* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Writers, like all artists, are concerned to represent reality, to create a more absolute and complete reality than reality itself. They must, if they are to accomplish this, assume a moral position, a clearly conceived political, social, and philosophical attitude; in consequence, their beliefs are, of course, going to find their way into their work. What artists believe, however, is of secondary importance, ancillary to the work itself. A writer survives in spite of his beliefs. Lawrence will be read whatever one thinks of his notions on sex. Dante is read in the Soviet Union.
A work of art, on the other hand, has a representative and expressive function. In this representation the author’s ideas, his judgments, the author himself, are engaged with reality.
Alberto Moravia in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews First Series, edited and with an introduction by Malcolm Cowley
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Frankly, I think you’re better off doing something on the assumption that you will not be rewarded for it, that it will not receive the recognition it deserves, that it will not be worth the time and effort invested in it.
The obvious advantage to this angle is, of course, if anything good comes of it, then it’s an added bonus.
The second, more subtle and profound advantage is that by scuppering all hope of worldly and social betterment from one creative act, you are finally left with only one question to answer:
Do you make this damn thing exist or not?
And once you can answer that truthfully for yourself, the rest is easy.
Hugh MacLeod in Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
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Q: What’s the point of all of this? Shouldn’t we be discussing how to end poverty or promote world peace? What can art do?
A: I happen to recently have read an inspiring book by Anne Bogart, the theater director. It’s called, “and then you act: making art in an unpredictable world” and she talks about such issues. I’ll quote her wise words below:
“Rather than the experience of life as a shard, art can unite and connect the strands of the universe. When you are in touch with art, borders vanish and the world opens up. Art can expand the definition of what it means to be human. So if we agree to hold ourselves to higher standards and make more rigorous demands on ourselves, then we can say in our work, ‘We have asked ourselves these questions and we are trying to answer them, and that effort earns us the right to ask you, the audience, to face these issues, too.’ Art demands action from the midst of the living and makes a space where growth can happen.
One day, particularly discouraged about the global environment, I asked my friend the playwright Charles L. Mee, Jr., ‘How are we supposed to function in these difficult times? How can we contribute anything useful in this climate?’ ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘You have a choice of two possible directions. Either you convince yourself that these are terrible times and things will never get better and so you decide to give up, or, you choose to believe that there will be a better time in the future. If that is the case, your job in these dark political and social times is to gather together everything you value and become a transport bridge. Pack up what you cherish and carry it on your back to the future.'”
“… In the United States, we are the targets of mass distraction. We are the objects of constant flattery and manufactured desire. I believe that the only possible resistance to a culture of banality is quality. To me, the world often feels unjust, vicious, and even unbearable. And yet, I know that my development as a person is directly proportional to my capacity for discomfort. I see pain, destructive behavior and blindness of the political sphere. I watch wars declared, social injustices that inhabit the streets of my hometown, and a planet in danger of pollution and genocide. I have to do something. My chosen field of action is the theater.”
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I remember as a teenager having a group of friends at school and another group whom I spent the weekends with. I functioned fine until on occasions when I was with friends from both groups at the same time. Then it became really difficult, because I was used to acting very differently with the two groups. With one I was the leader, very vocal and outspoken about my opinions. With the other group I wanted desperately to belong and so I adapted to fit in, which meant not really being myself.
The lack of authenticity is painful. It applies to all levels of life. If our voice as a painter is inauthentic, we’re in trouble. In the end there is nothing so compelling as to be yourself. This is why being an artist can be so exhilarating. If you want to uncover your truth, you have a daily technique to come to terms with your limitations and to overcome them. You have an opportunity to look at the limiting stories you have written in your head and heart and rewrite them with boldness and vision. The quality of your attention influences how you see things.
What you put your attention on grows stronger in your life. Life, if you look around you, whether inside or in nature, is one bubbling mass of creativity. Recognize we have no shortage of it. If you focus your attention on what you now decide is fundamental , that quality will grow in your life. Not what our parents or teachers or friends or media or anybody says or said. What we now put our attention on will grow in our life. If you want to paint and put your focus there you will unleash a torrent of energy and enthusiasm.
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision
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