[Here are a few epigrams that I've always found inspiring--the way a sculptor finds a block of granite inspiring.]
Art consists in going the full length.
--Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
It would have to be beautiful and hard as steel and make people ashamed of their existence.
--Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”
We work in the dark--we do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
--Henry James, “The Middle Years”
The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own “I” ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I am on the side of angels and dirt.
What matters finally is not the world’s judgment of oneself but one’s own judgment of the world.
--Gore Vidal, "Norman Mailer's Self-Advertisements"
How can you, after Proust and Joyce and Kafka and Faulkner, sit down and write a novel?… Answer: you have to. And the you have to is a private cancer, a private tumor of the soul.
--George Steiner, Paris Review interview
We created the art before we had the society.
Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.