines records,
Quoted in Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records (The Indie Label that Got Big and Stayed Small) by John Cook with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance
“The main thing I learned is that the more I can forget about being embarrassed when I make something, the more it is going to mean something to somebody else. I can’t anticipate what it’s going to be or how it’s going to be perceived, so the quicker I let go of something I make, the better.”
–Jeff Tweedy, from Wilco: Learning How to Die by Greg Kot
“…literary reputation is a fragile, innocuous, and transient thing—a butterfly that dies in your palm the moment you capture it. Thus: do the work, which is the only thing over which a writer has some measure of control. Paula did the work. It was there for us to find, still vitally alive. In that sense, I wonder if maybe we don’t have all this backward. Maybe certain books and certain writers are not found. The work of Paula Fox, I think, found us.”
From a post in yesterday’s the Paris Review Daily, written by Tom Bissell.
Now I might have to read Paula Fox. Have you read Paula Fox? Or tried to write like Paula Fox?
“Anything bearing the moniker ‘literary’ has a duty to make readers see, feel, touch, smell, and taste the worlds it describes. ‘Represent’ means to make something present, to place something before the eyes of readers, to make it immediate: homes, entire towns, open spaces, single individuals, the community to which those individuals belong and with which they enter into conflict. It’s not a question of banal attention to detail, to background, or to setting. An individual’s story comes from adhesion to a specific world, the world from which that individual emerged and with which she is in conflict. Narratively speaking, without the concreteness of the world that he carries within, and that pushes against him from without, a character is only a hollow shade.”
–Elena Ferrante, author of the brilliant My Brilliant Friend, from a rare Q&A in Publishers Weekly