If you discover in your reading journey some fabulous inspirational quote, feel free to email Dustin Pickering at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click the name under the quotes to learn more about the author. These quotes concern truth, dignity, freedom, art, creativity and the writing process from influential and deep thinkers.
I’ve never been a very prolific person, so when creativity flows, it flows. I find myself scribbling on little notepads and pieces of loose paper, which results in a very small portion of my writings to ever show up in true form.
Poetry transcends the nation-state. Poetry transcends government. It brings the traditional concept of power to its knees. I have always believed poetry to be an eternal conversation in which the ancient poets remain contemporary, a conversation inviting us into other languages and cultures even as poetry transcends language and culture, returning us again and again to primal rhythms and sounds.
To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.
Poetry is a naked woman, a naked man, and the distance between them.
Freedom is only to be found where there is burden to be shouldered. In creative achievements this burden always represents an imperative and a need that weighs heavily upon man’s mood, so that he comes to be in a mood of melancholy. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, whether we are clearly aware of the fact or not, whether we speak at length about it or not. All creative action resides in a mood of melancholy, but this is not to say that everyone in a melancholy mood is creative.
The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.
Diamonds are to be found only in the darkness of the earth and truth in the darkness of the mind.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty–the obedient must be slaves.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
As a poet, I had learned much about both the value and the constraints of convention: the reassurance of traditional structures and the necessity to break from them in recognition of new experience. I felt more and more urgently the dynamic between poetry as language and poetry as a kind of action, probing, burning, stripping, placing itself in dialogue with others out beyond the individual self.
Adrienne Rich, “Blood, Bread, and Poetry: The Location of the Poet”
For a poem to coalesce, for a character or an action to take shape, there has to be an imaginative transformation of reality which is in no way passive.
Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”
Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity. But it is a movement into evolution.
Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying”
It is a feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.”
Sylvia Plath, Journals
A single certainty is enough for the seeker. He simply has to derive all the consequences from it.”
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
The victor whose arms are full and who cannot grasp more is unworthy of the gift that fortune has placed in his hands.”
Michel de Montaigne, Essays
The only good thing for men therefore is to be diverted from thinking of what they are.
Blaise Pascal, Pensees
Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.
The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
Poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely kin to music.
Art is partly communication, but only partly. The rest is discovery.
The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.
Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.
Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned? Isn’t it also great when friends visit from distant places? If one remains not annoyed when he is not understood by people around him, isn’t he a sage?
Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure…but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness.
Literature is a form of permanent insurrection. Its mission is to arouse, to disturb, to alarm, to keep men in a constant state of dissatisfaction with themselves.
The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.
Social criticism begins with grammar and the re-establishing of meanings.
Art gives life to what history killed. Art gives voice to what history denied, silenced, or persecuted. Art brings truth to the lies of history.
The more transparent the writing, the more visible the poetry.
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.
There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.
If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.
Belonging to oneself–the whole essence of life lies in that.
Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
Art is a human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.
Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.
Justice means minding one’s own business and not meddling with other men’s concerns.
We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we can describe.
The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure….you are above everything distressing.
Freedom is the power to choose our own chains
All false art, all vain wisdom, lasts its time but finally destroys itself, and its highest culture is also the epoch of its decay.
When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.
Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
Art creates I-distantness. Art in a certain direction demands a certain distance, a certain path.
For a poem is not timeless. Certainly it lays claim to infinity; it seeks to reach through time—through it, not above and beyond it.
Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just towards them.
Absolute rightness exists not in spite of, but because of the relativity of individual perspectives.
An individual’s destiny belongs to him in much the same way as the ground, which fetters him by its gravity, but without which walking would be impossible.
To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.
The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
A good style must, first of all, be clear. It must not be mean or above the dignity of the subject. It must be appropriate.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
Spirit is the power a man’s comprehension exerts on his life.
The world is God’s language to us. The universe is the Word of God, the Verbum.
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
Freedom is not the right to live as we please, but the right to find how we ought to live in order to fulfill our potential.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
Wisdom leads us back to childhood.
“…truth is only altered when men change.”
The enemy of great art is vanity: is self-hood, self-hood in the most gruesome forms.
The thing conceived; the thing finally said—a vast difference.
Sometimes—and this is a paradox—only wildest imaginings can bridge the abyss of word and thing.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.
The object of the superior man is truth.
Objective Reality (Truth) is neither Yin nor Yang. Infinite Truth is Prior to Duality; it is at the Center; it is the One; it is the All….
For men in earnest have no time to waste In patching fig-leaves for the naked truth.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.
Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.
The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth.
Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.
Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
All the shrewdness of ‘man’ seeks one thing: to be able to live without responsibility.
Never let success hide its emptiness from you, achievement its nothingness, toil its desolation. And so…keep alive the incentive to push on further, that pain in the soul which drives us beyond ourselves…Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward – your destiny – are here and now.
Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.
A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.
The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute – the foundation of the human condition – and should be better. We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.
Mario Vargas Llosa
You cannot teach creativity—how to become a good writer. But you can help a young writer discover within himself what kind of writer he would like to be.
Mario Vargas Llosa
The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
Conquered people tend to be witty.
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
Henry David Thoreau
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.
Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.
Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.
The true artist is not proud: he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal, and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.
The world is beautiful but not sayable. That’s why we need art.
One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.
I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen.
We need poetry as living language, the core of every language, something that is still spoken, aloud or in the mind, muttered in secret, subversive, reaching around corners, crumpled into a pocket, performed to a community, read aloud to the dying, recited by heart, scratched or sprayed on a wall.
Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.
To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.
The days you work are the best days.
There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.
When a man in a long cause attempts to steer his course by anything else than some polar truth or principle, he is sure to be lost.
Any writer who strives to be true to artistic integrity surrenders to the shape the work takes of its own accord.
To be serious we must dare to be critical of our urge to tell our stories, of the ways we tell them.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.
Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.
For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.
I would rather be stricken blind, than to live without expression of mind.
What I needed and actually need is a discipline of tradition, which is lacking in our civilization. Discipline of tradition and the ceremony of humbleness.
Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.
The human body is that which is able to make something of what makes it; and in this sense its paradigm is language, a given which continually generates the unpredictable.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Be curious, not judgmental.
Consciousnesses are born to learn and teach. If that be the purpose of life, then as long as we swim on the ocean of Unknown, there is a need of consciousness and life!
I felt even a mystic companionship, a moral fraternity with all those who in the past had been in the service of art. They had worked for beauty, for a devotion; and what else was I doing?
One doesn’t defend one’s god: one’s god is in himself a defense.
Sometimes we dream a first draft dream, a dream complete, understandable, exact. And sometimes we dream an incomplete dream, a confused dream as dream of many odd symbols and situations. Thus the poem, at least with me, is similar.
The great are strongest when they stand alone,
A God-given might of being is their force.
Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.
Art is never finished, only abandoned.
True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others.
That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.
The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.
The artist must be blind to distinction between ‘recognized’ or ‘unrecognized’ conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age.
You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.
To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.
To write is to sit in judgement on oneself.
Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality.
Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.
A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.
Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone.
I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.
It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.