You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.
“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion.
The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that — well, lucky you.”
Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Mine would have to be (includes fiction & non-fiction):
1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
2. Disgrace by J.M. Cotzee
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (because then I’d be forced to read it and have time to do so)
5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
6. The Bible
7. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
8. Metaphysics by Aristotle
9. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This was not an easy list to put together. I worked on it for several weeks before I decided on the above titles. What would yours be?
I’ve known people that the world has thrown everything at to discourage them…to break their spirit. And yet something about them retains a dignity. They face life and don’t ask quarters.
To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head - and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.