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John le Carré, 1965

33-year-old John le Carré appears on the “Merv Griffin Show,” October 14, 1965.

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Gay Talese on Writer’s Block

This is exactly how I feel.

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Jonathan Haidt explains our contentious culture

From BillMoyers.com

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Procrastination is thinking

“You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.”

Aaron Sorkin

“Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity. What you see with a lot of great originals is that they are quick to start but they are slow to finish.”

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Shakespeare’s speech on immigrants

Sir Ian McKellen delivers a stirring speech written by Shakespeare but never performed in his lifetime, as the play was banned by the Queen’s censor. Here, Sir Thomas More confronts a mob in London on May 1, 1517, as they riot and attack immigrants. (For more on the play and the historical background, look here.)

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silenced by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reason, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Feed on one another.…

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound. Alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owned not nor made not you, nor that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

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George Saunders on writing

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Arthur Conan Doyle on the origin of Sherlock Holmes

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The Virtue of Ignorance

A 1960 interview with Orson Welles about “Citizen Kane.”

Q: What I’d like to know is where did you get the confidence from to make the film with such —

A: Ignorance. Ignorance. Sheer ignorance. You know, there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid, or careful or —

Q: How does this ignorance show itself?

A: I thought you could do anything with a camera that the eye could do or the imagination could do. And if you come up from the bottom in the film business, you’re taught all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. And in this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed, and I didn’t know that there were things you couldn’t do, so anything I could think up in my dreams, I attempted to photograph.

Q: You got away with enormous technical advances, didn’t you?

A: Simply by not knowing that they were impossible. Or theoretically impossible. And of course, again, I had a great advantage, not only in the real genius of my cameraman, but in the fact that he, like all great men, I think, who are masters of a craft, told me right at the outset that there was nothing about camerawork that I couldn’t learn in half a day, that any intelligent person couldn’t learn in half a day. And he was right.

Q: It’s true of an awful lot of things, isn’t it?

A: Of all things.

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Elizabeth Gilbert on success

“I knew well in advance that all of those people who had adored Eat Pray Love were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it wasn’t going to be Eat Pray Love, and all of those people who had hated Eat Pray Love were going to be incredibly disappointed in whatever I wrote next because it would provide evidence that I still lived.”

Hmm.

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Sam Harris: The self is an illusion

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Moonshot thinking

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The Artist in the Arena

Brené Brown on dealing with critics real and imagined. Helpful advice for creatives of all kinds, writers included. Of course, the Teddy Roosevelt quote that was so meaningful to Brown, about “the man in the arena,” is one that every writer should keep close by, for those low moments.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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Gut churn

Jad Abumrad, co-creator of Radiolab, puts a name to a familiar feeling, gut churn: “that radical uncertainty that you feel when you’re trying to work without a template, which is not something I think we as a creative community talk enough about: how crummy it feels to make something that’s new” (4:54). The suggestion that gut churn might actually be a good thing, a sign that what you are creating is truly new and original, is helpful if counterintuitive advice.

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Ira Glass: The gap

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Brian Eno: Everything good proceeds from enthusiasm

Everything good proceeds from enthusiasm. The sense of “I really want to know how this turns out” will drive you on through many, many long nights of no results, whereas the feeling of “I think I ought to do this” dries up very quickly.

The big mistake is to wait for inspiration. It won’t come looking for you. It’s not so much creating something, I think, it’s noticing when something is starting to happen — noticing it and then building on it and saying, “Okay, that’s new, that hasn’t happened before. What does it mean? Where can I go with it?”

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David Lynch on Where Ideas Come From

We don’t do anything without an idea. So they’re beautiful gifts. And I always say, you desiring an idea is like a bait on a hook — you can pull them in. And if you catch an idea that you love, that’s a beautiful, beautiful day. And you write that idea down so you won’t forget it. And that idea that you caught might just be a fragment of the whole — whatever it is you’re working on — but now you have even more bait. Thinking about that small fragment — that little fish — will bring in more, and they’ll come in and they’ll hook on. And more and more come in, and pretty soon you might have a script — or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting.

Via Brain Pickings

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Updike on his early stories

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How you comin’ on that novel?

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Craft

Toshiaki Omori, master shoemaker. Compare.

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Angela Lee Duckworth on Grit

I suspect that grit, not talent, is the single best predictor of success for novelists, too.

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