mistakes

Be proud of your mistakes. Well, proud may not be exactly the right word, but respect them, treasure them, be kind to them, learn from them.

And, more than that, and more important than that, make them.

Make mistakes. Make great mistakes, make wonderful mistakes, make glorious mistakes. Better to make a hundred mistakes than to stare at a blank piece of paper too scared to do anything wrong, too scared to do anything.

– Neil Gaiman, “2004 Harvey Awards Speech” from The View from the Cheap Seats

just reach out

There are a limited number of plots (some say seven, some say twelve, some say thirty). There is no limit to the number of stories. Everybody in the world has their story; every meeting of one person with another may begin a story. Somebody asked Willie Nelson where he got his songs, and he said, “The air’s full of melodies, you just reach out.” The world’s full of stories, you just reach out.

– Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft

imagination is infinite

The imagination is infinite–it can encompass all you want it to encompass, if you let it. Everything we see around us, whether functional or decorative, once existed in someone’s imagination. Every building, every fixture, every chair, every table, every vase, every road, every toaster. In fact, the world we live in is largely a manifestation of many individual and collective imaginations applied to the task of altering preexisting reality. So the question becomes, How can you position yourself to dream well?

– Jeff Vandermeer, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

when the roses speak, i pay attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on. “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

– Mary Oliver, “WHEN THE ROSES SPEAK, I PAY ATTENTION” from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

lies for a living

We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort.

And that is why we write.

– Neil Gaiman, “Telling Lies for a Living… And Why We Do It: The Newbery Medal Speech, 2009” from The View from the Cheap Seats

too much of your heart

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

– Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art

self-control

It’s like this: in me there’s a story that wants to be told. It is my end; I am its means. If I can keep myself, my ego, my wishes and opinions, my mental junk, out of the way and find the focus of the story, and follow the movement of the story, the story will tell itself.

– Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft

so let’s start

Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.

When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant, defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes… the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way