Everyone but a lunatic has a reason for what he does. Yes, in that sense I am a determinist. But I believe, with Kant, that the mind is self-determined. That is, I believe intensely in the creative freedom of the mind. That is indeed absolutely essential to man’s security in a chaotic world of change. He is faced all the time with unique complex problems. To sum them up for action is an act of creative imagination. He fits the different elements together in a coherent whole and invents a rational act to deal with it. He requires to be free, he requires his independence and solitude of mind, he requires his freedom of mind and imagination. Free will is another matter – it is a term, or rather a contradiction in terms, which leads to continual trouble. The will is never free – it is always attached to an object, a purpose. It is simply the engine in the car – it can’t steer. It is the mind, the reason, the imagination that steers.
Joyce Carey in The Paris Review Interviews: Writers at work 1st Series, edited and with an introduction by Malcolm Cowley
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Get to know what you really want. Hold on and treasure your vision. Acknowledge that your life is a work in progress and that your goals will change and develop over time. Knowing deeply what you want to accomplish shores up doubt, builds fortitude, and pushes you to take more action. This awareness changes how you hear and use information. Your senses will be sharpened. You begin to listen to everything differently; you interpret what you read, what you do, and whom you meet with your goals in mind. You will ask better questions of those around you and seek more meaningful help. All of this will produce a subtle yet profound shift in how you proceed and the actions you take. It will reshape your life and have major consequences for your career.
Jackie Battenfield in The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love
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To create demands a certain undergoing: surrender to a subconscious process that can yield surprising results. And yet, despite the intuitive nature of the artistic process, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the reason you create. Be conscious about what you are attempting or tempting. Know why you are doing it. Understand what you expect in return.
The intentions that motivate an act are contained within the action itself. You will never escape this. Even though the “why” of any work can be disguised or hidden, it is always present in its essential DNA. The creation ultimately always betrays the intentions of the artist. James Joyce called this invisible motivation behind a work of art “the secret cause.” This cause secretly informs the process and then becomes integral to the outcome. This secret cause determines the distance that you will journey in the process and finally, the quality of what is wrought in the heat of the making.
Anne Bogart in and then, you act: making art in an unpredictable world
Balancing intuition against sensory information, and sensitivity to one’s self against pragmatic knowledge of the world, is not a stance unique to artists. The specialness of artists is the degree to which these precarious balances are crucial backups for their real endeavor. Their essential effort is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up. They are like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, peering into a blinding rain. And they have to do it over and over again. When they find that they have ridden and ridden – maybe for years, full tilt – in what is for them a mistaken direction, they must unearth within themselves some readiness to turn direction and to gallop off again. They may spend a little time scraping off the mud, resting the horse, having a hot bath, laughing and sitting in candlelight with friends. But in the back of their minds they never forget that the dark, driving run is theirs to make again. They need their balances in order to support their risks. The more they develop an understanding of all their experience – the more it is at their command – the more they carry with them into the whistling wind.
Anne Truitt in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist
An individual who has committed himself to art and now wrestles within it, having given up everything else, has also become strict, you see. Such a person is more likely to warn off others rather than to beckon them to enter into a realm of the most tremendous demands and indescribable sacrifices. And for someone sitting at his desk, behind closed doors, matters are still relatively simple: at least he has to deal only with himself. But an actor, even when his work originates in the purest experiences of his being, stands in the open and performs his work in the open where he is exposed to all the influences, detractions, disturbances, and even hostilities that originate in his colleagues and his audience and that interrupt, distract, and split him off. For him things are more difficult than for anyone else; above all, he needs to lure success and to base his actions on it. And yet what misery results if this new alignment leads him to abandon the inner direction that had driven him into art in the first place. He seems to have no self; his job consists in letting others dictate selves to him. And the audience, once it has accepted him, wants to preserve him within the limits where it finds entertainment; and yet his achievement depends entirely upon his capacity to maintain an interior constancy through all kinds of changes, blindly, like a madman. Any momentary weakness toward success is as sure to doom him as giving in and drawing on applause as a precondition for their creation spells doom for the painter or poet.
Ulrich Baer in The Wisdom of Rilke
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After we have responded to a work of art, we leave it, carrying in our consciousness something which we didn’t have before. This something amounts to more than our memory of the incident represented, and also more than our memory of the shapes and colours and spaces which the artist used and arranged. What we take away with us – on the most profound level – is the memory of the artist’s way of looking at the world. The representation of a recognizable incident (an incident here can simply mean a tree or a head) offers us the chance of relating the artist’s way of looking to our own. The forms he uses are the means by which he expresses his way of looking. The truth of this is confirmed by the fact that we can often recall the experience of a work, having forgotten both its precise subject and its precise formal arrangement.
Yet why should an artist’s way of looking at the world have any meaning for us? Because, I believe, it increases our awareness of our own potentiality. Not of course our awareness of our potentiality as artists ourselves. But a way of looking at the world implies a certain relationship with the world, and every relationship implies action. The kind of actions implied vary a great deal. A classical Greek sculpture increases our awareness of our own potential physical dignity; a Rembrandt of our potential moral courage; a Matisse of our potential sensual awareness. Yet each of these examples is too personal and too narrow to contain the whole truth of the matter. A work can, to some extent, increase an awareness of different potentialities in different people. The important point is that a valid work of art promises in some way or another the possibility of an increase, an improvement. Nor need the work be optimistic to achieve this; indeed, its subject may be tragic. For it is not the subject matter that makes the promise, it is the artist’s way of viewing his subject. Goya’s way of looking at a massacre amounts to the contention that we ought to be able to do without massacres.
John Berger, Selected Essays
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