“Perhaps the old academies were right after all: don’t learn by copying nature, copy art. It’s not that nature gets it wrong, it’s that good artists show you how to get nature right. They know what changes you have to make to a thing to make it look like itself, but in another medium. What a chisel has to do to make marble flowers look like flowers, what a paintbrush has to do to bring a face to life in two dimensions. No matter what direction you take later, imitating the best work of your betters makes a good beginning. Maybe my eighteenth-centry motto got it backward. Don’t imitate Homer, imitate the Iliad.more info
source: The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making (New York: Viking, 2012), 75–6.
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“Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. Erasmus instructed them how to do it; and if they did not have access to his popular De Copia, they consulted printed models or the local schoolmaster. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.”more info
source: The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010), 149–150.
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“What you look for in the world is not simply for what you want to know, but for more than you want to know, and more than you can know, better than you had wished for, and sometimes something draws you to a discovery and there is no other happiness quite the same.”more info
source: letter to her agent Diarmuid Russell, reply to Russell’s Sept. 30, 1941 letter, in Author and Agent, by Michael Kreyling (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991), 11.
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“Be ready to receive the inspiration when it comes; be ready to let it go when it vanishes. [Tom Waits] believes that if a song ‘really wants to be written down, it’ll stick in my head. If it wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember it, well, it can just move along and go get in someone else’s song.’ ‘Some songs,’ he has learned, ‘don’t want to be recorded.’ You can’t wrestle with them or you’ll only scare them off more. Trying to capture them sometimes ‘is trying to trap birds.’ Fortunately, he says, other songs come easy, like ‘digging potatoes out of the ground.’ Others are sticky and weird, like ‘gum found under an old table.’ Clumsy and uncooperative songs may only be useful ‘to cut up as bait and use ‘em to catch other songs.’ Of course, the best songs of all are those that enter you ‘like dreams taken through a straw.’ In those moments, all you can be, Waits says, is grateful.”more info
source: profile on Tom Waits, “Play It Like Your Hair’s On Fire,” GQ, June 2002.
medium: Magazine profilevia: Austin Kleon
“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”more info