Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quote Quorner

A new-ish segment of the blog, similar to the epigrams, but with room for short comments.  The following quotes come from Steven Pressfield's The War of Art:

"...Krishna instructed Arjuna that we have a right to our labor but not to the fruits of our labor..." Page 161.

I love this line.  This is great advice and a great mindset for all writers to have.  We have a right to our production as writers, as I take this line, but we do not have the right to the fate of this writing.  In other words, we can only make the writing the best we can make it, and we can try to make it see the light of publication (we can contact agents, pass out copies or chapbooks, etc.), but we cannot firmly set our minds on the work's publication.  It is more important for writers to write, and produce, than it is for them to see the bestseller list.  If we get published, so be it, but keep writing.  Do that, and do that well, and good things will happen.

"Of any activity that you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?  If you're all alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation makes no sense.  There's no one to impress."

Pressfield was talking about the difference between territory and hierarchy here.  Basically he was saying that if we write to impress, to make the bestseller list, to see ourselves on the shelves, to make money, than we're seeking hierarchy in some form, and we're not really writing, but striving to impress or seek material gratification.  But if we'd write even if we were the only one still alive, we're not seeking to impress--as there's no one left alive to do so, nor anyone alive to read our books--but we are writing to live, to simply be ourselves.  We're writing because we have to, with nothing materialistic to gain from it but the satisfaction of seeing it done.  We're being true to the art, to ourselves.  "The artist...must do his work for its own sake" (151).

"...the artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling" (151).  I don't write so that an agent will accept me.  I do not write so that I will get published (though that would be an agreeable consequence).  I do not write for any other reason than because I have to write, I want to write.  Writing is my territory; it's what I do.  I don't need anyone's validation of this--though I'll certainly take the compliments and offers for representation and publication when I get them.  But I write for me, and for no other reason.

I'll quote from other sources from time to time as well, but I want to focus on some bits of wisdom from this book, as it struck me solidly, and I hope it does for you, too.  If you haven't bought a copy yet, do so.

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