Thirty-One Insights Into Art, Writing and the Creative Process
Nuggets from my commonplace book
I’ve been in Paris this week, lucky me, interviewing Simon Kuper about his brilliant book Chums, at the American Library In Paris (that’s the name of the institution, I’m not just reminding you where I was) and spending some quality time with my own book, now in its final stages.
I fitted in a visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton to see the Rothko exhibition. It’s wonderful and I recommend going if you can, though it’s also true that the best Rothkos are in the Tate Modern, when they’re not on loan to this show.
The Vuitton building, designed by Frank Gehry, is stunning:
Inside, there is Gehry’s original sketch:
I like to imagine he scribbled this down after a long lunch with Bernard Arnault, handed it to his team and said, ‘There you go, I’m off to Hawaii’. I don’t for a moment wish to undervalue the skill involved - it’s the kind of thing you can do in five minutes, and fifty years (Gehry was in his seventies when he did it; he’s still going strong at ninety-four).
Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that I haven’t had time to write a post, so I’ve made a list instead - a list that took me years to write. The following quotes are drawn from ones I’ve jotted down in my commonplace book (actually a Tumblr) over the years.1 I’ve tried to choose ones that aren’t well known or widely circulated. The order is mostly random. I think my favourite, or at least the I find most useful, may be #30, but you’ll have your own…
“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
“When you are writing music of your own, never strain to avoid the obvious.”
“‘Newness and innovation’ are overvalued, really. Or I should say they are valued to the point where they become a target for people to aim at, and that’s self-defeating…New ideas are nearly always slight shifts of things that are already very familiar to you.”
“In a last-ditch attempt to salvage their careers, they moved to the US and took up their record label’s suggestion that they ‘make some records for fun, make some dance music, just enjoy yourselves’. Anyone with even a passing interest in pop music knows what happened next: Jive Talking, You Should Be Dancing, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, 45 million albums…”
Alex Petridis on the Bee Gees
”Originality consists of trying to be like everybody else and failing.”
“My goal is to disappoint the usual expectations and inspire new ones.”
“We’re always rationally explaining and articulating things. But we’re at our most intelligent in the moment just before we start to explain or articulate. Great art occurs - or doesn’t - in that instant.”
”The worse your art is, the easier it is to talk about it.”
"There are some years when I sit down to write every day and I create almost nothing that’s worthy of being published. It has taken me almost 20 years of a life in art to understand that this is not only fine, it’s necessary."
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